I’ve been hunting turkeys for nearly 3 decades, starting in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. One of my best memories from my early days of turkey hunting was my first real showdown with a big tom. I’d been practicing my calling on a Roger Lanthrum drum-shaped wooden slate, which is a collector’s item today. The sun was just breaking the horizon and the woods were starting to come alive. Suddenly, a spine-tingling gobble thundered through the treetops. The sound of that gobbler literally knocked the breath right out of me, and I was hooked for life. It was the first wild turkey gobble I’d ever heard, and I was awestruck by it.
A few minutes later, a rival gobbler started answering the first tom’s calls. My heart was thumping so loud that to this day I’m sure every creature in the forest could hear it. After composing myself, I sheepishly pulled out my slate call and scratched out a few yelps. Almost immediately, the two gobblers answered back with authority. I kept yelping back at them until I heard them both fly down. After a few more minutes of calling, one of the gobblers answered again, but this time he was only a few yards away! I couldn’t see him because a brush-covered fence separated us, but he was so close I could hear his wings scraping the ground as he strutted. All I could think to do was continue calling and hope he’d work his way around the fence so I could take a shot. Suddenly, I saw a red head and watched in amazement as the beautiful tom slowly approached.
“This is it,” I thought. “Your first gobbler is in the bag!” I placed my shotgun on my knees, lined up my sights and waited for the right moment. Seconds later I heard a low booming sound, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it was. The sound kept getting closer, and soon the tom spooked and disappeared back around the fence. I sat there listening and finally realized what the sound was: a boombox! Sure enough, a few minutes later three teenagers walked right past me on the logging path, enjoying their new toy and completely oblivious to my presence.
As I watched them walk away, tears started streaming down my neatly camouflaged face. I was so close to killing that tom I could taste it—literally! It wouldn’t be my last disappointing turkey hunt, but it still ranks as my most memorable.