I first met "Sneaky Pete" three years ago and he has run me and my hunting buddy Joanie Haidle ragged.
It was this gobbler that first alerted us to the change that hunters have been noticing in gobbler's verbal habits.
This bird was a tough one. He'd gobble lustily on the roost then fly down and ignore our offered calls. The first time we tangled with him, we waited for an hour after flydown for him to respond but he did not. Not a peep did we hear from him. So we decided to move on and try to find a gobbler who would respond. No point fooling around with one who almost surely had hens with him, which we deduced, was why he would not answer our velvet calls.
We stood up and guess what: there he was just a few yards away. He had come in silently, taking a long time to do it and we had spooked him. Well, I knew the area he liked to hang around in so I elected to take up a watch and just wait him out. I did so and two hours later, he sneaked silently in behind me and I didn't see him until too late. Joanie dubbed him Sneaky Pete and little could we have guessed how he would torment us.
A few weeks ago I wrote in this column about the three chances I have had in the last three years to bag this bird and how he eluded me each time. My outdoor friend, Teresa Patterson, said, "This bird must have nine lives." To which I replied that he has used up three of those lives eluding me. Six to go.
After my two weeks at Joanie's farm, I had to come home - where I did bag a 21pound gobbler - Joanie took up the challenge. She sat one day where I had sat (the day Sneaky Pete and five hens cavorted in front of me for 2 hours) and finally got a fleeting shot at him which I missed. Well, the day Joanie went there, he showed up again with his hens and she had a chancy, long shot, which she missed.
Joanie knew this bird's habits so she got up and hiked to a spot she thought would give her a good shot. She saw him pass too far for a shot so after he was out of sight she began to move to try to head him off. That effort was not successful and so when shooting hours were nearly up she began to make the trek toward home.
It was a warm day and she was tired so she randomly flopped down by a tree to rest. After a minute, she heard that pesky bird gobble and he was not very far away. Joanie resisted the impulse to call to him, Knowing he'd probably shut up if he heard her calls.
Then, as if by magic, she saw him emerge from the woods and begin to walk along a path slowly toward her. She raised the shotgun and waited. When he was clearly in range, she squeezed the trigger and the gobbler just ran into the woods, unscathed.
It was unbelievable! This gobbler, whose feathers seemed to be made of armor, had escaped five or six direct assaults on his life. I suggested to Joanie that she pattern her gun because she doesn't miss shots like that. A close examination showed that the aimpoint sighting system on her shotgun had slipped out of place on the barrel.
Lucky for Joanie, she was able to exchange barrels on her shotgun with her father and she went on to bag a beautiful gobbler on the very last day of season.
But there is a crafty, elusive gobbler still out there and we will be after him next spring season. In the meantime, I'm sure I can hear his laughter ringing from the treetops.
But, the three local outdoor women, Joanie Haidle, Teresa Patterson and myself, have, for the second year in a row, each bagged a gobbler! The exploit has been making the rounds of Facebook, I understand, where the three of us have been dubbed "The Blond Battalion."