A Strikeout and a Home Run


Longbeard down. High-fives all around. But we weren't done just yet. Buddy Steve Nessl had a California turkey to hunt that first day.

Stoked, we kept right at it. Camp lunch could wait. Tailgate sandwiches never tasted better. Nessl stepped up to the plate next, swung at what he thought was a good pitch, and struck out. His next at-bat proved more productive.

First: the running error that cleared the field. I aggressively yelped from the dirt road the way I like to do to locate birds, and a gobbler hammered back on top of the high field. Game on.

Chad Wiebe, our guide, hatched a plan: we’d ease as close as possible, set up. We did. The gobbler sounded off a couple dozen times after that. Hung up at maybe 50 yards, with the property line fence between us, I decided to make like a retreating hen to fool that gobbling turkey into crossing, maybe flying over the obstruction, coming closer.

Yeah right. The bird shifted. Gobbled. Hung tight to the fence.

Face down in the field grass, the shadow of a buzzard moved above me. Good, I looked dead but sounded like a hen turkey—just what we wanted. Nessl, who'd seen your Realtree Turkey Site correspondent pull off the same thing that morning, tried the same. Sorry man. This time he was thrown out for the effort. Putt-putt! Yer outta here.

Wiebe had another nearby spot the way hardcore turkey hunters do in places you visit. I yelped, a turkey gobbled in edge cover along a field, not far past a tool-filled garage and life-weary house. Cats slept in the sun, tin cans in a collected pyramid. It might have been one of the more unusual places I've ever worked a bird.

I called. The turkey hammered. Wiebe and Nessl repositioned at the base of the field, their movements hidden by debris of the junkyard kind. They faced the near woods where booming responses came steadily. I followed, calling.

Behind them, I made a racket. The bird ripped back. I slipped to the truck, calling softly in fade-away mode. Wiebe took over, and Nessl made his move. K-boom. He threw that turkey out from left field. Nessl was on the board. A cat yawned as we passed. Whatever—

In baseball, you keep coming to the plate as long as you have another at-bat. The same goes for turkey hunting.

(Steve Hickoff photo)