We’d closed the Day 1 deal on that big Golden State gobbler (research revealed it would score no. 7 all-time for registered California Rios). Stoked, we kept right at it. Camp lunch could wait. Tailgate sandwiches never tasted better. Steve Nessl stepped up to the plate next, swung at what he thought was a good pitch, and struck out. His next at-bat proved more productive.
First: the running error that cleared the field. I aggressively yelped from the dirt road the way I like to do to locate birds, and a gobbler hammered back on top of the high field. Chad Wiebe hatched a plan: we’d ease as close as possible, set up. We did. The gobbler sounded off a couple dozen times after that. Hung up at maybe 50 yards, with the property line fence between us, I decided to make like a retreating hen to fool that gobbling turkey into crossing, maybe flying over the obstruction, coming closer.
Yeah right. The bird shifted. Gobbled. Hung tight to the fence.
Face down in the field grass, the shadow of a buzzard moved above me. Good, I looked dead but sounded like a hen turkey — just what we wanted. Nessl, who’d seen your Strut Zone correspondent move on a bird and kill it that morning, tried the same. Sorry man. This time he was thrown out for the effort. Putt-putt! Game over.
Wiebe had another nearby spot the way hardcore turkey hunters do in places you visit. I yelped, a turkey gobbled in edge cover along a field, not far past a tool-filled garage and life-weary house. Cats slept in the sun, tin cans in a collected pyramid. It might have been one of the more unusual places I’ve ever worked a bird. I called. The turkey hammered. Wiebe and Nessl repositioned at the base of the field, their movements hidden by debris of the backyard kind. They faced the near woods where booming responses came steadily. I followed, calling. Behind them, I made a racket. The bird ripped back. I slipped to the truck, calling softly in fade-away mode. Wiebe took over, and Nessl made his move. K-boom. He threw that turkey out from left field. Nessl was on the board (I snapped this picture with his second-chance tom). A cat yawned as we passed.
Whatever — Another bird had been also killed by a turkey camp member. Day 1 closed with that feel-good spring gobbler camp vibe. Pass me the grill meat brutha.
Pre-dawn, the air crisp and cool. Santa Lucia Outfitters’ Jim Martinez put us on a hot bird that hammered at everything, flew down, strutted in our high-field direction and toward my calling, then stopped, head up, looking and listening in the direction of a yelping hen racket, some of which was facilitated by a camp buddy in the flat several hundred yards below. It broke into a 200-yard run, heaving forward as fast as a fat gobbler can, all of which concluded in a shot, then several more. Another California Rio was down. Van Holmes — like Mr. Nessl, a Yamaha Outdoors turkey killer — had his bird.
Not long after, yet another volley of shots by our buddy Bob Humphrey using a loaner shotgun, fellow Mainer also possessed by spring gobbler wanderlust. Misses would punctuate our hunts, though success would soon follow.
I won’t tell you exactly what Humphrey said about that turkey he yelped to Holmes, but it had something to do with calling the bird away from your Strut Zone correspondent. Love you too, Bob.
Stay tuned for my mountain lion encounter, the earthquake we never felt, and our final day of hunting.