My son Bob and I both harvested jake turkeys Easter weekend. Nothing unusual there, right? Young toms are easy to call in, especially early season. What made this hunt special? The first turkey either of us ever killed. I’m 63 and he’s 37. It was a special hunt for another reason.
I’ve watched too many turkey hunting TV shows. You know the ones. The host locates a roosted tom, yelps, the tom gobbles. That sequence repeats itself for what seems an eternity while the old boy slowly works toward the seductive hen. When he’s in range the hunter smacks him with a 3” load of #4s. A huge bird! Eleven inch beard with 1 1/2” spurs. That was how I envisioned our hunt going. As we said in the Army, no plan survives contact with the enemy.
We parked the truck by the farmer’s house in the pre-dawn darkness and began to unload. As the first glimmer of light peeked over the adjacent mountain, with our gear and guns in hand, I shut the tailgate of the truck. A shock gobble echoed from the ridge near my planned setup. Yes! So far everything is going to plans. We moved quickly to our ambush point.
We set our decoys about 20 yards into the field, hid inside the nearby trees, loaded our shotguns, and I sent out a quick yelp from the box call. A throaty gobble came back from the same ridgeline. I waited a couple of minutes and called again. The old tom answered back. Then he went quiet. I whispered to my son, “He’s off the roost now. Watch for him to come around the tree line to our left in the field.”
My occasional call over the next thirty minutes went unanswered. I had read it is not uncommon for an old bird to approach quietly. I mixed up my calls, sometimes using the box, then a slate, and maybe a push button call. I thought maybe three different hen sounds might just bring him in a little faster. But patience was the name of the game. Anyway, isn’t that how it happened on TV?
We noticed a lone hen cross in the field headed to our left. While watching the hen peck her way across the field Bob suddenly whispered, “Two birds to the right!” I slowly turned my head and barely made out the birds through some nearby trees about twenty-five yards away. One of them was strutting. As they moved forward I could see that both of them were jakes with 3” beards.
I said quietly, “Get your gun up.” We had agreed beforehand that if two birds came in we would shoot both on a three count. After a couple more steps I still couldn’t see the trail bird. Suddenly they stopped and turned. I told Bob, “Take your bird.” Boom! The lead bird went down. The trail bird, mine, ran up the field ridge away from us. Instinctively I hit the yelper. He turned, ran back down the hill, and stood over his buddy. Now it was my turn and the second jake went down. The amazing thing: the entire sequence from seeing the birds to both on the ground was maybe three minutes. We looked at each other and Bob said, “That’s not how I thought it would happen but we’ll take it!”
The farmer was smiling as we approached the truck and told us he saw the whole thing unfold. He said, “Look over there.” Two old toms were strutting in an adjacent field, each with five or six hens. We each killed birds, but most importantly have a father and son memory. I just wanted Bob to kill a turkey. You see, he is about to leave on his sixth military deployment. Our hunting opportunities are limited. We will cherish that hunt for more reasons than just a bird.