My Dad and I have hunted wild turkeys together for approximately 35 years now. We’ve had many unbelievable and exciting turkey hunting experiences together, and this story is about one of my most memorable fall turkey hunts.
Approximately an hour before daylight, I walked into the woods my dad and I were hunting for the first time without a flashlight and set up on a wooded slope above a bluff that overlooked a small river. When daylight came, I realized that I was sitting only about 90 yards from the edge of the bluff. Fortunately, the tree I was sitting against was the largest tree in the immediate vicinity. There were only a few smaller trees to my left, and most of them were scattered sparsely apart.
Even though I realized at daylight that mine was not an “ideal” setup so to speak, I didn’t want to move and risk spooking a turkey. And besides, Dad had called in three gobblers near this area a few days before I arrived so I knew I was at the very least, in a good spot. But as I’d moved through the unfamiliar brush in the early morning darkness, I had walked a little too far and set up nearly 100 yards past where Dad’s setup had been.
Regardless, I got myself ready to hunt mentally and physically as daylight continued to break. I put on my face mask, readied my mouth calls and friction calls, and laid my shotgun across my legs while it was still too dark to see because, as usual, I didn’t want to make any unnecessary movements or noises as daylight approached. Also, before I entered the woods, I’d decided that my calling strategy for this hunt would be to only make a few deep gobbler sounds with a friction call while keeping a mouth call in my mouth and ready if needed.
At approximately 7 a.m., when the sun was up, I made a series of two deep gobbler clucks, lowered my hands and settled in to wait for some anticipated turkey action. Rather casually and nonchalantly, I then glanced to my left and was startled when I suddenly realized the turkey action had already begun … whether I was ready for it or not!
In full view and only 75 yards away a big gobbler was walking straight toward me through an open lane about as wide as a pickup truck. Here I sat, fully camouflaged, with friction call and striker still in my hands! My mouth and eyes opened wide in amazement, and I suddenly began scolding myself for allowing myself to be taken by surprise.
There were no trees or bushes between me and the turkey and my shotgun was still lying across my legs—not up and in my hands and ready to shoot like it should have been.
I knew I had to get rid of the friction call in my hand, so I ever-so-slowly placed both the call and the striker on the ground beside my right leg. If the gobbler saw my movements he didn’t show it. At 50 yards, the tom stopped walking and turned sideways to his right. I froze for a split-second, and then continued to carefully slide my hands around my gun while attempting to not make any more movements than I already had.
The gobbler was still looking and attempting to pinpoint the location of the calls he’d heard when he turned and exposed his entire left side. Next, he went into full strut, and for a brief moment or so, I actually expected him to gobble because I’ve had several turkeys in past years gobble at me during the fall hunting seasons, and this tom was exhibiting all of the signs of wanting to gobble. But he never did.
The gobbler then came out of strut and turned and took two or three steps toward me. By doing so, he moved out of the open and behind three small trees that were between him and me, which gave me another opportunity to get my gun into a better position. As I moved my hands more securely under the shotgun and clicked the safety off, the gobbler took another step forward and was now 48 yards away. After he took that additional step, the tom’s entire body became hidden from me except for the tips of his lower tail feathers. All I could see of the bird were the slanted tips of his lower tail feathers.
Knowing the small trees that separated us weren’t very thick and wouldn’t give me much protection from his eyes, and realizing also that the tom might be getting ready to exit the premises at any second, I carefully raised my gun to my shoulder and pointed it toward the turkey. I’m sure the gobbler saw my camouflaged elbows and gun barrel moving, but under the highly pressurized and contrived moments of the situation, I definitely wanted to be ready and able to shoot this bird if the opportunity presented itself!
My gun seemed to get heavier and heavier by the moment as I waited for the tom to give me the shot I needed, but he simply remained momentarily frozen in place as he tried to determine the source of the calling he’d heard. Determined to not lose out on this fine gobbler, I reached inside myself and found the necessary energy, stamina and determination to hold up the heavy shotgun and keep it as steady and ready to fire as I could.
A few seconds later—which at the time seemed like an eternity—the turkey suddenly took one more step forward to his left, which exposed his head and neck. It was now time for me to make a critical decision of whether to shoot. I quickly fired, and the big gobbler went down where he stood!
After I shot, I jumped up and hustled toward the bird. When I did, I saw two other gobblers fly away from nearby trees 80-90 yards away from me along the edge of the bluff. I hadn’t heard or seen either one of them prior to firing that shot.
Even though this fall turkey hunting experience lasted only a few brief moments, this particular day’s events were filled with as much excitement and anticipation and critical decisions as any one of my previous spring or fall turkey hunts, which often lasted more than an hour. Despite its abbreviated length, this hunt was truly an exciting and exhilarating experience, and it remains one of my most memorable hunts to date.