The turkey-less hunter had his share of troubles early in the morning of opening weekend. Last week started the story of how I had birds show up to stop just short of range. Then, after calling, the birds made one more approach, turning from 100 yards out to get within range. At the moment of truth, the birds took to the air and the bewildered hunter sat there with bow drawn for only a couple of seconds before the reason was revealed. A black bear just a couple of dozen yards away stepped out of the woods where the gobblers had been.
Most days this would have been enough excitement. But remembering past hunts for this elusive bearded bird, I was determined to stay patient and hope for the best. The clock continued to tick as the mosquitoes tested my will power. As the sun rose in the sky, the temperature also increased. Little breeze was available and the blind coupled with the long sleeved shirt and long pants caused the sweat to start pouring. Luckily turkeys cannot smell. If they could, they would be impossible to kill. Their eyesight is keen and their hearing is more than adequate. But I would not have to worry able scent control on this day.
The rest of the morning allowed me the opportunity to spot a couple more black bears. These were much further away than the first. I have hunted this area before for bear, and I marked the spot on the gps application on my cell phone.
About mid-morning, the next big surprise occurred. I was somewhat relaxing as nothing was going on nearby. Virtual silence made for a peaceful time period, and if this would have continued much longer, I am sure a nap would have ensued. I sensed something to my right, but never saw anything. I would take an occasional glance down the lane but nothing appeared. After several minutes I nearly jumped out of my seat. In my peripheral vision a small black object had made its way into the blind. Though it startled me, I did not make much movement or noise. It flared a couple of times and pulled back out of the window. Then, stepping forward, a small buck whitetail stepped in front of the window and stretched his neck downward and to the side to see what he smelled. Yes, I had a deer within 3 feet of me sniffing in the window of my blind. Once he saw me in the blind, he jumped away into the woods. This was enough to wake me up for the rest of the day.
Shortly after noon, a couple of toms worked their way into the lane in front of me. They were several hundred yards away, but there was promise. After coming down the lane about 50 yards or so, they walked off to the right into the high grass and woods. I clucked a few times with the call and waited. They exited the grass and looked my way. They continued toward me in a steady and brisk walk. My heartbeat sped up once again. Even though a bear ruined the first real chance of the day, this would be a great opportunity. There was nothing slowing the gobblers down.
Then, when 25 yards away, the birds stopped. They were nervous about something. I glanced toward my left and saw nothing. I checked behind me to see if something appeared in the lane there. Again, nothing. I looked to my right. There it was.
As soon as I saw it, the birds ran in full stride back down the path from where they had come. I took turns looking at them and back to my right. It took cover in the high grass beside the path. I could see its shoulders and muscular build as it slowly crept through the grass my way. Every once and a while, I would lose sight, but the grass folding out of the way indicated its position.
About 15 yards out it stepped back out of the grass. It was confused. A bobcat had caught sight of my decoys and had started it sneak and pounce tactic. But once it was close enough, it realized that even though they looked like turkeys, they did not quite behave like turkeys. Something was definitely amiss. The bobcat turned and walked down the middle of the path away from the blind. It continued to turn and look at the decoys over his shoulder. I could only imagine what he was thinking.
He had no idea what I was thinking. On one hand there was excitement as I was witnessing nature in its truest form. Predator coming upon prey. The other part of me was again disappointed, as nature had pulled together two predators, human and bobcat, thus allowing the real prey to dart away.
I sat there, reviewing video of the bear, turkeys, bobcat, and deer. At least I had a story to tell. Then I noticed two small black objects nearly 500 yards away. I pulled out my monocular scope. Both were toms. Nice ones, as I could see their beards dragging the ground. I clucked. I clucked again. They started my way. Three more turkeys flew down from the left of the path just behind the two toms. Now there were five. This could be beneficial or a detriment. One outlook is there were five opportunities. The other outlook is there were now five sets of eyes and ears.
I worked the birds for two hours, alternating between a gobbler call and a hen cluck. At one point a gust of wind blew down a hen decoy and I snuck out the bottom of the blind. The birds were still far away, so I felt like I could put it back up. Crawling on my belly, I was successful. The birds stopped about 30 yards away as one of the big toms walked into the high grass to the right. There was a dip in the earth there, and I prepared myself to ‘see the head of the gobbler come over the ridge’ just in front of me. One of the smaller birds, walked off to the left into the woods. All were picking and pecking. The big tom came back up to the path, but about 15 yards further away than where he went in. He had turned. This was not good.
I was not in a position to call any longer as the birds were too close. But, they were still too far for a bow shot, and the one big tom had all of them nervous. I had positioned myself when the birds began getting close in the most comfortable shooting position I could attain. But this position had lasted for over 30 minutes, and I was beginning to feel the fatigue on my back and legs. The stance was similar to the catching position of baseball great Benito Santiago. My left leg was outstretched to my left, my right leg bent. I did not know how much longer I could go like this.
At one point, I drew back an arrow. The thought was there, but the shot was not. I could not take the shot at the small kill zone from so far away and feel good about it. It just was not meant to be. Patience, maybe they will again come closer.
It did not happen. The birds actually split up with the two big toms exiting into the woods to the right about 50 yards away. The three smaller ones entered the tree line just 30 yards away to my left. I waited for a bit to see if they may come out on the path to the left, but they never did.
In the end, the rule of three came into play. Bear, bobcat, and time were my undoing. Then again, they also made the hunt that much more memorable. An appreciation washed over me on the drive home that evening. I had witnessed some great things on this day, and had successfully put myself in position several times to take my first turkey. And though I did not have the feathers in hand, I did have video and this story to share. After all, it is called hunting and not killing.