Third Time’s a Charm

It was Michigan’s third turkey season of 2005, a late, guaranteed tag season spanning the month of May and giving hunters plenty of time in the woods. My buddy, Dan DesRosiers, a.k.a. Dome, and I had planned on rotating cameraman/hunter until we both filled up, but since I shot my tom with my bow on the 2nd evening out, Dome had basically the entire month to get his bird with me as his cameraman. The first three weeks of May produced numerous close calls on good toms, but nothing worked out with the archery equipment. Dome’s wife was questioning this turkey hotspot of ours, and he was feeling the pressure of bringing home the other white meat. It was time to switch to the shotgun.

On the final weekend in May, I made plans to have a bonfire party at my house, knowing that with the wives all together to visit, us guys could slip out for another hunt.

I greeted Dome in my camo, halfway up my long driveway as he and Kristi pulled in. There were two big toms in my field out back and I didn’t want them to spook.

“Get dressed, we’re going after a bird.” I explained. Dan gave a wink, and didn’t hesitate.

So with the hens, I mean wives, cackling in the house, Dome and I were off to the woods. Our strategy was to cut south, run to the back of my property to the west, and cut the toms off as they headed to roost where they usually did.

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Dome had this first tom dead to rights…

A half-hour later, the toms were playing to the script perfectly. I stood about 10 feet behind Dome as he was drawing a bead on the lead tom. They were about 40 yards out, easy range for my turkey cannon, I thought. Suddenly, the battery light starts flashing on my camera! So when Dan whispered. “You on em?” I quickly responded with “Yeah, kill it!”

WHU-BOOOOOOMMMM!!!

The tom took flight. Dome took to his feet and flailed another shot. But it was no use. The bird got away.

“What happened??” Dome asked puzzled.

“You tell me!!” I kind of chuckled.

We assessed the situation and determined Dome had sent the majority of his load into the blue spruce branch that had been blocking his barrel!

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…but a spruce branch in front of the barrel got in the way.

“Man, that sucks” Dome pouted. “That was my best chance and now season’s about over. Looks like try again next year.”

“Nah, keep the faith.” I reassured him. We’ll hit it in the morning hard and get onto more birds. They haven’t been spooked in our other spots.

So we relived those events and many others in front of the bonfire that night. At 2:30am we decided we might want to get some sleep since we were going hunting at 4!!

We were both zombies in the morning, and Dome was a little irritated that I wouldn’t let him carry his shiny tin coffee mug across the open field to our morning setup. I assured him we’d both be plenty awake soon as the toms start gobbling.

And boy did they. As dawn was cracking, we had 5 toms gobbling steady within about 100 yards of us. We hunt a highly pressured area of southern Michigan so there would be no calling this morning. I was pretty sure where they would go off the roost, and that’s what we were banking on.

One hour later we had a huge tom out in front of us strutting at 80 yards. He had not come by in range, and Dome’s trigger finger was itching. I zoomed in good and was getting great footage, when suddenly Dome whispers, “Here they come!”

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Dome took aim on his second tom…

I looked left and saw 5 jakes followed by 2 strutting toms coming out to greet the big boy already out there. I swung the camera over to the trailing tom, gave Dome the fire-when-ready queu, and waited for the cannon to sound.

WHU-BOOOOMMMM!!!

Away the birds all flew! Dome jumped to his feet and emptied his last 2 in a fleeting attempt to successfully end his season. No luck. Once again, the toms escaped. Turkeys 2, Dome zero.

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…but the turkeys went up 2-0 as the shot was too far.

“Man, that’s for sure going to be my last good chance!” Dome whimpered. Dome had excitedly fired when they were still out at about 65 yards… good for them, bad for us.

“Relax, think of the stories we get to tell!” I replied. “There are birds all over out here. Let’s go find another one!” I reassured a doubting Dome.

Later that morning after checking some other fields for toms, we planned one final check of a known turkey hangout. Sure enough, there were 2 big toms out there about 400 yards away, on a bee-line for the corner of a woodlot I knew well.

“I think I know where they’re heading.” I explained to Dome. “We’re going to have to run, but I think we can cut them off!” Could this be Dome’s third solid chance in less than a day?

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Our third chance would require a long run to get ahead of the birds.

With heavy legs, and heaving chests, we made it into position, eagerly anticipating the toms to be coming up over the hill at any moment.

Twenty minutes later, no birds. Doubt was creeping in. Suddenly a double-gobble confirmed they were still out there, but it appeared they shifted their line of travel. We would need to crawl up the fenceline and get closer. Luckily we had a good breeze to hide our noise and the late May foliage was easy to hide in.

Forty yards up the fenceline, we peeked out and saw them about 80 yards away. Turkeys seem to know when you have a shotgun and when you have a bow… they’re always “just out of range!”

As we sat there strategizing about what to do next, a huge lone tom made an appearance from the complete opposite direction. He had no doubt heard those toms gobbling and was coming in for a closer look.

As a wise old tom will do, the bird got to within about 100 yards from the other two toms, staying just over the hill from them. “They even hang up on each other!” I thought.

The big tom wasn’t coming any closer. In fact, he went over to the shadowed part of the fenceline and laid down! Had we stayed put in our original spot, Dome would already be cutting his tag!

Now the plan was for Dome to sneak back down the fenceline into range, while I stayed put with the camera on it. My heart was in my throat over the next several minutes as I eagerly anticipated another gunshot ringing out.

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The big tom bedded down. One final stalk was in order.

Ten minutes passed, and finally the bird rose to its feet again and began feeding away from us. I could no longer see Dome and was wondering what the heck was happening!

WHU-BOOOMMMMM!!!!!!

The sudden blast about gave me a heart attack, but it was music to my ears. The big tom was flopping.

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Dome’s hard-earned, third chance Michigan gobbler

Dome had snuck to one spot and wasn’t confident it was close enough, so to be sure, he snuck closer. The shot ended up being 40 yards. Dome’s turkey weighed 20 pounds and had a thick, 10 inch beard with 1 inch spurs. Dome had made good on his third chance with a hard-earned Michigan gobbler.

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