It seems every time we spring turkey hunt in Wisconsin, it rains. Not just drizzle, but driving cold incessant forty degree bone chilling rain the keeps gobblers hold up on their roosts and hunters giving up and sleeping in their trucks. This year was especially nasty, and I was ready to call it quits by the middle of day three since I had to leave two days early anyway for social functions back home. As non-residents, we always pulled late season, so the gobblers were educated too.
On day one I had passed a gimme shot at three jakes and the moment they walked out of range, I was mentally kicking my own butt for not bagging one of them. In my arrogance, I thought I would wait for a bigger bird with a beard bigger than a whisker brush. Of course I never saw a bigger bird. Two years prior I had shot a gobbler opening morning in this same field and I didn’t want the party to be over that fast again. For me, the thrill is in the hunt, and not necessarily in the kill. We decided to drive the several farms we had permission to hunt on, and see if we could spot any turkeys that had for three days been silent and eluded us. We spotted a large tom in a green field a quarter mile away, land locked by freshly plowed ground. We stopped to talk to the farmer who owned the land, and hatched a plan to walk in through the adjoining woods and put a sneak on the strutting bird.
Nearing the gobbler, I called a couple of times and it appeared impossible to wrest the tom from the hen he was tending. It was equally impossible to get near him since there was a 60 yard perimeter of freshly plowed field that was now the consistency of quicksand after all the rain. It stood between us and the strutting tom. My buddy Dale then hatched "The Perfect Plan". He would circle around in the woods to a point 500 yards away while I snuck back thru the woods and located the shortest distance between the green field and the woods. Dale would then walk out from the point into the field and push the turkeys, hopefully toward me, and I would get off a shot. He was hunting with his recurve and did not want to shoot a turkey on the run, but I was willing to give it a try with my shotgun. We agreed to be in position in exactly half an hour and then execute The Plan.
I backtracked through the woods a hundred yards, 60 yards in from the plowed field. Once at the "shortest distance" spot, I went in very slow motion down the hill toward the field using successive trees as visual barriers between the gobbler and myself. Once ten yards from the field, I shed my turkey vest and gear, belly crawled down the hill for the remaining distance and shinnied up onto a small berm overlooking the field. I positioned myself solder style, lying down on my stomach and used corn cobs as a gun rest. And I waited.
It was 4:05pm, and Plan time. I could see the sliver of Dale’s silhouette emerge on the skyline as he walked out into the plowed field a quarter mile away. The birds took notice, perked up and did an unexpected bullet run straight toward me. "OKAY" I thought to myself. "I did pick the perfect spot. TOO perfect". Both the Tom and the hen were running single file straight at me so I could not shoot. When they were 20 yards from me, I did some yelps with my mouth call, The Plan being to stop the tom momentarily so I could fire off a shot.
However, the turkeys didn’t know The Plan.
Instead of stopping, they made a 90 degree turn and kept on running. I fired off a shot at the tom and missed. Both birds went airborne as I fired off another shot, and missed again. I freely admit to be a lousy wing shooter and when I walked out to meet Dale, he confessed he was an equally lousy wing shooter, which was why he took up archery. We scoured the woods on the off chance I might have actually hit the gobbler, but we found neither feathers nor bird. We went back to the trucks and called it a day. It truly was the Perfect Plan, except for my perfect miss. Even with that, it was one of my more exciting turkey hunts ever. I have always maintained that the thrill of the kill is greatly overrated. The thrill of pursuit is far more sublime.
© August 2005