Finally, on the eleventh day of the season I filled my first tag. I admit, it was starting to work on my mind a bit but perseverance paid off.
I had hunted the cold windy opening day and the only bird I saw didn't gobble, wouldn't work, and walked across the middle of the field eventually meandering off into
the woods. I was unfazed and thinking to myself "that's turkey hunting...there will be another" but there wasn't, and that nonproductive hunt was followed by five more
and still no Gobbler harvested. Oh sure, I was seeing some but they were either with hens out in a field or there was the one that hung up at about 75 yd and had me
mumbling to myself on the way back to the car. By now I'm starting to rethink everything. I switch caps thinking this one must be reflective or something to the
big boys. I even put my Jake decoy away with the thought the birds I'm hunting are all lovers not fighters so I should just use my 2 hen dekes!
Fast forward to Thursday morning the 26th. I'm hunting a friend's farm in Maries Co where he has seen 3 strutting in his hay field several times recently. The farm has
a small wood lot in the center adjacent to a lake but that area is surrounded by 300 acres of open pasture. Luckily, a fence row surrounding a hay field near the woodlot
had 3, 10 ft cedar trees with the lower branches rubbed off by the cattle. It seemed workable, so that's where I set up hoping the shade from the morning sun would help
hide me. First light came and no sounds were to be heard except that of 2 geese flying over. I called to the wood lot in hopes of attracting a gobbler that must be roosted
in there but if they were there they had lock jaw. An hour passed with no sightings or sounds and now I'm starting think they must be elsewhere today. For whatever reason
I quit focusing on the woods and looked to my left, the west end of this 20 acre open hay field. There was something out there. A long ways away but it was dark colored
and moving my direction. It seemed like it took forever for this silent creature to cover that distance but he did and finally I could see it had a beard. Up until now he was
just walking, stopping to occasionally peck at the ground, but he was not in any hurry to come see my 2 hen decoys. At about 70 yards he stopped and began strutting. He
preformed his best show and moved a little closer but was not motivated to "coming in". After 10 minutes I'm now estimating 10 yard increments between him and me and
I'm concerned about my open location and if I'm about to be noticed. I decided he's got to be within 55 yards and I'm shooting 3 1/2" Hevi-shot that I've patterned out to
50 yards so another 5 yard can't make that much difference. Right? I decide it's now or never and bring the 870, 12 ga. to my cheek for the shot. Sure enough, down he goes
and flops twice before I can get to him but is motionless when I arrive. I do the usual...check beard length, spurs, coloration of his feathers and then look to where I had been
sitting. It seemed further away now than when I was looking at the bird from there. I started stepping it off and it turned out to be 63 yards. Says a lot for my distance estimating
from a sitting position! When I had originally patterned the Hevi-shot a friend made the comment that based on the holes in the plywood target he thought it was lethal to
70 yards but at the time I just chalked that comment up to wishful thinking. I picked up my gear, gun, and bird and walked back to the car feeling pretty good about my day.
As I drove along the edge of the wood lot I spot a mushroom sticking up about 5" located less than 10' off the farm trail/road. I can't believe my eyes so I stop and get out to
see for sure and as it turned out it was on the edge of a decent patch of them. No bag with me so my cap (now my favorite) had to suffice as a container. It all worked out
and after the gobbler was processed and in my cooler with the mushrooms alongside I realized I was still smiling. Imagine that!
The older I get, and I've gotten to the age where people now hold doors for me, the more I think about good hunts and fishing trips in the days gone by but, I also recognize
how rewarding it is just to be out there in the great outdoors. They've all been good whether a harvest or catch occurred or not. Obviously, this OAF membership gets that
and that's why we share our special moments with each other.
To that end I say...enjoy it and share it with all you can while you can,