Sleepy-Time Turkey Hunt
For years I'd been watching turkey hunting on Saturday morning tv during that magical 6-7am time slot when I'm the only one up with the remote. It's the off season when I watch the most (because I'm not out hunting) and you can pick up a thing or two watching the techniques..mostly calling and getting on them quickly, slipping in behind ridge lines, decoying and what not. I'm a researcher by trade so I like to absorb as much as I can in the off season. The off season for me is the in-season for fishing fanatics, so there is slim pickings with the airtime competition for hunting shows. And with competition for the remote...I have to get my hunting tv time somewhere between the farmer's ag-report catching up on corn prices, pork bellies, barrels and gilts (not sure what most of those are) at 5am, and the fishing shows that take the prime morning slots at 8pm on. Sometimes I drift off during the turkey show but never once did the pro-staff types try this as a tactic for getting in close. Which is where this story really begins...
It was opening weekend for fall turkey hunting in 2009. I had an either sex tag and it was the fourth year I had purchased a turkey tag. Three years had gone by with no turkey so I was starting to question whether I was ever going to get a gobbler. My girlfriend's brother has a 30 acres in prime deer and turkey country in northeastern ohio so I was optimistic. He put in a one acre lake so it is going to be prime waterfowl grounds in the coming years. He is pretty big into deer so I got him a trail cam this year. If I can get him into waterfowling there is an ice eater in his future too! But this is a turkey story so let me get back to it... The reports were coming in from him and the neighbors that the hens were flocked up pretty good and in a big group so I thought I would set up near the edge of a wood line in front of a stretch of praire where they had been seen crossing and loafing. I only have one hen decoy so I set it up on a muskrat hut kind of bump for maximum visability. The deek was about 15 yards away from my sitting spot. I was in the shadows of the hardwoods with just a sparsely camoed fringe of waste high weeds seperating me from the decoy. I stomped down a few shooting lanes into the prarie and I was ready . First light was coming in 30 minutes or so and I was excited for some huge tom to come flying down or struting by or calling back to me echoing in the woods. I couldn't wait!! I did a few calls to let them know I was ready... and nothing. I repeated the calls about every 15 minutes or so... and nothing. I wandered a the woods a bit later that morning calling... and nothing.. Around 11 oclock I was feeling pretty sleepy and was at the spot looking over the prarie. I figured a quick nap to recharge would be good. My quick nap ended up being a full two hours curled up in a fetal position, my seat pad under my head as a pillow, and the gun behind my back about a yard away propped up on some branches.
I was getting some good REM sleep and recall the turkey dream well. It was so vivid and the sound of clucks and chirping were all around me. I was at a turkey factory cleaning out cages. Keeping with the tv theme...I saw the "Dirtiest Jobs" episode where he worked at the turkey factory and it was like that. If you have heard a wild turkey clucking and pecking by your head you will also know what I'm talking about. Earlier that spring it was male tag only and I had three hens so close I could grab them and know that sound all to well. At this point in the dream I was pulling myself awake, unable to open my eyes though I wanted to...sort of like that scary dream where you want to scream and nothing comes out. I was finally able to open one eye and come out of this solid sleep, and I couldn't believe my eye. Around me, in a semi circle cresent were at least three dozen turkeys. It was the entire flock the neighbors were talking about in the scouting report. Turkeys were everywhere. Most all were sitting loafing in the grass, a dozen or so were milling around pecking at the ground and one or two were standing tall like sentries in a goose spread. The whole flock of 30+ was in range at that point and I had plenty of time to devise a strategy. The first order of business was to find a big tom but with most sitting low it was difficult to spot any.
I scanned the group for a while and didn't see any big toms. This scanning took place while still in the fetal position and I could hear more behind me on the other side of my feet but couldn't see them. I was afraid to move because the closest one was 12 yards away and the furthest was about 25 yards away. I was no where near being in position to make a shot. I knew I had to move at some point because my gun was somewhere behind my back, and a good stretch away at that. I began moving an inch at a time to get flat on my back first and then raise my head for a better view. This took about 5 min and my abs were on fire, I was holding my body up off the ground a little to minimize sound and it was taking a toll. "Elvis leg" had set in from the fatigue or nerves or both and the sentries in the group started to pick up on my movement and the clucking and movement in the flock increased. Another dozen or so birds got on their feet knowing something was going on. It was late fall and the leaves were rustling with every move I made.
About this time I was on my back scanning for a big tom again but now with a full field of view. I was also reaching/feeling with my fingers for the benelli super black eagle II that was sold to me as a "turkey gun" with woodland camo. I was hoping it would do its job today but as I closed my fingers around the gun the turkeys riled up and the jig was up. The left side of the flock/crescent put 15 more yards between us in a flash and were out of range. TOnce they pulled out the rest joined and were running fast. I sat up full like I would in a layout blind and shouldered my gun. Turkeys where everywhere, the outer left rim of the turkey crescent had left and the "top" of the cresent all had their backs to me, it would have been a questionable shot at 30 yards. I swept the gun to my right hoping for birds. There were still plenty moving around. But I have shot into lifting flocks of geese with no bird to my credit and know how easy it is to shoot at nothing if you don't single out a bird in the confusion.
Seeing no toms I singled out a hen, it was the closest one of the last 2-3 that were in range. Thankfully they followed the pack in a more or less straight line and came right in front of me on their exit, this was the back bird in the right tail edge of the crescent, it was at about 20 yards. I put the bead on the turkey's head and the SBEII barked and released a tight pattern from a fully choked barrel. I was shooting Remmington nitro 3.5 inch turkey loads, 10 to a pack and #4 lead shot. This turkey dropped in place without one pellet below the neck.
It was my first turkey and I'll never forget waking up from dream that I was surrounded by turkeys to find out I really was surrounded by turkeys. I scanned them pretty good and never saw a beard in the group but just the same it made for a good story to go with the turkey noodle soup!