Hunting has been a big part of my family for as long as I can remember. For the past 20 years or so I’ve shared the woods with my father, brother and other family members. I’ve hunted just about everything my home state of Iowa has to offer and have had a fair amount of success with everything except wild turkeys.
Ten years ago, I went after a gobbler with my brother, Shawn. I started out doing the calling, and shortly after we started, we had a tom gobbling and he soon flew down from his roost and right next to our decoy! As luck would have it, Shawn had a much better shot angle at the tom than I did, so I told him to take the shot. That was his first turkey, and I knew I was hooked on hunting them for life. However, due to work and family obligations, and just plain bad luck, I’d been unable to bag a turkey of my own.
This past spring, I was able to take a week of vacation from work and was determined this would be the year for me. I made plans to pick up Shawn early in the morning and then drive to our family’s hunting property. Shawn had killed a monster tom there with his bow the week before and said there was another big tom still roaming the area. We walked in and chose a place to set up our pop-up blind and decoys. We had just gotten settled in when we heard a thunderous gobble that was probably too close. I was sure we had spooked the bird, but the tom continued to gobble for quite a while as the woods came alive with wood ducks and Canada geese flying overhead. A moment later, we heard the tom fly down and Shawn was able to capture the bird on his video camera as the tom walked into a small clearing. I thought that this was going to be it—my first wild turkey was in sight!
Just as I was finishing that thought, however, the big tom turned and started walking away from us. Our best lonely hen imitations did nothing to change his path. He was soon more than 100 yards away and still moving in the wrong direction. After a minute or two of self pity, Shawn and I started formulating a plan to cut a wide circle and try to head off the gobbler. But just as I was reaching for the door of our blind, Shawn started hitting my leg and pointing out the window. A group of hens had flown down and were making a beeline for our decoys. Shawn started calling aggressively, hoping the tom would look back and see his hens heading straight for us.
After what seemed like an eternity of half and full struts, the big tom finally walked within gun range. I took careful aim, squeezed the trigger and dropped the tom in his tracks.
After taking a moment for a quick, silent prayer of thanks for this gift, Shawn and I walked over to my bird. He weighed 25 pounds, had an 113/4-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. He was truly magnificent. Shawn said he thought this was the same turkey that had been with the one he’d shot the previous week. And as we walked out of the woods, Shawn said it had taken him 10 years, but he was finally able to pay me back by calling in a turkey for me. Hopefully, this won’t be my last turkey, but I think it will definitely stand out as one of my best hunting memories.