7:11 a.m. — We hear a lot of gobbles from across the clearcut. There must be three or four…No wait, five. No wait, six. Oh, in the other direction, there is at least three. There’s another one over there. And another one in that direction…
7:12 a.m. — We’re surrounded!!!! Toms in every direction, gobbling their fool heads off in 38 degree temps. I close my eyes and for a moment think I must be in northern Missouri.
7:20 a.m. — The turkeys are on the ground. I hit them with my one call, the Roberts Brothers glass-and-slate pot. They gobble in response. Not 20 yards away stands our Montana Decoys Fold-Out Strutter. I’m perfectly set against a small, branchy pine with Ted over my shoulder on the camera. We’ll have one flopping in minutes.
7:22 a.m. — I hear a hen yelping with the desperation of a lonely drunk trying to pick up a date at closing time.
7:23 a.m. — We’re surrounded!!!! Hens in every direction, yelping and cutting their fool heads off. Those @#%^$…..
7:25 a.m. — I lay the yelps and cutts thick on the Roberts Brothers call. I run that thing like Ray Eye on Red Bull. My only chance is to pull a hen or an eager satellite tom in my direction. I spot one hen, but she soon disappears. The sun continues to rise and for a moment, the first group of longbeards we heard appear to be coming. I stress appear, because they never do.
7:40 a.m. — Soon another gobbler from behind us is approaching, but a sharp cutting hen off to our left intercepts him. I consider having a big hen suit built for me, something like a magnum hen, that I can wear and go right toward a longbeard.
8:30 a.m. — Well, it sure is a pretty day, sun rising and all…
8:45 a.m. — “I know we’re screwing up by moving. As soon as we get up, one of those longbeards are going to come by here, but it’s the first day of the season for me and I can’t just sit here and wait for something to happen,” I say. Ted agrees. We ease toward a stand of trees that will provide cover from where we can glass the massive clearcut. In just about a half hour, my prediction will be borne out. I should have been a psychic.
9:00 a.m. — We spot two groups of turkeys across the cut. One group, about 400 yards away, looks like at least one or two toms with several hens. The other group, farther down the same tree line and nearly 1,000 yards away, consists of at least four strutters and a handful of hens.
9:20 a.m. — We retreat to do an end-around on the birds. “Look,” Ted almost yells. At the sight of us, a couple of hens and a longbeard dash away. They were less than a 100 yards from where we had been set up that morning, walking right toward the spot. Lesson: It may not always be as much fun, but for the patient hunter willing to sit tight for several hours, he or she will likely kill more turkeys than the runner-and-gunner over the long haul.
10:10 a.m. — We’ve at last worked our way into the trees behind the two groups of turkeys and spot one longbeard with three hens 200 yards from our position.
10:20 a.m. — We finally get set up in a good spot on the edge. The wind has really gotten up so I ditch the wood striker that I’ve been using and pull out the aluminum striker that also came with the call. It will deliver a higher frequency and more volume. I lay it on and the bird bursts back into strut and looks my way. He hears me over the wind. “We’re in business,” I hiss to Ted.
10:50 a.m. — The birds have slowly worked their way our direction, sometimes the strutting gobbler leading the way, some times his harem. I worry about one of the hens strolling in and making us before he gets into range. Ted tells me if it looks like the tom is going to bug out before he gets the camera on him, just go ahead and shoot. Sounds good to me, though I’d love to get the hunt on film.
10:55 a.m. — The hens and strutter mingle about 30 yards out. Ted doesn’t have the tom in the frame because a huge pine that we’ve set up next to blocks his vision. When the turkey steps into view for Ted, he is out of view for me. When he steps back into view of me, so does a hen. I’m starting to wonder if this is going to work out.
10:56 a.m. — Finally, Ted says he has him. The hens step free. I have less than a perfect shot as I have to lean out and twist sideways to get a proper aim on the bird. He’s facing me still in strut. Normally I would cutt on my mouth call to bring him out of strut, but I don’t have one. I consider whistling, but my darn lips are too dry from all the stress I’ve been feeling for the last 20 minutes. I consider just yelling, but worry that he could take one panic stricken step to my right and be out of sight. “Hell with it,” I almost say aloud. The tom is straight on, so I roll out to my left and fire. My first turkey of 2007 is on the ground and my third Osceola ever. Tenacious D strikes again, though I would have loved it had we gotten the bird right off the roost as it would have made this post a lot shorter. Thanks for hanging in there.
As for the rest of the day, both Dodd and James got their second and final birds that same morning late. Larry, one of the other hunters also shot one, though it took three very spaced out shots. The story goes that he shot the bird and knocked it down. As he and his partner celebrated with high-fives the bird got back up and ran off with the two of them in pursuit. Larry shot again and missed, the pursuit continued and his buddy shot a final time finishing the hunt. Good stuff. All in all, we had six birds hanging in camp at the end of the day (seven if you count Larry’s, which he took home).
That night, while checking in at home I asked my wife, “They said I snored a lot last night. I don’t always do that do I?” Silence greeted me from the other end of the phone!