I immediately knew things were going to take a turn in the wrong direction when I heard the first “putt” come from our left near the field edge. Then came another putt, followed by the unmistakable scratching of scurrying turkey feet across the quickly greening forest floor. Hens.
I set the box call in my lap and whispered into the ear of my hunting partner, Derek. “Don’t move. Ladies approaching.”
The big gobbler, still puffed and humming at the top of the hill, had closed the distance from 80 yards to within 60 yards, but there was little doubt the hens were going to beat him to the source of my calling … and land right in our lap.
Assuming the seductive clucks I was making came from the real hens, the gobbler put his strutting efforts into overdrive and stalled, and watched the hens wander closer to our ambush. And then it happened, as is often the case when a hen turkey gets close enough to smell the coffee on a hunter’s breath, the putting stopped and their heads skyrocketed into the air for a moment—and then tucked low and high-tailed it past the strutting gobbler. He, of course, went with them.
Derek and I sat in disbelief.
“I really wanna kill that bird, Derek. We gotta get in front of him.”
Doing our best stealth-sprint through the woods, Derek and I quickly realized we needed to cross the hip-deep creek in order to jump ahead of the moving tom. The hens were leading the gobbler toward private, un-huntable property, and we had little time to waste before they got there. Standing at the water’s edge in our ankle-high boots, Derek and I toed the water, looked at each other and smiled.
“You feel like getting wet this early in the day?” Derek asked, although he already had an answer despite my pending response.
“Me neither,” I smiled, looking toward the direction where we left the trio of birds.
Keeping our socks dry meant we had to backtrack through some thick cover, cross the creek on a downed tree, and then charge ahead of the birds before they reached the “forbidden property,” and do all of that quickly and silently. No worries, eh?
The Miracles Of May
Hunting turkeys in May has its advantages—for both the hunters and the turkeys. Derek and I quickly and quietly crossed the creek and got below the gobbler quickly thanks to being hidden by the blooming vegetation. Problem was, we weren’t exactly sure where the birds were because of that same vegetation.
With Derek at my side, I grabbed the box call and tickled out a few soft, passionate yelps. GOBBLE! GOBBLE! GOBBLE! My fourth yelp was cut short by the screaming tom, and he continued to call long after I tucked the call back in my pocket. We were still within 100 yards of the field edge and the love-crazed tom, and all that stood between us and that bird was a brief belly crawl—and that doggone creek.
Not waiting for me to decide what to do, Derek tip-toed forward and found a “suitable” crossing log, and we were back in the game. We now had home-court advantage, and I knew the gobbler was in trouble. We were within 100 yards of one of my deer stand locations, and unfortunately for the tom, I knew this bit of woods as good—if not better—than he did.
Derek and I peered through the timber and spotted the strutting gobbler, along with one of the hens, standing 15 yards from the wood’s edge in a recently-planted soybean field. Hitting the deck, Derek and I belly-crawled to within 20 yards of the field edge, 60 yards down the assumed path of the unassuming turkeys. Attempting to minimize movement, I sent Derek alone to the edge of the field and decided to remain back and watch the show. The gobbler was slowly walking toward Derek, so I set my box call on the ground and waited—I surely didn’t want to pull the hen into our lap again.
But as most turkey hunter knows, hens have a way of spoiling a hunt by simply “just being there.”
Looking as though she was going to lure Mr. Tom directly past Derek, she suddenly ran a button-hook and darted into the timber. Not giving the tom time to react, I grabbed my call and purred. He responded with a gobble. So I purred again. He again responded with a gobble, all the while pounding and spitting and drumming and fluffing and doing exactly what makes turkey hunting so rewarding—less than 40 yards from Derek. He just needed to come another 15 yards past some brush.
The tom was obviously perplexed, emotionally torn between following his girlfriend and pursuing a potential fling he couldn’t yet see. This old gobbler had been in the woods for a few turkey hunting seasons, and his experience—or luck—was beginning to test my patience.
Partly out of frustration, but mostly out of desperation, I turned my back to the gobbler in an effort to make it sound as though the hen was walking away from him, and gave my best “I want you, baby, but you’re going to have to come get me” speech.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the big bird put down his feathers, stuck his neck into the air, and began heading our way. Forty yards. … Thirty-five yards. … The tom wandered behind a small rise between Derek and me, and waited. I couldn’t see the gobbler, but I could see the end of the barrel of Derek’s shotgun trembling. This is what we came for. I knew he was close.
At the shot, I sprang to my feet just in time to watch the gobbler crumble … and to see Derek crumble, too. Nearly out of breath and still shaking, Derek climbed back on his feet and we headed toward the bird.
Ten-inch beard, 1-inch spurs … and no wet socks.
Helm Cutom Calls
3075 Needham Road
Eastview, KY 42732
Phone: (270) 862-3423