Sometimes, Things Experienced During a Hunt Are Utterly Unexpected
Turkey hunting. It’s something that a lot of deer hunters bridge the gap with. Still, others are just as passionate — if not more so — about those red, white and blue noggins.
While I’ll readily admit I’m more enthralled by the white-tailed deer, I’d be lying if I said turkeys didn’t flip my switch. Anyone who knows me understands just how jacked up I get about a loud-mouthed longbeard. There just isn’t a spring-time adventure that compares.
This season has been pretty awesome. I’ve hunted in Kentucky so far, and plan to make an out-of-state trip or two before season's end. But my two Kentucky hunts, and others that I’ve been a part of, certainly scratched the turkey itch I’ve been feeling. And it all started at a pretty epic (but typical) turkey camp. We patterned our guns and prepped gear for the next morning.
As always, we launched turkey season at my grandfather’s house. He, my father, uncle, cousin and I gathered gear and made plans for daybreak. We parted ways as the first rays of light illuminated the horizon. My grandfather and cousin walked up a massive hillside to an area several toms were roosted. My father and I set up on the edge of a big bluff. And my uncle did the same several hundred yards down from us. But the roost hunt was a bust. We quickly regrouped and went to another property.
Upon arrival, we immediately heard a symphonious performance of gobbling. From all the commotion, we thought Butterball, LLC had uprooted and moved to our little stretch of creek bottom. Instead, seven super jakes (that ran off the toms which had been frequenting the property) came in acting like the Magnificent Seven. Pretty much went down like it did in the movie. Gobbling. Strutting. Probably 150 gobbles in 20 minutes. Almost attacked us. Then pure carnage. Our motto — "If they act like men, treat them like it." Uncle Ben and I obliged them. Seven came. And five went.
A few hours later, we struck a group of gobblers in a big ag field. About seven or eight longbeards by our count. After a series of excited cutting and hen yelps, I pulled a pair of loud mouths away from the hens and up the hill to our position. The most spectacular display of spring unraveled before us. It was one of the most classic turkey hunts I’ve witnessed in the last couple of years.
The second day of the season was a wash. Cold temperatures and high winds had the turkeys introverted, non-responsive and practically back in winter-survival mode. The Midway USA Stealth Line jacket and pants kept me warm despite less-than-average spring temps. These hunting clothes are warm but breathable, very quiet and work great for deer or turkey hunting.
I put several miles on the new Danner Alsea boots in search of a gobbler that wanted to work. No such luck. But at least my feet stayed warm, dry and comfortable. Interestingly, these new kicks had zero break-in period. I pushed them to the brink, wore them several miles right from the beginning without a single blister or sore spot. The insoles that come with this boot offer quality support. It offers solid ankle support. And I crossed several 4- to 8-inch-deep creeks without getting wet feet.
As for the turkeys, we eventually chalked it up to a good try and prepped for round three.
The third day of the season was a work day. Typical Monday mantra. I put in a solid 8-plus hours, slipped on my Danner boots and burned rubber as I high-tailed it to a good late-afternoon spot that I know pretty well.
I didn’t see or hear any birds upon arrival. But after a few minutes, I struck a gobbler a few hundred yards away. Thirty minutes of somewhat-subtle calling pulled the big fatty off of a neighboring property and into the open field in front of me. The bad news — two promiscuous hens intercepted the strutter before he closed the distance. The lucky bird strutted with his two new girlfriends for 20 minutes before they drifted off.
That’s when I made my move. Hunting on private property I had sole permission on, I pulled out the tail fan and started crawling toward the trio. Much to my surprise, the tom didn’t budge. One of the hens had something else in mind. She sprinted toward me not 30 yards into my low crawl. She was right in front of my face, but the tom was still 90 yards out.
I was pretty much stuck. Figuring the gig was up, I laid my head down in the ankle-high grass and waited for the inevitable dreaded putts. A true turkey hunter would rather take a beating or get cussed in the Walmart parking lot than hear a string of those. Seconds passed. Then a minute or two. Still no alarm putt. Hearing the hen close by, I slowly raised my head up enough to peer out from under the fan. I saw two legs standing 5 feet in front of my face. She just stood there, and kept standing there, for what seemed like several minutes.
Eventually, she peeled off to my right, but still only a few yards away. She circled around behind me. I hoped she’d feed off into the timber from which I’d just crawled from. But she didn’t. She stayed just a few yards from me and commenced feeding.
I really thought the gobbler — which was still strutting and acting dominant(ish) — would storm in when the hen came dashing toward me. But it hadn’t budged, and I knew the other hen would eventually pull him away. That premonition came true rather quickly. The courting couple eased off to the right. I knew I had to make a move.
I thought to myself, Okay babe. If you’re with me, you’re with me. Let’s go on a double date with this coward and his gal.
Risking spooking the hen that was still only 7 or 8 yards to my right (and certainly in plain view of my outstretched profile), I resumed crawling toward the strutter. We slowly strolled (crawled) right down the little rise toward the gobbler.
My new lady friend didn’t love the human-like figure that was exposed behind the full-strut decoy/fan in my hand. But each time she’d get a little nervous, I’d send some clucks and purrs and she’d go back to feeding. She paralleled me 10 yards to my right for the next 40 yards of my crawl. Maybe she was blind. Maybe she was dumb. Maybe she was entranced by my decoy. Maybe she wanted a little somethin' somethin'. Nonetheless, she tolerated me, and I tolerated her, as we continued to inch toward the poor guy she’d just betrayed.
The gobbler didn’t like it one bit, either. And neither would I if I were him. Some dude just stole one of his ladies. She was staying right on his hip as the intruder (me) bowed up and minced steps toward him. That’d insult any guy’s pride who had any to insult.
Once I got inside the bird’s bubble (about 50 yards), he finally faced me, puffed up like Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones and started walking all bow-legged in my direction.
Satisfied I’d tarnished his pride enough with my strutter decoy and his old gal on my hip, the hen and I prepped for the shot. I staked the decoy in front of me. She at some bugs. I clicked off the safety and placed the bead on the turkey’s head. She ate some more bugs. It went on like that for a few long seconds.
Finally, the victorious strutter decoy that took away his gal was the last thing he saw. And a sharp-tongued cluck was the last thing he heard. A load of No. 5 Winchester Long Beard XR sent him to a big river bottom full of hens that’d never betray him again.
The 2019 turkey season has been a great one. It continues to produce classic hunts and great memories. And who knows, maybe there are still more unbelievable encounters left yet to come this spring.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.