The day finally came when spring turkey draw results were posted to the CPW website for the upcoming 2011 spring turkey season. I drew! Just as I had expected, I had plenty of preference points saved up and was one of the lucky few who applied in the same area as my father-in-law did the year previously. I couldn’t wait to ask him to go with me and show me the ropes!
It seemed like forever for opening day to arrive. The night before we were to head out, I hardly slept. I was so excited. Finally the alarm went off and we headed to the state wildlife area. My father-in-law explained to me that we would want to get in and setup before daylight in hopes that any turkeys roosted in trees nearby would not see us walking in. Not long after sun-up, three different Toms started gobbling from three different directions!
I couldn’t believe it – it seemed as though there were plenty of turkeys around. Soon after a pair of hens and a Jake, made their way directly behind me… I could hear them. My father-in-law told me not to move too much, or else they would see me and leave in a hurry. To make a long story short, we hunted for three days, and every day, we saw turkeys. I was getting closer!
But every time a turkey came into range, something happened and I just couldn’t quite make a good shot. I was baffled to think that I might have blown these multiple chances at harvesting my first turkey! Our hunting trip came to and end, and still no turkey. But instead of disappointment, I felt more determined than ever. With almost three weeks left in the season, I wasn't about to give up so easily! I knew sooner or later, one of these birds would have to make a mistake.
The following weekend, I went out again with my brother-in-law and twice we called in a Tom! Again, there was no good shot – if one was out of range, the other was behind a tree. Unbelievable!
I knew that I had one more weekend to seal the deal, so I started asking if any of my family members wanted to go with me – no one was available. Well, I wasn’t going to let a little thing like “going by myself” get in the way.
It was 2:00 AM that following Saturday and the last day that I was able to go. I was just a little late getting to the parking lot and knew that I had to make tracks to get into my spot before sunrise. As I'm slowly walking in, not 100 yards from my tree, a gobbler stands up on a branch, beard barely visible in the early morning twilight. I’m right underneath him and freeze… but it's too late, and like a hurricane, he flies out the opposite side of the tree and across the river, away from me. He had seen me first, and I blew it again! I couldn’t believe my luck. As I grumbled to myself and made my way over to the tree (which would have been a perfect spot had I not scared him) and set out my one hen decoy.
I plopped down against the base of the large cottonwood. Not long after legal shooting light, I hear a faint gobble way off in the distance. I dig out my slate and proceed to call in hopes that he might hear it and begin to move my direction…no response. About 25 minutes go by, and I start wondering if he even heard me call at all. I reach down for the call again, when just around the bend (approximately 50 yards away) I see a red head bobbing through the grass! It was him! Totally unprepared for his presence, I freeze. He moves out into full view and begins to strut at the sight of my lonely decoy.
There are two trees between us and as he moves closer to my decoy, I knew I would have only one opportunity to raise my gun without him seeing me move. He moves a little closer; just enough to where one of the trees blocks his view of me. I raise my gun, and hold steady, waiting. He emerges from behind the tree, takes a few more steps and is now in full view and only 32 yards away. He sticks his neck out in an effort to take one last look at my beautiful decoy… Wham! Down he goes! One shot! I had done it!
I chuckled to myself, and thanked God for providing me with one of the best, most memorable hunts I’ve ever experienced. All my hard work finally paid off! I was so excited that I nearly left my camo shotgun lying in the grass as I started to walk out with my first turkey. I made it back to the truck, dressed the bird, and headed for home. It was still so early in the morning that I couldn’t think of anyone to call and share with my story without waking them, other than my grandmother (I knew she would be up and was very happy for me).