The story begins yesterday evening. I watched a gobbler with 3 jakes work a field over from about 6:45-fly up. Initially I thought it was a longbeard with hens, but after some glassing it became obvious that his partners were jakes. I had them figured to roost in the far corner like always, but as it got closer to dark, they were moving further and further from that area. Surely they wouldn't cross the road... until 826 when they did just that. I watched as the jakes took flight followed by the longbeard. I took a ride down the road a few minutes later, and sure enough, there they were. Not 30 yards off the road on the limb.
I considered not even hunting this bird for fear of him flying down on the side of the road he was roosted on. There is a small horse pasture back there that the birds tend to frequent. I drove home, content on hitting one of two other farms I knew were holding gobblers in the AM. I got to thinking... a lone longbeard and 3 jakes vs hunting henned up gobblers on these other properties....
Fast forward to this morning. The alarm sounded at 315 and I still had no clue of what my gameplan was going to be. After some deliberation and encouragement from the girlfriend, I decided to try the birds I watched cross the road. My logic being I could sweet talk them on the limb and send them soaring into my setup.
I got there well before light, placed the deeks and waited. At 5:47 I heard my first gobble. I played the lonely hen game, keeping the talking to a minimum. Just enough to entice him to turn around on that limb. The next gobble was considerably louder and I knew he was now facing the field I was hunting. Almost on cue, a thick blanket of fog settled in. I'm talking 45 yards of visibility thick. Of course, right at flydown time. The birds grew silent and I thought I heard wing beats. Next thing I see is a puff ball at 45 yards appearing out of the fog. now at 42, 37, taking his good ole time. I figured I'd really let him finish and hit the deeks at 15 yards. Well, after about 10 minutes of him holding his ground, now at 33 yards, he was sort of drifting to the side of the setup. I figured now was go time. I leveled the monopod, settled the sights, mentally punching tag #2 as I slipped the safety off. BOOM! yep... he broke strut and was just a FLYING away. He continued flying, gaining altitude. The whole time I was expecting him to just drop like a winged goose. Needless to say, that didn't happen.
In complete disbelief, I packed the blind and was back to the truck. Clock read 6:17. At that point, my disgust level hit an all time high. Sure, I've missed birds before. Just never under 40 yards standing completely still ! The morning started like a hunt I had a few years back where I missed a bird off right off the roost before he had a chance to take 10 steps. That morning had a happy ending as I was able to seal the deal on another farm just 2 hours later. I figured I may as well see if history would repeat itself and set off for that same farm.
I arrived, still way before 7 and made my way up the overgrown fenceline. My calling fell on deaf ears. I opted to plop my butt down and sit it out at the corner of the long field. Having seen birds here yesterday morning in passing around 9am, I was hoping they'd play that same game today. I let out a series of yelps and got cut right off by a gobble. I stayed heavier than usual on the calling just because this farm is relatively low pressure and I know the birds are good for the gobbling. He continued to fire off at every call, maybe inching closer, but not much. 35 minutes or so passed and another group of gobblers had moved into my right and were sounding off. During this time, a lone hen strolled past left to right at around 30 yards. 5 minutes later the birds from my right, 3 longbeards, were passing through about 70 yards out. Just gobbling away. There I was, tucked in a hedgerow, blindless, decoyless and ULTRA uncomfortable. As they passed, another longbeard (presumably the one that had cut me off initially) was passing by about 45 yards heading in the direction that hen had just passed. He milled around forever, never offering a super clear shot due to scattered brush in the field. He was now way right and almost out of swing range. Just then, a crow landed directly above me and started up. The field exploded with gobbles. Had to be 6+ gobblers in the field hidden by its rolling topography. The gobbler put his head down to feed, and instead of nipping tops like he had been, he buried his head way down in the relatively tall grass. I repositioned, squared up and waited for his head to rise. My seat must have put just a little too much pressure on the scattered twigs and let out a crack. That was all it took for this bird to bring that head WAY up, exactly where I needed it. Just before squeezing off the 35 yard shot I braced myself for what was going to be one of the most epic fails of my turkey hunting career or a true case of redemption. I started to squeeze the trigger. In the incredibly awkward position I was shooting from, I almost pulled the shot. I caught myself, really focused in and the hevishot was on its way. Birds exploded from all directions. All except one that is.
I sat back for a second, completely floored by the events of the morning. Thankful as ever that everything worked out, and in such dramatic fashion to boot. A great way for my season to come to a close. Now it's time to get on another one for the girlfriend. He was a lightweight bird sporting a 10 inch beard and 1 inch spurs. A little wet, but here's a pic.