Monday, May 13, 2013

Achilles Gobbler Is In The Bag - ‏ By: Lowell Washburn

Friday, May 10,2013:   Had an exciting -- actually two exciting -- hunts this morning.  Got into the woods early and, when daylight began, I saw a total of 12 birds roosted in the tree tops.  One nearby tom was strutting on the limb, and turkeys started coming down while it was still half dark. Some of the birds, including three jakes and two toms, touched down within 30 yards of where I sat.   Although I was soon treated to an incredible struttin' and gobbln' show, none of the birds ever got closer than 25 yards before hens led them in the wrong direction.  Even though I hadn't received a shot, the noisy close encounter had already made my day.  Considering the number of hens I'd already seen or heard, I figured it would be awhile before those toms would be looking for company.

I soon decided to pull up stakes and move to another part of the timber.  By the time I reached my destination, the sun was well above the horizon.  Within ten minutes of popping up the Double Bull, I spotted a single hen coming through the oaks.  I called, she responded, and I got a few photos.  That was the last turkey I saw or heard for the next hour, which was about the time I spotted a mature gobbler.  He was around 150 yards away walking across a grassy area located at the base of the ridge I was sitting on.  I struck up the Kirkman box call, and the gobbler hit the brakes.  I called again, and he stretched his neck about a mile.  When I hit the call a third time, the tom gobbled back.  We went back and forth for awhile until the tom finally began to strut in place.  But although the bird was clearly interested in my yelping, he appeared to have no plans of changing course.  The standoff continued; the gobbler quit strutting and I could tell he was losing interest.  To me it was obvious that this bird was about to take the show on the road.
Hitting the panic button, I began trying to start a fire with the box call. 
If I live to be a hundred, I'm not likely to forget that gobbler's reaction.  After briefly stretching his neck for a second time, the tom suddenly put his head down and charged my position.  When I use the word "charge" I don't mean the usual jogging often referred to as the Turkey Trot.  Instead, I mean the turkey was coming toward me at an all out sprint.  I doubt he could have gone any faster if a hungry coyote had been six inches off his tail.  Within seconds, the running bird was lost to view as he hit the bottom of the ridge.  The ridge top  was narrow, and I knew that when I saw the tom again he would likely be within thirty yards -- maybe less.

Suddenly, there he was.  No longer at a sprint, the tom was now approaching at a steady walk.  The early morning light was perfect, and as the gobbler made his way around gooseberry bushes  and  through patches of Dutchman's Breeches, I couldn't resist taking my first shot with the camera.  By the time I had made that decision the turkey was already too close for very much fooling around on my part.
Unfortunately, my thin mosquito netting was right in the way and I couldn't risk making a new opening at such close range.  Taking advantage of the only opportunity I had, I fired away and the attached "Final Strut" photo is the somewhat blurry, through-the-net result.
Laying the camera aside, I picked up the longbow and took aim again.  I was using a primitive 45 #, Osage orange bow crafted by Dave Thomas, and as I pulled back on the string I  quickly rehearsed my mental check list of 'shooting points'.  The broadhead hit home, passed completely through the tom, and the arrow came to rest a short distance away.

The tom sported a 10 1/2-inch beard and was armed with 1 1/4-inch, needle sharp spurs.  He weighed in at 21.5 pounds -- which was a quarter pound lighter than my biggest-ever jake bagged with the same bow in Clayton County in April.  Praise God for another exciting morning in the Iowa out-of-doors!

It isn't often that a person gets to enjoy two great turkey hunts in a single day.  


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