Luck is an indispensable asset during any successful turkey hunt. Not just luck at the beginning but it requires luck at every intersection of the hunt. Take for example one of my recent hunts during Wisconsin’s last spring season. I had a surefire plan, also known in turkey hunting parlance as a preconceived notion.
The previous day I had a six and half hour calling duel with a blabber beak type of gobbler who did not have the good manners to come and show himself. We introduced ourselves at 8:45 A and chatted back and forth until 3:15 P. Tried the silent treatment on him several times, needed a break from all the noise not to mention the old fingers were in need of rest. Plus the wingbone pucker needed to ease off my face. But each time he matched the silence while moving off 100+ yards to then give that nana you can’t get me gobbles, this only made me more determined to kill him. No luck, so all that night as I slept, I dreamed up – The Plan.
After the three miles foggy Mississippi River boat ride, the tedious wet slog to Mr. Babbler Beak’s haunt begin. The determination to get this particular bird was dominating my thoughts even though a wrong step could have frigid water pouring into my knee boots. Swamp turkeys can be most provoking.
Less than a quarter of the way into the plan an urgent gobble erupts. An unaccounted for occurrence in the hunt is an intersection; the hunter must decide to continue or change of mind. An easy decision, change of the plan. I figured out a doable setup on a relatively dry finger of land, a few soft tree yelps and settled in for fly down.
Air swooshing through feathers followed by a dull thud marked his landing. Scratching out the most urgent yelps I could muster brought a robust series of approaching gobbles. Down went the slate and up with the gun, just in time he’s right there in strut with two hens flanking him. When he moves clear, the blast swirls the fog, and I launch up to claim my prize.
Except, there is no prize laying there. What the heck? I saw him go down, after searching the area I turn around to go back to the setup, perhaps I’m looking in the wrong spot. Uh, no, that ripped down sapling caught all the shot. The tom is unscathed.
Here I am at another intersection, is this a sign to go on with the original plan or stay in the area and pursue this lucky gobbler.
Working my way in the direction the hens went pays off. They flush, rising straight up above the oaks heading different directions, excellent they are out the picture. The tom should miss them at some point and call out for his ladies. I grin when he does – I’ll do the answering.
Like the hands on a clock, I move forward listening carefully. At different points, a couple of does break cover crashing off leaving behind their well-hidden fawns. Who can pass up taking those pictures?
Gobbling begins in earnest somewhere up ahead, can’t pinpoint it exactly as I continue moving forward until I realize he is on another strip of land to the east. The water is too deep to cross so backtracking is required to a more amicable crossing point. Dang river has been at flood stage all spring making stealthy approaches on longbeards difficult at best.
The woodland is open, full of mature maples and oaks with good visibility on the strip he chose. This is good news in that I have a better chance of seeing him and bad news, he has an even better opportunity to see me. Move down a bank to sneak along the water’s edge, slipping on the mud occasionally but this breaks up my outline while allowing to see.
The tom’s course yelps carry through the mist to my ears telling me it is time to pick a spot and start talking turkey. Of course, these spots are never perfect, my seat sinks down, no matter it is showtime. My first calls are answered with robust gobbling that is closing in. And, of course, he is across the water from me as he walks by out of range. I amp up my calling as soon as his head goes behind some trees this causes him to spin back and walk his back trail right past out of range. My calls continue every time he can’t see me, his gobbles start to fade with distance. My hope is he is going cross back to my side somewhere up ahead. Taking advantage of the pause in action I reposition into a convenient blow down which provides me better cover and good visibility.
There’s a white/blue head bobbing its way towards me, stopping to look for danger and hens. At fifty yards he goes behind and large maple,
seemed like he stayed there for an eternity. When a gobbler is searching like this silence is a turkey hunter’s friend. His juking head preceded him as came out trotting in full strut facing my position. At thirty yards dropped out of strut to start yelping. I won’t claim to know
what he was saying in “turkey speak” but those were his last words.