Yesterday he gobbled until the very last second of his life. Spitting and drumming the whole way in, I would not have witnessed this spectacle had I not sat still, patiently waiting for an unknown outcome. Just this morning he never made a sound. I’d roosted him yesterday evening, and he came to defend his territory and his honor against my plastic jake. He too might have escaped had I not stayed just a little bit longer.
We’ve all blown hunts by leaving too soon—had we lingered just five minutes longer the outcome would have not involved heartbreak and frustration. It’s inevitable that outdoorsmen of all levels tend to get anxious, sometimes losing the wherewithal that seems relatively important in taking game.
I’m not going to list my qualities because frankly, you’d be done reading in just a second or two. But one thing I do have, and always have had, is patience. “Laid back” is a term people generally use—so laid back, in fact, that folks tend to have a hard time discerning it from laziness. Am I lazy? Well, there’s no time for reflection or self-criticism at this very important juncture. On a recent turkey hunt, my patience (or laid back-edness) allowed me to successfully harvest two toms.
As I mentioned, the first gobbler came in hot. It was around noon on a lukewarm day and I’d decided to take a walk around our farm in southern Tennessee after eating lunch and taking a break from a rigorous workday. I wore regular clothes, not camouflage, and carried a .22 Magnum, as I intended to check some traps. Wouldn’t you know that I spotted that gobbler meandering through one of our fields some 400 yards away? I had a hard time convincing myself that I’d have a shot at that turkey, but then again, why not? So I ran back to the house, threw on my camo, grabbed my gun and turkey vest, and took off to what we call the Big Barn Field, where I’d have a vantage point over where I had seen the gobbler walking. Naturally, nothing. I’m all too familiar with the “win some, lose more” motto associated with turkey hunting.
I quickly and quietly dropped down the hill into a draw looking out into the field where I imagined he would have gone. Giving myself one hour (there was work to be done—on the computer, nonetheless) I leaned back against a large sycamore tree and waited. After an hour, I decided on 10 more minutes before calling it quits. It didn’t hurt that the ground was soft and the sun warmed my shoulders. Green hues were slightly visible in the undergrowth and the trees were budding, ready to bounce back after a long winter.
I’d mostly given up hope as it was midday and generally not the time Tennessee turkeys do much courtin’. But as luck and patience would have it, I heard a gobble within the first minute of my 10-minute overtime period. Yelping softly, he answered, closer. Again, closer still. He came in from the south, down a draw and managed to get within 10 steps of my sycamore before I was able to take the shot. The rest is history.
Last Sunday morning I set up on a gobbler that I’d roosted the evening prior. My plan was to take a long ride (around the county if necessary) to find some birds out in the fields. The afternoon had been gray and cloudy and rain was in the forecast for the night. As I pulled just beyond the house, I looked dead west and spotted a black spot in a large green field that slopes toward the east. Typically in the late evening the glare of the setting sun blocks any view to that particular field. But as luck would have it, there he was showing himself to a hen that idly picked her way through the field just a bit below where he strutted on the crest. Quickly losing interest in my long scouting drive, I parked my truck and spent the rest of the evening in a rocking chair, binoculars glued to my face, on the front porch.
The sun rose warm and red as I sat some 300 yards from his roost. I’d set up early, in the pitch black, and was getting anxious by seven. “Ten more minutes,” I kept telling myself.
Twenty minutes after seven I headed off the hill, carrying more weight than I’d brought.
When your backside begins to hurt, the mosquitoes are too bold, or you’re just plain cold, hang on just a little bit longer. You never know what a few minutes can do for a lifetime.
Image by Josh Wolfe