This was written by my brother, Matt, who graciously introduced the love of turkey hunting to David just a few weeks ago! I wasn't able to be on the hunt, but Matt's ability to tell this story made me feel like I was a part of the day.
April 5, 2014:
I walked through the house slid on my boots and stepped outside. The morning air was not quite cool enough to allow you to see your breath but definitely cool enough to warrant the need of a light jacket. David came out of the house followed by his sister and her hunting partner for the morning, and we loaded up and headed, just down the road, to where we planned to park. Upon arrival at the parking spot there was still twenty minutesor so before daylight. David’s sister and her hunting partner had hunted the place in the last few days and had heard a turkey in an area not far from where we had all parked. David’s sister said, “We’re gon go this way, we heard one down here the other day.” Both David and I nodded in agreement and gave them a “Good luck!” as we headed towards the back of the pasture that we parked near. We knew turkeys were in the area. David had been hearing turkeys in the back of the pasture for the past several weeks, and his sister and hunting accomplice had been on turkeys back there as well. David and I had called up several turkeys in the same area the year before as well; all of which ended in one unfortunate manner or another.
As we walked the road that follows the edge of the field on the outside of the pasture fence, the previously calm wind began to pick up. By the time we reached the spot from where I intended for us to break day, just off the southeast corner of the pasture, the wind had probably reached a sustained speed of twelve mph, plus. Wind can, at times, be a turkey hunter’s best friend, and at times his worst enemy. This time leaned towards the latter. As gobbling time arrived the windblown calls from distant crows received an answer only from the turkey that David’s sister and company had gone after. I could tell as I leaned my shotgun against a nearby tree to ease the wait, the look on David’s face began to turn from a look of anxious excitement to more a lookof desperate frustration. As if to break the tension of the moment, a good 15 minutes after his cue, a turkey gobbled.Inside the pasture fence on the west side of the pasture itself is apine plantation with trees of small log size. The plantation headswest and first up then back downhill away from the field, andthe change is made over to hardwood in the bottom. The estimation of the turkey’s position, though skewed slightly by the high winds, put him straight down the road from David and I, on the edge of the hardwood bottom, likely roosted very close to the timber change.
I picked up my shotgun and we made our way down the road towards the turkey. We covered approximately 125 yards or so and stopped to listen again. I figured we should be very near where we needed to set up by now. At some point during our walk another turkey had started gobbling back north of us across the blacktop road, probably a quarter from David and I, and during lulls in the high winds we could hear him gobble. We stood at our new location for probably close to 5 minutes listening to the turkey across the road with no word out of the one we had initially started toward. I had heard enough. “We might as well go over there to that one.” I whispered to David. “Aight, let’s go!” He replied. He seemed to be waiting for me to say that.
We crossed the fence and headed north through the middle of the pasture. There was plenty of daylight now, far beyond adequate enough to allow for flying down so I was figuring that turkeys should be on the ground by now- if for no other reason – to get out of the wind! We got a good 150 yards into the pasture and up on top of a hill, and, between steps, I thought I heard a different turkey gobble. After the immediate stop and on cue after taking two or three deep breaths to knock off the heavy breathing, he gobbled again to our immediate left (west) and off in the bottom where we had heard the turkey 15 minutes earlier. He was very certainly on the ground and not over 200 yards from the edge of the pasture. “Come on!” I told David as I hurried my steps toward the edge of the woods, and he fell in behind me. We reached the edge of the woods and a crow called as soon as we stopped and this time the turkey gobbled along with two others that were in the bottom and about 200 yards to the north of him. The one we were after was still in about the same place on the edge of the hardwood bottom which put him very near a road left the pasture and ran due west along the inside of the south pasture fence, topped the hill, and continued down into the bottom on the other side. David assured me that he sounded close to the road and on the edge of the bottom and I began to search for a good tree. I sat David just off the edge of the pasture, in the plantation by a tree with a lot of cover in behind it to prevent him from being silhouetted on the bright pasture backdrop. David’s seat put him just under 20 steps from the edge of the road to his left that is running away from him the further right he swings. At 60 yards the road tops the hill andbegins to drop off toward the bottom.
I placed a single hen decoy to our directly to our left between us and the road and while walking back to the tree I made my first call. Two clucks and a soft yelp was immediately answered by our opponent as well as his two accomplices to the north. As I sat down I told David to reposition himself further around the tree in case the turkey did not come up the road like as scripted. My next call was cut off by the gobbler followed by a hen that was just out of sight, between us and the other two gobbling turkeys. I immediately mimicked her. She answered back again and the fight was on for a good solid 45 second or so. When it was over, I was out of breath and all 3 turkeys had gobbled a 4 or 5 times a piece at all the racket. After a minute or two of silence she yelped again and was half way down the hill and taking a heading basically between the turkey we were calling to and the other two gobblers. I called again he answered this time he had cut the distance in half. “He’s coming David. Point your gun toward the road.” “Ok!” He replied. The turkey is now 125 yards and over the hill from us. The only thing that concerned me now was that hen. He would have to walk right by her coming up the hill to us if we were going to kill him and the odds of that happening are far from good.
Not over a minute later I thought I heard him drum. “Ease that safety off.” I whispered to David. He did so and whispered desperately, “You see him?!?” I simply answered, “No.” No more than ten seconds later I heard it again, very distinct this time- Pffftvvvoooooooom. “I hear him strutting.” I whispered. “I heard it too!” David whispered excitedly. No sooner than he said that the turkey gobbled- LOUD! When he did I saw his head come out from behind a tree. “Alright, I see him David. Be still as a mouse, now!” “Where!?!?” David answered anxiously. “He’s in the road on top of the hill. Be still now!!” I told him urgently. David’s breathing immediately got harder as did mine, as he got a better grip on the shotgun and froze there. The turkey walked the road towards us 12 to 15 yards closer, stopped behind a tree and went into about a half strut. It was here at a range of about 50 yards, he saw the decoy. He looked it over for 5 or 6 seconds dropped back down into about a quarter strut and began his approach towards the beautiful young lady. As soon as he crossed the 30 yard line I said “Alright, David go on and kill him when you can.” David, like a seasoned veteran, never corrected; he let the turkey walk right into his sights and squeezed the trigger flattening the gobbler at a range of 23 steps.“That’a boy David Tyson!!” I said- this time much above a whisper- as I got up to run and get a foot on the turkeys neck. I reached down and grabbed the gobbler by the neck instead of booting him in the throat to keep from damaging feathers- taking into consideration the photo session that was likely to ensue shortly.
With the gobbler by the neck flapping out his last few nerves, I turned around to see a big, normally very reserve man walking my direction with a smile on his face that threatened to sever the top of his head. “Thank ya, Matthew!” he said. “My pleasure Dave, I’m glad I could be here! You see why I love it so much now?!” I asked. “Man I say! That was somethin’ else!” He replied. In that instant looking at David, you could tell something was present that had not been there before, and it had everything to do with the 20 lbs of two year old gobbler that I handed him standing in the middle of that road.
To us as humans, the life of a wild turkey is very short – it would be safe to say the majority of gobblers die in two to three years or less. Though this day may have been the last spring dance of one’sfew; it was very likely the first of another’s many, and I’m glad I could be there to see it one more time!