As wily as I understood gobblers to be, I was surprised and mesmerized as this one slowly made his way to my decoys. So this was how it worked! "Love is blind", I thought to myself." That bird was so intent upon ousting the competition and getting the hen for himself, that he was blind to several important, and ultimately fatal, facts. One, the jake and his girlfriend were Featheflex decoys and were not moving. Two, he was walking right up to my Double Bull ground blind as if it had been sitting next that log pile for months. Additionally, the constant rain pattering on the blind sounded like popcorn popping, not exactly a common sound in this gobbler's world. Whitetail deer do similarly stupid things during the Fall rut, where they expose themselves to danger for the affections of a doe. Yup, lucky for me, love is blind.
This was our first day of Wisconsin turkey season. I was hunting again this year with my friend Dale and we had pulled fifth season, so the gobblers were getting somewhat educated. Dale gave me the choice of hunting locations since it was my birthday, so I picked a large familiar field where I had patterned birds the year before. He was on another field a mile away. I was excited about the hunt, for many reasons. Foremost was that I had done my own scouting and setup and was hunting alone, which I prefer. I had just hunted Kansas two weeks before, and lost a bird that I arrowed. Since then, I had done a crash course on gobbler behavior and had tuned my Mathews SQ2 bow to within an inch of its life. For this trip, I was more prepared or at least as prepared as a person can be in their second year of turkey hunting. In my excitement I had forgotten that the forecast called for rain, and hence I'd forgotten my raingear. As I walked in the dark to my hunting spot, the rains came and by the time the dekes were set up, I was half soaked. "Perfect" I thought to myself with the setup, trying to ignore the fact that I was shivering. I was next to that big log pile at the edge of the field, with the jake and hen decoys placed perfectly for a left-handed bowshot. I shoot left or right handed with shotgun, so that was less of an issue. I had decided to bring both weapons along so I had all my bases covered, and it was a good thing I did.
The rain was relentless and even though the blind was waterproof, water was coming in the portholes and hub seams, slowly soaking my gear and me. Just about the time I was ready to call it quits and run to my truck to get warm, a very large hen came feeding through the field 110 yards away. I had been calling on my Mountain Screamer box call and slate call every 15 minutes or so since 5:15 AM, and it was now 10:15 AM. Weary, I dropped my head and talked to God for a moment. I didn't care if I got a little jake or a big gobbler, I just wanted a clean kill and a retrieved bird. I threw a P.S. at the end this time however. I think many of us hunters have, out of sheer desperation, prayed for a deer or bear or turkey or whatever - especially after endless butt numbing hours, days or weeks on our stands. God must laugh with some of the goofy deals we try to cut with Him but I figured, hey, couldn't hurt. Might help. I vowed that if I got my bird that morning, I would take the afternoon off and go visit an elderly couple at their farm and play guitar and hang out with them. They had invited us to visit when we first arrived, but there was no time then.
Raising my head, I scratched on the Mountain Screamer slate call. I had used many different friction calls, and had finally developed some confidence with this one. The hen in the distance one-upped me with a few yelps. Before I could respond, I caught site of a gobbler entering the field from my right at a hundred yards, heading for the hen. I did my best "desperate hot hen" call on the slate, and the tom stopped with his head perked up. Boss hen cooed at him again, and he continued toward her. "You little hussy", I thought to myself. "This boy is MINE". I gave my slate call an eloquent workout, mimicking her yelps, only with a bit more passion. I am trained in classical piano and the same sonata can be played mechanically or with passion. Turkey calls are essentially the same in my opinion. Mr. Gobbler stopped again, turned and started coming toward me. "YES! Oh, my gosh! I did it! " I whispered audibly, part in disbelief and part in shock that I had finally accomplished getting a gobbler's attention away from the real deal. Hussy Hen yelped again, and I mimicked her again. And he just kept on a comin' to me. Heart attack time. I clicked on my video camera, and got my bow and gun staged.
The gobbler stopped at 40 yards, turned, and started to parallel the blind as if he was going to exit the field. Dang! He's gonna get away! "SHOTGUN" I ordered myself, picking up my Benelli M-1 Super 90 twelve gauge, shouldering for a left handed shot and taking off the safety. Then the gobbler turned and started coming straight toward me, like an airplane doing a landing pattern. "BOW !" I ordered myself again, clicking off the safety, putting the gun down and putting my release on the bowstring. The gobbler came in at a pretty good clip, turned sideways, approached the jake decoy and stopped. I went to full draw and held it. He suddenly lashed out at the decoy and slammed it with his beak. Whoa!
I was startled at ferocity with which this gobbler attacked my decoy, but at full draw, it suddenly occurred to me that I was unsure whether I should take the shot or not. I was practiced and tuned to hit within a four-inch circle at 20 yards, so my ability was not at question. But, I was about to put an expandable broadhead through a shoot-through screen on my Double Bull blind, and was not sure if the screen would cause the blades to open prematurely, or whether the trajectory of the arrow would be compromised. Not comfortable with these variables and rather than chance a bad shot, I slowly let down my draw, set my bow aside and picked up my shotgun again for a left handed shot. The tom attacked the decoy again, which was now askew, nose down, and nearly off it's plastic spike. He stood still once again, posturing for a third attack. I composed the site picture, clicked off the safety and squeezed the trigger. BLAM! The gobbler dropped and started flapping. I dashed out of the blind, and picked him up and held him up by his feet until he was still. My heart was pounding like a drum and my knees were knocking uncontrollably. This was not my first turkey kill, but it was the sweetest, because the whole gig had been mine... with some help from my unseen hunting Buddy.
I got my bird and gear back to my truck, and Dale arrived having heard the shot and figuring I may have gotten a turk. "So, are you going to hunt with your bow in Minnesota next week now that they pressure is off?" he queried. "That depends", I replied. "If I'm not 100% confident with a bow shot, then I will likely pick up the gun". Dale is an archery snob (in a sportsmanlike way of course), but I don't hold that against him. Anyone who can arrow critters with a recurve gets my respect, because I don't think I will ever be able to do that. I decided to stay two more days and shadow Dale with my video camera since he wanted some footage taken if he got another gobbler and I wasn't about to go home after only hunting for one day. He had arrowed his last turkey with his Mathews compound bow, and was now increasing the challenge by shooting a Martin recurve. The next evening, he hunted the same area I did because we had glassed at least one fanning gobbler there, with several jakes and hens. His setup was not conducive to my doing video, so I kept an eye on things from my truck which was about 250 yards away. Dale successfully called the gobbler in. The bird and his harem got within 20 feet of Dale's setup but spooked and ran, never presenting him with a good shot.
Sometimes being blind to things is good, like looking past the imperfections in ourselves, our mates, friends, or hunting buddies, and being okay with them regardless. But when a turkey is blind to the obvious dangers in their environment for the sake of love, love is not only blind, it's fatal. Bad for the turkey, but good for this hunter.
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© May 2003