This morning started out as many other mornings during turkey season. We had a bird in mind, a plan to get on him, and high hopes of filling another tag. Like many of those mornings before it, plans changed pretty quick once the sun came up and Adam and I were left standing in the woods wondering where the gobbler we heard in the tree before sun up had gone. We thought we had him pegged but somehow he busted us.
Adam was short for time and broke up the band to try to get to work only a little late, whilst I still had 2 hours to hunt. I decided to try a spot on national forest that had been producing birds all season despite heavy pressure by US and at least one other hunter that we knew about. There was at one time 5 birds heard at this location; two had been killed by Adam and his dad, Levi spooked one when it flew into our laps two weeks earlier, and I passed on one 5 days ago at 5 yards (not on camera). But it was as good of place to start as any.
I step of out the truck at a pull off and gave a few calls and nothing. I waited a minute or so then called again. This time I added a few cuts and GOBBLE GOBBLE! Its on! The bird was on top of the ridge only a few hundred yards from me. I quickly grabbed my gear from the backseat, slipped a shell into my Mossberg, and set off after him. Between him and I was about 75 yards of wide open bottom, 20 yards of powerline right-of-way, and a small, but deep, creek at the base of the mountain. The bird gobbled again as I was picking my way through the open bottom trying to get to the creek bank and some cover. He had come down from the ridge and was probably only 100-150 yards away!
I found the first tree big enough to break up my outline next to a fallen pine. I knew there was very little chance of that bird crossing the creek and coming into range across the open bottom, but I was afraid that if I moved closer he would spot me. So I just sat tight and waited. He cut me off at every call and then started yelping back at me. Finally, I seen movement on the opposite creek bank about 75 yards out. I gave a few more calls with some short cuts and he was eating it up. He strutted back and forth on the creek bank for almost 20 min, gobbling like crazy, but refused to cross. I figured he would hang him up, and if he had not crossed by now, he wasn’t going to.
I decided to go quiet and let him walk off so that I could make a move. After a few minutes, I could see the bird following the creek bank back to the end of the ridge and then heard him gobble as he started back up the mountain. I got up and eased to edge of the creek. I really wanted to be on the other side but the only log that crossed the creek was laying directly at the bottom of the ridge the gobbler had just walked up. So I sat right on the bank and called to check the bird’s location. He cut me off and I thought that I would just have to shoot across the creek if he was willing to come back.
The sun was up and the forest floor was dappled with clusters of light and shade. The creek was smooth as glass reflecting the canopy of limbs overhead and the gobbler was getting closer. Finally, I could hear him strutting and knew that he was close. I gave a soft call and he cut me off with a gobble that’s still ringing in my mind. He’s right there! But where? The opposite bank was lined with laurels and rhododendron blocking much of my view. But I could hear the Ol’ Tom’s gobble rattle in his chest and resonate in mine. Suddenly he steps of from behind a big white oak only 25 yards away!
He is on a dead walk straight to me but I can’t get a shot. Each time his cue ball head is about to hit an opening he turns or ducks under a rhododendron branch. He’s getting closer, closer, 20 yards, 15 yards, 10, 5! He is on one side of the creek and I am on the other when he finally spots something he doesn’t like. He probably could hear my heartbeat about to pound out of my chest. He turns, putts and BOOM!
At 10 yards I finally got a look at his head and made it count. He went straight down but now I had to cross the creek to go get him. As I was about to run down to the fallen hemlock bridging the span, he starts to flop and I wasn’t taking any chances. So I jumped right in to what looked to be a two foot deep creek and found it to be nearly chest high! I managed to cross it and grab my third and final bird of the season!
Beard: 9 3/8″