The 2007 spring gobbler got off to a boom Monday, May 6, but in typical fashion that didn't lead to paydirt: a tom hoisted over my shoulder.
As usual the unexpected happened and I was left holding the bag at the Ingham County, Michigan, honey hole I have the privilege to hunt.
At first light my friend Walt and I sauntered briskly toward our destination, which is a grassy knoll that sits above a small swamp and lies between two agricultural fields. The finger is a definite turkey magnet for strutting and traveling from their roosts to food.
But we encountered a major problem -- the turkeys were roosted directly above where we wanted to get to and it was nearly full light. Plus, he was gobbling at our footfalls. So we holed up on the outside of our destination along the major trail that winds throughout the property.
After calling for a half hour, Walt saw two birds fly down over to one of two ridges in the opposite direction from us.
They clammed up, and we continued on to our knoll spot.
And that is how it played out for the rest of the morning.
They stayed on the ridge milling about and occasionally we could elicit a gobble from them or they would sound off to a passing crow but that was it.
The fun would come later.
We decided to go after them and when you do that you always risk bumping them and that's exactly what happened. I saw flash of brown bob away through the green undercover.
During the walk back to the truck, another one gobbled, giving us new hope.
After much debate over our next setup, we cut around another swamp and headed to the other side of the ridge.
Walt suggested I should get ready for a shot in case we jumped them. I wasn't too concerned because if you do flush them it is usually from outside shooting distance. And also because it just seemed too perfect of a scenario.
"Take off of safe," he assured me, "you might just get a shot."
I thought "pooh-bah" in my head.
We peeked our heads over the grassy edge, and three fire-engine red heads scurried to the fenceline.
I fumbled with the safety and got off a late shot.
"See, I told you," Walt said. And before I could get too down, Walt pointed me in the direction they went and exhorted me to "go get them."
I peeled through the stand of pines in between us and the birds' likely travel route.
And again, there they were but much farther out. I ripped off another round but I couldn't get my head down on the barrel and they made their getaway.
Looking back on it now, I would say the shot was more than 50 yards away. Doable, but a tough shot just the same.
Walt and I hooked back up and after checking the area for a sign of a hit, and chased after them into the large woods they ducked into on the south side of the property.
The drone of the property owners' tractors roared on as they plowed a nearby field, which probably didn't help matters. And that was where it ended. Me trying a few jake yelps but to no avail.
Throughout our hunt, the discussions would lead to a book we both read when we started this gobbler chasing 13 years ago by turkey guru Wayne Bailey.
In the book "50 years Hunting Wild Turkeys," Bailey told stories of how he routinely knocked down turkeys in flight or on the run.
For me, his words seemed to hit home most when he said, "All other skills are null and void if that one talent -- the ability to hit the target whether it be standing, running, or flying -- is lacking."
What more needs to be said? On this day I was lacking.
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