Between Encounters of the 4th and 5th Kind

“A little frustration is healthy,” I reminded Mary.  “It will make the success of bagging your first, big tom all that much sweeter.  It can only be spoiled if you give up or do something unethical in the meantime.”

She was frustrated, yes, but more determined than ever to get her bird.

I called in a big tom for Mary the first morning of the Georgia turkey season.  It was the perfect hunt until she squeezed the trigger.  At 30 yards, she just couldn’t understand how she missed.

“I’ll get the next one,” she declared.

Snapshot 2 (4-15-2018 12-53 PM)

Snapshot 1 (4-15-2018 12-52 PM)

On our next hunt, we were surprised by a big gobbler that had flown into the field we intended to set up on just before we arrived.  When we heard him gobble, I thought he was still on the roost.  Next time the bird gobbled his head was turned toward us and we realized he was already in the field.  He caught us dead to rights as he stepped into view and saw us creeping up the road that led into the lower end of the field.  I told Mary to shoot.  She thought it was too far away and wasn’t prepared, she wouldn’t take the shot.

We hunted several more mornings, turkeys enticingly answering my calls and at times coming ever so close, yet keeping just out of eyesight.  Perhaps the toms had hens with them or I wasn’t saying the proper thing in turkey language.  Nevertheless, coming so close built Mary’s anticipation.  She was bound and determined to get her gobbler.  I was equally as determined to ensure her success, maybe more so, if that’s possible.

The difference between Mary and me is that I wasn’t frustrated.  My favorite person in the world was hunting with me, and she loved it.  And I loved that she loved it.

I have 2 friends who just happen to be a couple of the best turkey hunters in the Southeast.  Jimmy Whatley and David Neck have been hunting turkeys together for over 20 years.  They charge no one for their services, it’s more or less a ministry for them.  They offered to take Mary hunting.  They guided me and my 2 sons to our first gobblers.  And now they wanted to guide my wife to hers.

I was a little jealous when both my sons met success hunting with Jimmy and David, although I was very grateful.  There’s a bond that happens when like minded men, and now I’m finding women, hunt together.  I love David Neck and Jimmy Whatley.  But I reserve the right to guide my wife to her first gobbler!

So after the first few unsuccessful mornings, I asked myself, what would David and Jimmy do differently?

For one thing, David and Jimmy have a blind, a killer hen decoy, and make sure if the person they’re hunting with has a problem holding up the gun, they have a support to prop it up.  So I went out and bought an Ameristep, Hub Style hunting blind, a Primos Gen 3 Shooting Stick, and an Avian X hen decoy.  That was a pretty big investment for meat you can get in the grocery store for less than $20.  However, as all hunters know, it’s not the meat that counts, it’s the experience.  And although I now feel obligated to spend equal money on jewelry for Mary, that can wait until after she takes her first turkey.

The first day we sat the blind up on the lease in what we refer to as the “L” shaped field.  We placed it on the inside corner of the L.  Nothing showed, although we heard turkeys gobbling back in the woods.  I thought the blind was a wee bit too exposed, so we moved it down the field back under some low hanging trees.  It was definitely more concealed there.

The next day I set out 2 hen decoys and put a fan on a stick that turned when the wind changed directions.  The set up looked perfect to me.

We sat in that blind for hours.  Eventually, Mary and I did our bible study talking in whispers.  We were there from 6:00 in the morning until noon before we heard the first gobble.  The bird circled from in front of us and went up into the woods to our right without stepping out into the field.  I doubled down on calling as a last resort.  Finally, he stepped into the field in full strut.  He came within 50 yards but would not take the last 10 steps that would bring him into range where I felt comfortable for Mary to take a shot.  When the wind blew, the fan would occasionally turn so that it was facing sideways to the turkey.  He would take a couple of steps closer and then move back when the fan turned full in his direction.  I’m fairly certain the turkey would have come on in if I hadn’t gotten the bright idea to put that fan out on a stick.

This was evidently not a boss bird and was intimidated by the fan.  More than likely, he had his butt spurred on occasion by more dominate birds.  After about 30 minutes, he walked back into the woods and disappeared, never to gobble again for as long as we were there.

When turkey hunting, I like to believe there are encounters up to the 5th Kind.  An encounter of the 1st Kind is when you hear a gobbler from a distance but he doesn’t answer your calls.  An encounter of the 2nd Kind is when you hear him and he answers your calls, but never commits and comes on in.  An encounter of the 3rd Kind is when he answer your calls, comes in close enough to see, but not close enough for a shot.  An encounter of the 4th Kind is when the gobbler comes within range, but for whatever reason, you just don’t seal the deal.  An encounter of the 5th kind is when you connect and take that gobbler to a place he has never been before – back to your house!

As we sat in the blind the 2nd morning, we could hear a couple of gobblers across the river but the gobblers on our side were silent.  About 8:15, I was becoming bored and called a loud, long series of calls that began with a fit of clucking and cutting, then plaintive yelping, and ended with more cutting.  A gobbler in the woods in back of the plot couldn’t stand it.   He double gobbled and answered all my calls after that.  After a little while without a gobble, Mary asked me to call again.  I refrained, explaining that if I sounded too excited the old gobbler may just stay in the woods waiting for me to come to him.  In other words, after making a particularly forward offer, I felt the need to play hard to get.

When I called again, it was obvious the gobbler was headed our way.  However, as in earlier encounters, he stayed just out of sight at the edge of the woods.  Then, on the other side of the field directly across from us and our decoy, a hen walked into the field.  Probably only 10 or 15 minutes passed, but it seemed like an eternity until the gobbler came into view.

Mary sat on my right, and the gobbler approached from our right.  We had the windows of the blind partially closed on that side since there were branches in the way and we couldn’t get a good shot from that direction anyway.  From my vantage, I could see the turkey but Mary couldn’t.

“I see him,” I told Mary.  “He’s strutting on the edge of the field 30 yards to our right.  Give him a minute, he’ll walk toward the hen.”

Strutting 1
Mary’s view was obstructed but I witnessed the whole show.

The hen yelped softly and walked into the woods away from the gobbler.  When he didn’t follow, she came back into the field, softly yelped, and walked back into the woods.  But the gobbler seemed more interested in our decoy, preferring to stay put and strut, just out of Mary’s sight.  I considered having her adjust in the chair but was fairly certain either the hen or the gobbler, barely 20 yards away, would detect us.

After the 3rd time the hen came back into the field and called to the gobbler, he decided to give up on our decoy and follow the real thing.  Just a matter of a few more steps and Mary would have a 25 yard shot.

I looked at Mary and saw how contorted she was in her chair.  Right handed, a turkey at that angle made the shot most difficult.

The turkey strutted across the field, still staying to the right of the blind.  You could hardly see his head.  Finally, he stopped and up popped his head.

Boom! The shot disrupted the sounds of an otherwise tranquil morning.  I expected to see that turkey flapping its wings in its final death throes.  But, instead, he was flapping his wings in a desperate attempt to escape.

I’d like to write that Mary’s second shot found its mark.  But, alas, not.  That lucky gobbler flew away unscathed to gobble another morning.

 

“I was twisted up in the chair.  I should have waited!” Mary said, still whispering.  She was disappointed but more determined than ever to get her bird.

We’ve had 2 encounters of the 4th Kind.  I’m betting the 3rd time is the charm, because the next time Mary pulls the trigger, it will end in an encounter of the 5th Kind.

Stay tuned to this website, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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