A week ago today, my neighbor and I had had that really close call with the three big toms. It’s hard to imagine better action than that, but we were out to try!
The birds had been traveling south off the roost mainly, so this morning we employed some decoy hunters to try to help us out. We parked my truck in a strategic spot in the field hoping to sway the birds back our way if they came out there and saw it. During our dark walk through the woods, we also placed a couple blaze orange vests on branches to keep the birds from moving past there as well. Now we really had a funnel setup!
Dawn broke to our 5th consecutive day of rain and cold. Luckily for us the gobbler action was hot! Multiple toms were sounding off repeatedly. We decided to wait on hitting any calls until we knew a direction of travel. Initially it sounded like they headed the other way, but they must’ve turned around because their gobbles were getting closer.
For about 20-30 minutes the gobblers sounded off on a small ridge about 100-150 yards away. We couldn’t see them yet. We decided it was time to touch a call. I took out my slate and gave just a couple clucks and purrs. GOBBLE-GOBBLE-GOBBLE!!! That sweet sound grew closer. We had peaked their interest. A minute later, tail feathers popped up over the ridge. We had a visual.
Based on last week’s experience, my neighbor brought his shotgun in case we couldn’t get a shot with the bow. We wanted to at least get one of these big ol gobblers! So when that first bird popped up at 45 yards, rather than filming him, my neighbor readied his gun and whispered “Should I blast him?” I was a guest on his land and just left it up to him but I thought they were coming in so I hoped he’d give it a chance yet. He agreed, but of course, the tom went back over the ridge and soon the gobbles were getting further away.
Out the slate came. Soon my neighbor was singing some sweet horny yelps and had the toms fired back up! They were coming back! Two fans came up over the ridge at 45 yards, followed by a third about 10 yards behind them. It was the 3 big boys from last weekend. The gun was ready but their path would take them by at about 25 yards so I whispered to be patient, feeling good I was about to get my shot.
I readied my bow. They neared the tree I had ranged earlier at 25 yards. I looked left and my cameraman still had the camera pointing at the ground! I whispered I had a shot and to try to get on them. As the birds walked a few more feet, I picked out the lead tom of the three (the third was about 15 yards up the ridge yet) and came to full draw. I whispered “Are you on them?” Hearing a “Yeah, Yeah” response, I settled it on the center of the wing and let fly.
In a blur, the 2 lead birds took flight. I had heard no obvious hit. With the netting from the blind and the speed of the arrow I didn’t see a hit, but I didn’t see a miss either. We watched the bird fly away and noticed a definite faulter to its flight. It was hit, no doubt…but back to the main scene!
“The third one’s still there! Take the camera” my neighbor said as he hurried to ready his gun. As I grabbed the camera, I saw it was on auto focus still and only saw blind netting in the frame. As I reached for the manual focus button, “WHU-BOOOOOOMMM!!!!!” I looked up to see a flopping bird.
“Well, we got one for sure!” we smiled and high-fived each other. Could we have gotten a double even??
We broke-down our setup and headed over to check things out. My arrow lay just beyond the spot the bird stood. There was no blood, fat or guts on the arrow, but there were a few feathers laying there and a couple tufts of down on the arrow nock. It was a pass through, but we were still uncertain of the lethality of the hit.
We quickly looked over the shotgun bird…a beautiful 11 inch, super-thick beard. The tom had only one spur as the other had been broken off or something.
Our celebration of my buddy getting his bird wouldn’t last long. We were off to see if we had just completed a double on 2 mature toms.
After the short celebration there, we began pursuit of my bird. Twenty yards into the search we heard at least one bird take off up ahead of us. It seemed to make an abnormally excessive amount of racket taking off so we had a feeling it was my bird. Not good.
One hour later our search had still turned up nothing. We regrouped and made a plan to pack things up and head back to my truck. I would take the truck to the north side of the property and wait in a funnel area while my neighbor made a push through the woods to hopefully bring it by me.
I opted for my shotgun at this point, figuring if the drive produced that it would be a running or flying shot at best. Ten minutes into the drive I saw a red head coming my way, I readied the gun but the brush didn’t give me a clear view and I didn’t want to shoot if I didn’t feel really confident it was my bird. In my rush to setup for the drive I left my camo jacket and mask in the truck. The turkey quickly spotted me and took to the air. I saw nothing physically wrong with the bird as it flew to the other side of the field. I was pretty sure this wasn’t my bird, but the 1 of the the 3 that hadn’t been shot. Could mine be down back in the woods then, or had it just flown a different direction?
Being Mother’s Day, and Sunday, I had plans with Jennie (my wife) to go to church, so my neighbor and I agreed to meet up later in the afternoon to search some more.
At 4pm we got back together and headed to his property. We planned to stay about 30 yards apart and grid things off. We started up the north border and worked our way back to the area where we’d been sitting that morning.
About a quarter mile into our walk our conversation had shifted to whitetails (imagine that!), when suddenly right out in the plain open between my buddy and I there lay a turkey!!! I looked over and said “Look at that!!” No sooner had I said that when the bird’s head popped up and he bolted for cover! I had my shotgun slung over my shoulder and the flip open caps were closed because of the rain. I didn’t get a shot before it was over the ridge. But the bird appeared to be hurting pretty good. He couldn’t fly and wasn’t running on both legs but he was still making pretty good time.
I ran over the ridge to find him laying down about 30 yards away. As we spotted each other, his head ducked into the weeds. I figured I better give him a blast of #4’s and end the saga so I lowered the gun onto his body where he’d ducked and “WHU-BOOOMM!!!”
I think I had just shot into the hill that he ended up being behind. The shot appeared to have no effect and away he bolted. I probably could’ve ran him down but the neighbor’s property was about 100 yards away and I didn’t see a need to string this out. The bird laid down in some blowdowns about 50 yards further up and I ran up there and finished him off. The tom was mine. Our double was complete after all!!!
My bird weighed 22 pounds and has 1 inch spurs with a 9.75″ beard.
My bird weighed 22 pounds and has 1 inch spurs with a 9.75″ beard that’s kind of S-shaped and really thick. It was a great Mother’s Day for a Michigan Double!!