Deer and turkey hunters often assign names to their specific quarry. These names typically represent an illustration of the animal, whether it’s a distinguishing characteristic or something symbolic of that unique pursuit. Recently, I named a particular gobbler “Emily.”
In our lives, we all come across “the one that got away.” It’s a special something or someone—an opportunity, game animal or person—that escapes from your clutches. In hunting, this is typically the case. Turkeys most certainly fit that bill; even the smallest things can mess up a hunt. I always tell myself, Even when that bird is as good as dead, just wait, because something unexpected is about to change it all. During opening day of Kentucky’s spring turkey season, I found myself in that exact situation.
It was mid-afternoon and I was out trying to knock down my first-ever Kentucky longbeard. I decided to try an area where I’d seen several birds in the previous evenings, and the Reconyx time-lapse photos also suggested it would be a fruitful spot. It didn’t take long before I got a response to my occasional soft calling. Surprisingly, the bird would gobble at nearly every sound I made, or at every crow or woodpecker in the area. His gobbles suggested he was closing the distance. He was lovestruck by the sound of this new hen in his territory.
After nearly an hour and a half of nonstop gobbling action, he was hung up and wouldn’t come any closer. I thought to myself, How could this be?, so I picked up and headed his way ever so cautiously. As I closed the distance, his gobbles seemed to fade into the valley below … and soon stopped. But why? I looked at the memory card from a camera overlooking the food plot where he had been, and it showed the gobbler working the field for that period of time, strutting and gobbling just as I had thought. Eventually, the bird worked his way off into the sunset. When I returned to the truck that night, I decided the bird needed a name. It didn’t take long to come up with something fitting: Emily.
Behind The Name
Turkeys like that one feed my addiction. Once a bird pulls his hard-to-get act, I become hooked on the pursuit of that gobbler all season. This case was no different. I knew it was only a matter of time before me or someone else would give Emily a free ride back to camp.
OK, what’s with the name? Maybe you already guessed it: Emily’s a girl in my life who’s given me the slip once or twice in the past, but is still in the picture. A woman, much like a spring gobbler, can talk your head off and make you think she’s in your sights, but then the unforeseen or unexpected happens. Sometimes you can pull every trick in the book and things still won’t end up as you anticipated, and that was exactly the outcome in both of these cases.
Save The Last Dance
The next couple of days I left that area untouched, but went back to check the Reconyx time-lapse images a few days later before some guests arrived in camp. Sure enough, Emily had become a regular afternoon visitor to that same food plot at roughly the same time nearly every afternoon. A Redneck Hunting Blind mounted on a trailer would be placed near the end of the food plot, hopefully putting an end to this bird’s story.
One week had passed since the start of this quest, but it would finally come together. The second Saturday of the season, after a short hunt at another spot, I joined another hunter in the Redneck. I was shooting with a video camera. We hunted until lunchtime with no sightings of any turkeys. We returned about an hour later to the same location and settled in for a long wait. I threw a soft call out the window every now and then while catching some short naps in between, only to be woken up every few minutes by a gobble in a distant draw. Was it Emily? We waited and waited some more, soft call after soft call, and nothing showed up. But the gobbles still echoed from the draw.
Suddenly, my hunting partner uttered the one word I had waited to hear all day: “Gobbler!” I peeked out the window and there he stood, not but 50 yards away in the shade of the pines. He stared in our direction, checking out the two Avian-X hen decoys placed about 20 yards from our setup. He reacted by throwing a few half-strut poses and taking a few steps in the opposite direction. As I got the camera situated and focused on this wise ol’ bird, the hunter and I both decided this was our chance. I threw a sharp “putt” in the gobbler’s direction. As his head lifted, it was met by a deadly Winchester round at 55 yards.
The Pursuit Of Patience
Just as I’ve patiently waited for an opportunity with the “actual” Emily, the same was true for that Kentucky longbeard. Thankfully, sometimes patience pays. It took a week of dedication and finally 9 long hours in a ground blind before my chance to dance was granted. And the wait was well worth it. Emily turned out to be the bird of a lifetime, sporting nearly an 11-inch beard and 1 5/8-inch spurs, with an official weight of 23 pounds, 8 ounces. I can only hope that my wait for the other Emily is eventually rewarded.
Author’s Extras: Watch the video below (10:15 mark) to see the hunt for Emily featured on GrowingDeer.TV.
Editor’s note: If you’re unable to view the video, click here.