Friday, June 3, 2016

Gobblers never come easy

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

Some hunters get it done in a couple tries.

This one here often takes multiple efforts to bag the intended target. Not sure why it has to go down like this but nothing ever comes easy.

So after three states and nine gigs, a mature gobbler was bagged.

It had been nearly six years since the majestic fall tom with a 14 1/2 inch beard was taken at the magical hunting grounds that is Dairy Farmer Dave's, and it would have been three years since any turkeys were slammed -- when two jakes were shot -- one in spring and one in September with the last having the best beard at six inches in length.

So when the second of two toms hit the deck on the morning of May 31 it was sure a welcomed sight.

And the kill nearly didn't happen at all thanks to the confounded Mossberg 12 gauge.

As that day unfolded, the one hour before sunrise target time was missed but not as badly as the week before on May 24  when I strolled in at 6 barely beating sunrise but actually getting to watch the glorious southeastern Michigan sky light up in orange gold.

Photo by Mac Arnold
The sunrise that greeted me May 24 at Dairy
Farmer Dave's was quite spectacular. 
It was quite the sight. So much so that I stopped to click off a picture to capture the moment. Later, as it was noted, despite the stench common with all dairy farms, there is always much beauty to take in at Dave's paradise. Here was a nice example of it, which I had forgotten until that abrupt stop before setting up in the property's east pine woods.

Even though there would be no success such as a tagged bird, much intel was brought to light as to just how many birds were strutting around the wheat fields. After a late morning move on the 24th, I got within 80 yards of him but that was as close as the tom would get. But I got a good look at him and his beard was dragging on the ground.

In addition, I discovered a great place to sit, which would be right in the center of his strutting ground.

After securing approval for a second gig from Dairy Farmer Dave, the plan would be hatched May 31 with the mission of getting out at that one hour before sunrise time.

OK, again, that didn't happen but I was closer. It was 5:33 when I popped the back hatch on the Jeep and 30 seconds into to gearing up, a gobble echoed from behind the retention pond.

Only good things happen when the birds are roosted there. Unfortunately it is best to already be on the other side of the smelliest pond known to man. I would be hitting the ground running, which meant I would try to sidestep the roost by a mere 100 yards to get on the other side of the woods that opens up into a lane skirting the wheat.

He gobbled a couple of more times, likely to my footfalls, which I tried to delicately set down in between the broken twigs and fallen logs the grayish dawn light. It wasn't easy but it went smoother than I thought. Soon I was right where I wanted to be in the corner of the farm field edge that gives you a good look along the woods for when they step out.

I made some gentle tree yelps with the Ring Zone glass call and then louder ones with the H.S. Strut mouth call once I figured they were on the ground. Within a half hour, a hen stepped out clucking in a disturbed manner and soon hustled back into the woods after it seemed she was unhappy about the lack of response from the decoy.

It appeared the jig was up as she putted while walking away through the trees.

Yet, the gobbling never ceased and even became louder at times.

They were close, but were they closing? I wondered.

The answer would come 15 minutes later when two more hens slipped through the tall grass along the wood line with two toms in tow. Nice ones at that. I acquired the yardage with my recently purchased Simons range finder. This was the first season I've ever used one and let me say it helped tremendously because it read "83 yards." The same as a week before when I had a bead on the one turk.

A couple of clucks on the mouth call soon had the one hen coming straight to me and the two big boys on her tail. I was shaking with nervous excitement. When they were in range I waited until the two gobblers were separated enough, took aim and pulled the trigger. Click!

Oh no. But it was just like that, and now I was freaking out. If the whole season weighed on this it would really be a bummer.  To my amazement, they were still close as I re-cocked the shottie. Yet, another click. This time the birds were done with the odd noises coming from inside the opposite woods and started to turn in the other direction. I ejected the one shell and chambered another, picked out the back tom's head and this time a shot rang out with the bird on the ground.

Finally, I had dropped a good-sized tom.

Some might ask what's up with the shotgun? I've had it looked at before and it was determined that for a gun bought for $450 in 1993 it's not worth the cost to fix. But when it comes down to it, it usually gets the job done.

And it did again May 31.

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