A Fool Day of Hunting
7:23 a.m. — The birds are on the ground, but they’re not coming my way. I lay on the calls...
7:23 a.m. — The birds are on the ground, but they’re not coming my way. I lay on the calls to compete with the hens the best I can, but it’s no use, those b…, I mean hens, lead them away. “We need to move,” I say and stand up to realize how backlit we were against the sunlit pasture. It was a bad set up made in haste, something to remember next time when setting up on a field edge.
8:09 a.m. — We’re on our third setup on the same group of birds. We’ve been shadowing them for the past hour and I’ve finally got a hen cutting angry and heading for us. We’re set up on a small opening in the middle of the pines, but to my right there is a thick tangle of honeysuckle and other vines. The tom still gobbling slips in on the other side. He hits every call I throw and must be standing within 40 yards by the sound of him. But I can’t see him. Soon, like every other time, they drift away and fall silent.
9:30 a.m. — Dodd and I have been simply cutting and running trying to strike those birds back up as well as the one that gobbled in the distance earlier but no luck. It’s been silent for more than an hour. As we explore the woods, we realize that the birds were heading to a nice open pine forest where they could scratch for bugs and the toms could strut in the open. Had we known this, it might have helped in our earlier set up. That’s where scouting and knowing your own land can really pay off.
11:30 a.m. — Still nothing. We’re trying to make our way through thicker briars now. The thin pants I’m wearing are great when it is warm, but man, they are NOT made for brush busting AT ALL. I think my legs are bleeding a lot.
11:37 a.m. — Dodd stops to marvel at the swirls in the sand mounds that litter the forest. He gives me a lesson on doodle dugs, which make little cones in the sand and lie in the bottom waiting to eat ants. Fascinating. We spend the next 15 minutes trying to find ants to feed to the doodle bugs, then we remember we’re supposed to be turkey hunting.
12:42 p.m. — We’re in the truck and running by the ranch to grab a quick sandwich. So much for those eggs and bacon. Fifteen minutes in, out and we’re heading back to the woods. I leave tomorrow, but would sure like to fill that final tag today.
1:12 p.m. — We head back into the woods where we saw the birds earlier, this time from the opposite side of the stand of trees. Our thinking: Those longbeards are probably alone now, they’ll be easier to call. Dodd takes a bearing on his GPS in the truck and we’re off, descending into the shadows of the forest bearing for the open pines where we last heard the gobblers. It should only be about 20 minutes through the woods.
3:30 p.m. — Where in the hell are we??? I don’t remember hacking through this many briars earlier. My legs are ripped to shreds I’m certain. Sweat runs down my face. No gobbles to the calls we toss out here and there.
4:02 p.m. — We’ve changed course using Dodd’s compass about six times. “Guess I should have brought that GPS with us,” Dodd grins. Neither of us are worried by not knowing exactly where we are, we know we’re in the patch of woods where we were earlier, but I am worried about the time we’re burning on a nonproductive hunt. So much for an easy day.
4:34 p.m. — We finally step into the clearing near the fence where we parked that morning. Turkeys erupt into the air heading back into the woods. Sometimes you just have to laugh.
5:17 p.m. — We’re riding and glassing all the spots where we spotted turkeys the afternoon before. Nothing.
5:30 p.m. — We set up on this gorgeous green field where a longbeard should be strutting and call for awhile. Nothing.
6:30 p.m. — We’ve driven through, I bet, 87 gates so far. Riding shotgun has its price, but I am getting my exercise. We’ve glassed every place and stopped to call in every place where we saw dozens of turkeys the day before. Nothing…nothing…nothing
6:45 p.m. — Last chance. We stop where I enjoyed my first evening stand off with a small flock, peer down the wooded lane, but see nothing. Deciding to walk to the end of it and checking the field at the end, I realize we’re probably going to be getting up early tomorrow.
6:58 p.m. — Edging up to the field, I suggest we peak out there before we call. Peeking through my binoculars into the open I spot a lone longbeard 75 yards away. Dodd and I immediately fade back down the path about 25 yards, grab a tree to set against and hit the calls.
6:59 p.m. —The tom gobbles once and then all I hear is drumming.
7:05 p.m. — I catch movement between an opening in the brush and steady my aim down the path. The tom going in and out of half strut rounds the corner and walks right into my load of #5s. Booyah, last tag filled. What a way to end a long, long day. I’m pumped like I haven’t been in, well, yesterday morning. But I am overjoyed to have successfully pulled off my first two-bird Florida hunt. I can’t help but feel a little sad for the turkey though, another 10 minutes and he would have been safely up in his tree. I reflect on how the need for company can be a deadly thing—for humans as well as turkeys!
7:10 p.m. — Walking back to get the truck and just playing with his turkey call, Dodd strikes up three suicidal gobblers who charge up to the fence along which he is walking. “They were only 20 yards away,” Dodd marvels. “Where the hell where they earlier when we were calling,” I wonder. The answer, probably on their way.
7:20 p.m. — Driving back to the lodge, we discuss the big celebratory dinner we’re going to feast on.
8:01 p.m. — Showered, we scrape leftovers together instead. We’re both wiped out. A quick call home and to check my messages and I’m in bed, dead asleep. What a hunt, what a hunt. Flying home tomorrow will be so much sweeter with this start to my season. We might even get up in the morning to go out and try to film those longbeards Dodd saw right before fly-up. But that, my friends, is a whole other story…I head out today to take part in OL’s annual bow test. I’ll post from Lancaster, Pa., if I’m able and give you a sneak peak of what’s going on.