Finally home and ready to type. So here is the story:
I got up to my buddy's cabin Tuesday night, prior to Wednesday open season. We hung out and watched 3 different gobblers come through the yard on their way to bed, so sights were set high, and I was a kid in a candy store. 4:30 did not come as quick as 2 am did when I woke up ready to go... But, it was nice to know that the excitement still hold true.
We set up on a pinch my buddy has had 6 gobblers coming through daily with hopes that the pair of long beards we saw the night before at 7:30 would be close roosted. Well, when we finally heard a gobble they had decided to walk half way through the nigh apparently. There was distant gobbles, but nothing close at all. We listened to birds for a while, but nothing seemed to be doing their normal routine. At about 8 my buddy crawled the 10 feet over to me to chat, and as he did a bird lit up, 60 yards behind us. One quick thing, this was my buddies first ever hunt with a gun. He is a very skilled bow hunter, but has never killed anything with a gun. I had him on the first shot routine, but his gun was 10 feet back, and this bird was running in to the decoys. I was turned to talk to him, and this gobbler had us with our pants down, to say the least. I saw it, finally, at 40 yards in the middle of the food plot at full strut. It started toward our decoys and got behind a tree so I reached for my gun. After getting the gun up and ready, the bird never came out on the other side of the tree. I looked and it had turned and gone straight away, I think because it saw me move, but not sure. We were pegged, and done with this encounter. We let it slip away and moved back to try and get a different angle.
As we got a little bit of a different angle on this bird we thought we heard another gobble across the road from us. We decided to go after this new bird, which proved to be nothing, and leave this other bird that we had just screwed up. We crossed the road and actually got the bird we just buggered all fired up. It would gobble, double gobble, and cut us off from where we just were. So frustrating, but very much the game of turkey hunting. We set up quick and son he had crossed the road and was cutting the distance. Shortly after cresting a little hill it started putting. No rhyme or reason to it. We were still and playing the game like we should have been, so we are still scratching our heads as to why. Either way this second chance was DONE! AS we sat trying to figure it out, he lit up again, further South. We made a move.
Using the landscape we cut around ridges and valleys to get around the bird, playing the 40 acres for all they were worth. There was a big ridge on the South side of his property and we were thinking that was our best chance. Well, we made it. I was toast, hot, out of breath and trying to sit, steady and call. My buddy called twice when we got to the top of the ridge and both times the tom lit up, not more than 150 yards away, on top of the ridge. We got ready, and waited, and waited, and waited. He never showed. I decided to get my mouth call out and got a response, from 250 yards, down the ridge and leaving. We were bummed. The third time this bird had skirted us. We were going to leave when he lit up again and he seemed closer. I said lets try one more thing and set my buddy up with the hen decoy and moved off the far side of the ridge from the bird.
Moving up and down I was calling hoping to draw him up the crest for a shot. After a couple minutes I moved further down the ridge off the crest trying to draw the nearing gobbles closer up to my buddy. Well I got about 250 yard down the ridge from him and came over the top hoping to hear a gun shot at any minute. I crested the top and heard a gobble not 75 yards down below me. I moved down a bit off the top and got next to a tree. After 30 seconds I see a fan come over a little rise. He went behind a tree and came out the other side. At that instant I shot and watched the bird jump straight up and start running down the hill. I took off after the bird and caught up with him in some thick brush. It was over! I grabbed him and went to the top of the ridge to meet my buddy!
SIDE NOTE: Right before I shot I heard another gobble, but I thought it was on the other side of the road again, which it turned out was off the ridge from where my buddy was sitting. Unannounced to me, when I shot these birds (turned out to be two gobblers) lit up hard right below my buddy's set up , and were hot to find the trolling hen and gobbling tom. Before I had shot, I could not hear the tom moving down the ridge paralleling me down to where we met for the final moment. My buddy said after he would gobble hard after my calls and was hot to trot all the way down the ridge.
So back to the story: After I brought my bird up he told me about these gobbles off the far side of the ridge, so I told him to sit back down and we would try it all again. I moved back at started side-hilling, calling pretty hard and moving as I could. Not 4 minutes later he had a head pop up the crest and go behind a tree, and shortly after another one. He saw that second one and not long after pulled the trigger. That was it. The sole remaining tom flew off the ridge and we had our birds. Not 5 minutes apart, and totally woods style!
We took a couple of pictures and relished the moment. Both birds were very light for Easterns, and trophies in our books. Stats were as follows:
Mine- 10.39 kg (my scale is stuck on Canada Ay)- it works out to be 22.9#
10 inch beard
Busted spurs that 7/8 on one side and 11/16ths on the other side.
Buddy's- 8.69 kg (19.5#)
9 inch beard
3/4 plus inch spurs on both sides.
His bird was particularly light colored and very pretty. So it was done, 3 hours into the season for us. Bittersweet and so awesome! He said he is now hooked with the gun and is throwing down the bow for turkey hunts.
That bird I got was the fourth time we had tried to get after it. I'm not sure how we got that many, but I am glad the persistence paid in the end!
Now off to WI, hopefully!