EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s time to take a mental break from all the tension of our “new world order?” and perhaps focus on the simpler things in life that bring us pleasure – like turkey hunting. Monday marks the beginning of Iowa’s spring turkey hunting season that runs in four consecutive segments from April 17 to May 14. Hunters can apply for two tags as long as one of them is the “fourth” season (May 3-21) ,and only bearded turkeys can be harvested. So, good luck, be safe and may reading this column help you bag a beauty.
It was about 10 years ago and it had been a rather “bleh” turkey-hunting season. I’d taken a friend from Wisconsin out on a glorious sunny spring afternoon and hopes were high as we settled into our secluded spot.
I knew turkeys frequented the area, but wasn’t overly optimistic that our desire to down a long-beard would be satiated. But as the old saying goes, you never know what’s going to happen when you venture forth in search of a mighty gobbler. This day would confirm that statement.
We hadn’t been set up for more than 10 minutes when a thunderous gobble exploded a short distance to our right. We couldn’t see the big boy at first, but we could sure hear him as he sounded off just over a tiny ridge that obscured him from view.
It didn’t take long.
Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of his red head and fully expanded tail feathers as they came into view. Spitting and drumming with a horny gusto, the magnificent tom turned his total attention to my decoy (Lisa Leslie – don’t ask) and began to strut his way directly to her. Unbelievably, it was gonna happen – after just 10 minutes. Think again.
As the bird got into killing range, I instructed my hunting partner to slowly get his gun up and point it at the decoy. When the tom gets there “put him on the ground,” I whispered to my compadre. I could hear him hyperventilating as the moment began to overwhelm him. And then, as rookie hunters often do, he screwed it up.
He moved his gun way too fast and the long-beard saw it. He immediately stopped in his tracks, gave out a few frightened putts, went out of strut and ran in the opposite direction. Never to be seen or heard of again.
The look on my friend’s face was heartbreaking. “I think I moved too fast,” he said. “I know you did,” I replied … but quickly added “that’s turkey hunting.”
Needless to say, we hunted two more days but never had a chance like that again. He left for Appleton, Wis. with his tail between his legs and $200 less in his wallet. For rookies and veterans alike, turkey hunting can be a humbling experience.
Fast forward a couple weeks to the final day of the final season. With the taste of failure still imbedded in my mouth and brain, I decided to give it one more try. But my optimism was gone. We’d had our chance, and I figured the turkey gods weren’t about to give me another one. Go figure.
It was about 9 a.m. and after four hours sitting under a giant cottonwood, I was all but ready to put the decoy back in the bag, unload my Remington and call it a year. Accepting disappointment is just part of the turkey-hunting game.
A wise friend once told me to always wait 15 more minutes after you decide to leave. A valuable piece of advice. I recommend it highly.
Bingo. Just as I was about to pull the plug on the whole deal, a gobble echoed across the valley some 400-500 yards away from me on a hillside directly in front of me. Two nice toms suddenly emerged from the woods and seemed to be fired up as they responded repeatedly to my diaphragm call and my Quaker Boy Easy Yelper.
Realistically, I didn’t think I could make them turn and make the long journey to Lisa and me, but by God that’s just what happened. Slowly but surely they started making their way to me and I could tell they were serious about it. Put another way: passion knows no bounds.
It took about 15-20 minutes for them to make their fatal trek, but they never hesitated in their quest. As they ducked under a barbed wire fence and started up the path to Lisa, I put my 12 gauge in position and waited for the moment of truth.
The lead bird was a tick smaller than the other one, but that mattered little to me. As soon as he got within 25 yards, I ended his days of amorous adventures. A bird in the hand … if you will.
With my 24-pounder slung over my shoulder, I headed home with a huge smile on my face. The disappointment of failing on that bird with my friend was now a distant memory. Such is the life of a turkey hunter.
Onward through the fog.