Murphy’s Law and Turkey Hunting

A turkey decoy (left) and a jake gobbler we passed up on that day.

It was the nicest day of my second turkey season in Area K several years ago. It was clear and cool when we got into a good spot to listen at dawn. My buddy Arnie Minka was giving me a break: no turkey talking for me today. He would do the calling on the last day of my season.

There was no wind, which was a blessing after all of the wind of the past two weeks, and we sat quietly waiting to see if any gobblers sounded off at daybreak. Dawn was a pink blemish on the eastern horizon when the first bird gobbled nearly a mile away.

Five minute later another bird gobbled, hit a double-lick, and then single-gobbled to punctuate his earlier comment. Two minutes later the bird, perhaps 250 yards away, gobbled again and then another bird gobbled a half-mile to the west.

Wild gobblers calling at dawn

We sat patiently, waiting for another gobble, and weren’t disappointed. The only thing is this bird was off in the woods several hundred yards away, and the hens were talking up a storm. Arnie let him gobble again, and then stroked out a soft yelp on a box call.

Two birds gobbled hard, took a breath and gobbled again. I’m thinking this is a little bit of alright. Arnie was grinning under his face mask.

He switched, just to see if it would work, to a slate call. The peg rasped out a soft purr and whine, and both birds lit up again. He didn’t want to rush the calling too much. He wanted to let it get a bit brighter so it would be easier for me to see an approaching bird.

He picked up the slate call again, drew the peg in a soft J-stroke and the soft yelp turned on one of the birds. He rasped out a throaty gobble, roaring hard, and that forced the bird 250 yards away into a similar respon

Here we were on this wooded hilltop, approximately halfway between two lusty gobblers. The bird farthest away gobbled once, and it sounded as if he was closing the gap. Arnie gave another soft yelp on the slate call, and both birds answered. This was getting pretty exciting.

The neat thing was we were working two birds, and their male ego or whatever turkeys possess wouldn’t let either bird give in. Box call or slate, it made no difference to them. Both birds were coming, and he softly teased them with another soft yelp and purr.

Suddenly, both gobblers shut up. Murphy’s Law had struck again.

They gobbled, each bird now within 200 yards, and the furthest bird double-gobbled and I thought I could see him approaching the tempting hen decoy. The other bird gobbled, rattling the woods, and Arnie whined softly on the box call, and that lit him up likse.e a July 4th fireworks display.

All of a sudden, there was no noise. Not a turkey gobble, not a crow cawed, and Arnie hit another soft lick on the box call and slate. Nothing. The birds had gone mysteriously silent.

Why, I wondered, he hadn’t hit any bad notes with his calls. Something had to have frightened the birds.

Two people were tending to farm chores. It wasn’t hunter harassment, but more like Murphy’s Law crimping our style.

We quickly moved our base of operations 100 yards, and tried again. There was no gobbles, no nothing. It was as if the ground had opened up, and swallowed both birds.

There was a vantage point another 100 yards away where we could see where the other bird had been, and we made our way to it. I laid my shotgun aside, and we spent 20 minutes glassing woodlots and open fields on both sides of the road.

We sat back, thought about it, and began glassing an area across the road. A gobbler stood out in the field at least 500 yards away, and was watching the road. He was a half-mile away from us, and there was only one way that might put us within shotgun range.

It would be a mile hike, and we dropped off our hill top vantage point, studied the terrain where the other bird had been, and saw nothing. We moved through the woods, across plowed fields, crossed the road and entered the woods.

We moved slowly and silently through the wet woodlot, and eventually got to within 200 yards of where the bird had been. That joker had disappeared. We walked through a woodlot, and never saw him again.

Several other spots were tried, and we took a long scouting ride, but there were no more turkeys.  We saw one jake with a two-inch beard, and he never received any consideration from me. I’d let him grow into something bigger for next year.

My season ended early that spring when four hens and two jakes were spotted crossing a field and heading for their roosting area. They offered us a brief thrill but we both realized  that Mr. Murphy had ridden our backs all day. He proved, once again, that if anything can go wrong on a turkey hunt, it will.

The good thing was our hunt was fun while it lasted.

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