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The Hunt of a Lifetime

The Hunt of a Lifetime

IMG_3977      We slipped as silent as we could through the predawn light. Maneuvering ourselves to a giant oak, almost nineteen feet in circumference, statistics show this tree was seeded in or about 1490. Just sitting against its trunk brings a feeling of awe as the morning breaks and the birds start to awaken. I have to wonder how many mornings this giant majestic oak has seen in its five hundred plus years.

As the night gives way the owl says good morning, which for him is really good night. And at his summons awakens the wild turkey perched high in the heavy branches of a nearby pine tree standing along a meandering creek. The tom turkey proudly proclaims his presence and challenges all who dare to enter his territory. This spring morning is one for the ages, as two generations sit along this ancient oak waiting to bring in a new turkey season.

Soft yelps emerge from my M.L. Lynch box call to identify our location to the tom before he pitches off of his perch. This is the same box call I used to call in and kill my first turkey. Now we are ushering in another generation as we initiate a new season with the sounds of Mr. Lynch. Would this old call prove once again to be the music the old tom wants to hear? Hopefully we would discover soon enough.

The ole tom stood on his roost longer than expected as we waited for him to make the next move. Hunting older turkeys is much like a chess match, one moves then waits for the response before the other makes their move. Now it was his turn and we waited for what seemed like hours when in reality it was only a few minutes. One last gobble and the distinct sound of wing beats told us he pitched into the pasture sixty yards and across a property line from where we sat.

There something about watching someone hear their first gobble from a mature tom. Nothing in all of nature is as powerful as a gobble. Its thunderous vibrato seems to linger in the trees as it carries for half a mile or more. The initiated seems transfixed as the sound not only penetrates the morning, but also ones soul.  As we listened we heard him continue to try and draw the hen into the opening. We held fast as we tried to confuse and lure him with our seductive rants.

It seems that some gobblers like different sounds, some are more prone to the sound of Mr. Lynch and others prefer a more raspy sound made from a glass call with a carbon striker. I personally never liked that sound, seems to me to sound more like an avian chain smoker than a turkey hen. But it does seem to bring out the gobble from the unsuspecting male turkey. Perhaps it is because it is not like any other sound out there and its close enough to sound like a turkey that he is intrigued.

Then there is the sweet sound of a wingbone call, its pure sweet yelps are that of a teenager whose voice has yet to change with puberty. Many a gobbler has met his maker due to the sound of the sweet wingbone. Maybe, he is looking for his childhood sweetheart and the sound seems to bring him back to a better time. It’s either that or we kill a lot of pedophile turkeys who prefer those far too young. Either way, it is the job of the hunter to decipher these and bring the right call to the dance and entice him just enough to convince him to come into range.

On this particular day, this gobbler was neither one prone to the extremely young or to the raspy old lady. He seemed to prefer a mature lady with an experienced voice and one of slow soft seduction over the screamer. I have known but a few men who preferred a woman who screamed all of the time, same is true of the ole tom. He would rather be spoken to than yelled at, and much of the time he prefers the conversation to be subtle and alluring rather than straight to the point.

Thus, the slate call did most of the work on this particular day. Coupled with the right striker, the pure slate can mimic a lot of sounds of the wild turkey and on this day old tom seemed to like it just fine. A few yelps brought him in full strut along the edge of the pasture in plain sight but well out of range. We would have to do bit more to get him to cross the fence and commit. So I did what so many women do in this situation, I sat there and waited. Never saying a word, just waiting. Oh, the temptation to pick up the striker was strong, but I knew if I waited, his curiosity would get the best of him and he would come looking. Two minutes merged into three and four when the woods echoed a thunderous gobble as he made his way under the fence and into forty yards. Still, I sat as quiet as a church mouse watching. My eyes were fixed, not upon the strutting turkey, rather on my son, as his life was changing right before my eyes. The impact of a mature turkey strutting in front of a youngster is life changing.

The Browning 20 gauge sat at his shoulder as the ole tom continued to look for his soul mate. At fifteen yards I whispered softly into my son’s ear, “you have the gun on him?” the slight movement of his hat bill told me he did, “kill him” I whispered. At that instant the Browning rang out and the gobbler fell.

Of the several hundred turkeys I have killed and witnessed killed, I have never experienced a hunt that was more meaningful to me or anyone I was with. As I stood over his bird, I looked at him and said “come get your bird son”, jumping to his feet, he ran the fifteen yards and without hesitation leapt straight into my arms.

During the past thirty five years afield, I have had some memorable moments, but this was without question the hunt of a lifetime – for both of us.