They say most men are afraid of commitment. That they talk a big game but when it’s time to put the pedal to the metal, they’ll sheepishly walk away, petrified of any long-term ramifications. After this past weekend in the turkey woods, I’m completely operating on that side of the fence.
It was a beautiful morning last Friday. A light frost clouded my windshield as I placed my hunting gear in my car to go greet Dad in our trusty hunting spot. With temperatures already in the high thirties, it was evident that as the sun came up, a comfortable day would await us.
After a short walk up the old log road, a distant gobble answered my crow call. Darkness had given way to light by now as we advanced toward the noisemaker. We pinpointed the bird on a ridge across a brook, approximately 250 yards away. We made a play by crossing the brook upstream and attempt to hunt him on the same level of terrain. This plan ultimately failed, as we busted the birds on our way to find a set-up.
That isn’t the end of the story, however. After licking our wounds, Dad and I decided to head to another section of woods and start over again. After blind calling for about 45 minutes, we heard another gobble down over the bank. We closed the distance to about 150 yards and sat down, perfectly situated behind a stand of thick fir trees that blocked the bird’s view of us and ours of his.
With a couple of light hen yelps from Dad’s mouth call, the tom bellowed, having easily come to within 75 yards of us. I got the 12 gauge up, ready to fire. We decided to shut up, hoping the bird would march to within shotgun range. He excitedly gobbled every minute or so, but his feet seemed stuck in cement. After about 20 minutes, it was evident he had drawn the figurative line in the sand and was demanding the “hen” come to him. Dad and I had both been in this situation before.
I decided to lightly cluck, and his thunderous response confirmed the gobbler’s stagnant positioning. Eventually, he worked away from us and up the mountain, gobbling to my every desperate call. I picked up the calling at a last-ditch effort to entice him, but Dad and I already knew the game was up.
Two days later, my boy and I were up on the mountain behind my house. After walking and calling for a few hours and enjoying nothing but each other’s company, we decided to head back down to a mix of hardwoods and pines that is adjacent to a field where we have had action in previous seasons. Along the way, I would hen yelp to try to locate a mid-morning, lonely gobbler.
At about 9:30 AM, my son and I both heard what we thought was a gobble, approximately 350 yards down the mountain and in the general area of our destination. We picked up the pace and headed downhill, as I occasionally blew on my crow call to pinpoint him. He obliged and we made a beeline for his position.
At one point, when we were in his area, I hit my hen yelper and was surprised to hear the bird gobble so close. Panicking, I decided we should sit down. As the turkey answered my calling, he was noticeably coming in. I had my boy get the gun up in the firing position and told him not to move.
Finally, on top of a small bank, about 70 yards away, we both could see the tom strutting, his tail fan puffing up and down, putting on a show for the object of his affection. As was the case two days earlier, this bird had decided he would go no further, and when he undoubtably could look down and easily see no hen in sight, he decided to walk away, gobbling out of our life. I believe my biggest mistake was not setting up closer to the top of the bank to where my son had a shot. Instead, while I’m sure we were both quite still, the turkey needed to see a hen to continue the game.
What is it about commitment? Why do male turkeys always get their way and expect the hen to come to him? Why do the hens allow them to get away with this conceded behavior? Why do I allow myself to keep getting into these heartbreaking situations? Why do I still take part in this sport? I’ll be out there as soon as I can to try and find out.