The old cliche says that "Three time's a charm" and I fervently hoped that would hold true for me this gobbler season.
I have a grudge match with a big old gobbler that I have been chasing for three years. I'd screwed up two chances in the previous two years and hoped that this year, things would turn my way.
Three seasons ago, this bird circled me silently and I spooked it when I decided to walk away. But I knew where he hung out so in the next few days I hung around there too. One hot, boring spring day, I was staked out by the fence at the field he often cavorted in. By 11 a.m., I was bored and felt there would be no chance that day so I propped my shotgun against a fence post and relaxed.
At 11:30 he suddenly popped into the field and stood there like a statue, in range. I had to lift that shotgun off the fence post and when I did, the fence screeched and he launched himself like a rocket. I lectured myself on my carelessness.
The next year I was again staked out against the fence, but in another spot. I knew he was roosting in some pines nearby and often strolled into that field. So that morning, I saw a couple deer in the field and was watching them through my binoculars. When I put the glasses down and surveyed the field again, there he was. Several turkeys were feeding there and he stuck out like the giant he was. I aimed and shot and the whole bunch just walked off.
When they were gone, I walked over to have a look and only then did I realize how far it was to where they had been. My shot was much too long; I had badly misjudged the distance. Again I berated myself for a second bout of carelessness.
This year I was ready. The first couple days he would gobble from the roost but once he flew down, he never talked again. That seems to be the story of the season this year all over the state. But I stayed in my one-man chair blind, determined to wait him out. A good decision as it turned out.
Shortly after 7 a.m. I saw him! He was 150 yards away coming down the far end of a large field, six hens with him. In a stroke of rare luck, the hens made a 90-degree turn and strolled over to the edge where I was hidden in my blind. He, of course, followed the hens, strutting pompously all the way.
The birds congregated in a spot about 80 yards in front of me. It was raining slightly, as it did during every day of season, it seemed to me. The hens sat there preening their feathers and pecking at the ground on occasion, just loafing. I sat there staring, trying by mental telepathy to made them come toward me.
The big gobbler, however, had his eye on one particular hen. No matter what the other hens did, he was transfixed on just one hen. When she moved two steps, so did he, dogging her steps, always in strut, but staying 10 yards behind her. This tableau lasted 2 hours. Four of the hens finally came forward, feeding within good shotgun range. The targeted hen and the gobbler, however, were still 25 yards behind.
When she finally decided to come ahead and join the other hens, he began to follow here. Slowly, I raised my shotgun. Another 10 yards and I'd pop him. I had the distance marked by a large branch lying in the field. When he crossed in front of that branch I would shoot.
Just as he was about to take those fateful steps into my shotgun range, one of the hens suddenly turned and began to walk off and the others quickly followed. I had to do a double shift inside the blind to get my shotgun out a side window and on the gobbler. He was stepping it off but I took aim and shot. And missed!
I was depleted and defeated. Two and a half hours I'd waited that gang of birds out and I watched him cross that huge field unscathed. Three years in a row that miserable bird has outwitted me. But you can be sure that come next season, God willing, I'll be back in his bailiwick looking for him.
I came home, and on May 10, bagged a gobbler that weighed 21 pounds, 2 ounces. That one was a story, too, and I'll tell you about it one day. I already know of a couple gobbles bagged on the first day that hunting was allowed all day.