Monday, May 11, 2009

Payback on two MO Gobblers

5/9/09 - With only 2 days left in the 09 MO turkey season I needed to get down to business to fill my last tag. I was in the rig on the road to Roger's by 2:30am Saturday morning. My plan was to walk all the way down the road and come in the backdoor on the gobbler I nicknamed the "Ghost of Gobbler Hollow", because he has up and vanished on us 6 times since last spring. Scott, Shana, and myself have all been within 20 yards of him and not been able to close the deal yet.

I was in his bedroom and setup in the bottom of his favorite haunt with plenty of time to relax, catch my breath, and let the woods come to life. We had some major storms move through MO on Friday and it must have grouped the birds up, because for the first time all year the Boss had two other mature birds, a jake, and several hens roosted with him.

The first gobble sounded off at 5:40am and the show only got better from there. Every time one of the gobblers sounded off the other 3 birds followed suite, it was impressive to witness, since I was within 50 yards of all of them. Hens started pitching down first and they all landed behind me in the bottom of the draw. The toms pitched down on the ridge top about 40 yards above my setup and continued to gobble feverishly every couple seconds. I was between them and the majority of the hens, so I thought it would be a slam dunk. The birds cut off everyone of my calls and after a couple minutes I could tell the jake and a mature gobbler had broke ranks and were headed towards my set. I spotted the mature bird first moving through the brush about 25 yards out. It wasn't the Boss bird I was after, so for the first time in my turkey hunting career I let a mature bird walk...I wanted the Boss. Both birds skirted the edge of my set up and worked back to the ridge top. After a few more minutes I could tell the birds had dropped off the opposite side of the ridge and were headed down to the fields.

I dumped my vest and left the decoys, I had to get in front of the birds before they could get out of the field. I ran down the ridge about 75 yards and came to an opening that allowed me to see the bottom fields, instantly I spotted all three toms strutting just on the filed edge. I couldn't get down to them without spooking them, so I went another 300 yards down the ridge and bailed off the hill towards the fields. The levee that runs north and south on the west edge of the fields provided the prefect cover to sneak the 400 yards down to them. The first 50 yards was smooth sailing, but the last 350 yards involved me crawling through 5-10" of water, mud, grass, and brush. I could hear the birds gobble every couple of minutes, so I just kept covering ground. After a very wet sneak I had finally reached the brush pile I'd used as a reference spot. I crawled up over the levee to the field side and got situated in the brush pile. The entire field was surrounded by water from the storms on Friday, so I knew it was only a matter of time before these birds would work back towards me and cross the levee in the only spot not holding water.

After getting situated I sat back and took in the show, what I didn't know is that it was going to be the turkey show to end all turkey shows. For the next 90 minutes the Boss strutted around the hen and wasn't afraid to show the other toms who the real Boss was. Anytime one of the subordinate birds tried to get near the hen of go into strut the Boss would run over and bump chests and peck at their heads. After about 50 minutes the jake and a one of the less dominate toms started to leave the field and their path took them with in 9 & 11 yards respectively of my setup. On any other day of any other season I would have smoked this mature bird, but today was about payback and I was going to hold out for the Boss or nothing. The hen and two other gobblers finally started slowly working my direction. After 20 minutes the hen had worked all the way to the opposite side of the brush pile I was sitting in. I could hear the toms drumming and finally the hen worked off the edge of the pile and past me at 4 yards, without having any idea I was in the world. She walked another 5 yards and started feeding and pruning. I could hear the toms moving closer but still couldn't see them, the first butterball stepped out at 5 yards followed by the Boss. By now they had both gone into full strut and were connected at the hip to each other. I couldn't shoot because I would have hit both birds, so I waited. For the next 6 minutes both these mature MO toms strutted, spit & drummed, gobbled, and bumped each other at 5 steps "something I'll never forget". I was starting to come unglued when the hen finally started to move north again. The less dominate bird broke strut instantly and took one step in her direction, before his second foot hit the ground I unloaded a face full of #4s on the Boss and he didn't even think about holding it...lights out!!!

So after 1 year and 15 days of him getting the best of us...I finally evened the score and tagged out for the MO 09 Turkey season. 24 lbs., 11" beard, 1 1/4" matching spurs.

After getting back to the rig and sorting out some pictures I looked at my phone and saw a text from Brian "big bird down, 5:48am", so I called him to get the scoop.

Brian had spotted this bird about two weeks ago the same morning he killed his first bird of the season. The tom was using the neighbor's bottom field to the west of our BS155 farm and had several lady friends with him. Brian contacted the landowner and got us permission to hunt the small 27 acre field this bird was calling home.

Last Saturday May 2nd we snuck into the field and setup were we thought the bird would have come through on his morning stroll. We had several birds roosted about 80yards in front of us, but by the time we realized there was no tom in the group it was to late. We heard him gobble twice about 70 yards southwest of our setup and them Brian saw him strutting on top of the rise. We never did end up getting on him that morning, but Brian would be back to try and even the score.

Fast forward to Saturday morning. I get a call form Brian at 4:40am and we briefly discussed our strategies and wished each other luck, since I was chasing the Boss in New Cambria. Brian worked down the creek bed we use to drop into the bottom field and as he cleared the field edge he noticed a large black dot about 25 yards away from him in a tree. After glassing the bird he made out a beard and decided to just take a seat. The tom had his head under his wing originally, but after a couple minutes Brian heard a "puck, puck, puck" and looked up to see the tom looking right him. The bird started to get more and more nervous, so Brian decided that lighting him up on the roost was his only option. Brian took aim and unleashed a furry of #5s on the roosted bird. The ol' tom went ass over tea kettle out of the tree and Brian had tagged out before the sun was even up, a full 8 minutes into legal shooting time.

21 lbs., 11" beard, 1" matching spurs.

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