4:30 am came awfully quick. Even with my cousin’s 4 wheeler it takes quite a while to get to the hunting blinds and set up on the 200 acre farm in the Thumb. This year was pretty dry so we didn’t have the muddy ruts to contend with. The wind however was another story. 10 mph winds with 20 mph gusts put the birds off their vocal ways. I heard a handful of gobbles early and a flock crossed the field I was watching about 9 am over 100 yards away. That was it so we went to an early lunch. 20 mph winds and 30 mph gusts awaited us in the afternoon. The turkeys just weren’t moving or calling at all. The property isn’t set up for running and gunning so in the blinds we sat.
About 3 pm on a lark I tried calling to my cousin who was about 300 yards away. I got out my loudest mouth call and texted him to listen. I blew the call as loud as I could and still sound like a turkey. I texted him back if he heard me and replied back he thought I was going to shoot and hadn’t heard anything and the wind must have blown my calls south into the middle of an open field. Rats, this was very disheartening since 300 yards isn’t very far away. I’ve been calling all day, I thought, and no turkey has been able to hear me, not even my cousin.
Things happen very quickly at times. Unexpected things that give you the feeling of an out of body experience. It appeared to me that a huge turkey was transported by Scotty right in front of my blind. Never heard it, never saw it until it was past 3 decoys heading to my jake tending a willing hen. With these recent happenings I grabbed my gun but hesitated because I wanted to get some video of the jake – Tom interaction, so I grabbed my camera. Just as I started to shoot with the camera the strutting Tom was watching the jake and a 25 mph gust caused the jake to jerk quickly, even though I had it staked with sticks on both sides of the tail. The Tom undisplayed fast and was showing signs of leaving in a hurry. So I switched back to the gun and harvested my blonde.
I almost didn’t shoot the bird because the beard looked very skimpy. The 8 ¾ “ length was noticeable but the color was very light giving the impression of a very thin beard. I did fill my tag and everything adds up to an old cagey bird. He sported a nice scar on his right leg and a busted spur, to boot, on the other. The fact that he came in on stealth mode also points to the fact he was very experienced.
The next day dawned calmer but this wasn’t indicative of how the rest of the day would end up. My partner was in his blind with a receptive hen and a jake with 2 more hen decoys facing north. He over looked a river bed and the decoys were on the slope leading down to the stream. I was in a pop up blind just behind him facing south with 2 hens and a jake alongside a full strut tom. All my decoys were in a field and could be seen from a distance. The early morning soliloquy was quite entertaining with 6-8 toms gobbling in the trees near us.
After fly down only one tom stayed close and was gobbling regularly to my morning clucks. Then a hen popped out of a fence line to the east and stared down the decoys. I had staked the jake and hens anticipating more wind but the full strut decoy was en fuego. The wind was picking up now and the full strut tom was spinning like a top. The hen just kept staring and I thought I could hear another tom gobbling just on the other side of the fence row. Competing gobblers usually mean one or both should come into the calls and offer a shot. After about 5 or 6 gobbles from the bird by the fence row I saw the “hen” sticking out its neck every time I heard a gobble. The bird was 75 to 100 yards out and I never saw a beard on it but after watching mister full strut spin around in the wind I heard the first of many putts he would make. A putt being the danger signal between turkeys and the scourge of any turkey hunter. The other gobbler, in the stream bed, was still going to town responding to my clucks and purrs but the alarming jake made a bee line right to him and soon the woods went silent.
After a couple of hours of this silence I was starting to think about getting some breakfast. Just as I was to text my cousin a shot rang out from his blind. I quickly jumped out of the pop up and ran up to his blind just in time to see the last few birds disappearing into the thick stuff on the other side of the stream. Joe was despondent because he had made the same shot last year. Shooting downhill out of a blind can be tricky and you need to stand up to get the right gun angle to shoot. The big bruise on his bicep shows that something wasn’t right at the moment of truth. So off to lunch we went.
After our brief respite we were back at it again. This time I staked the full strut tom with sticks on each side of the fan. The wind wasn’t extreme but it was noticeable. After an hour wait a gobble was heard to the west and it was coming closer. This bird gobbled 40 – 50 times in an hours’ time but we never saw it. I tried clucking, purring, kee kee runs and cutting. I used a box call a mouth call a slate call and gobbling (we were on private property so gobbling wasn’t an issue, if you’re on state land it’s not advisable safety wise). The bird would get so close that I thought we should be able to see it but the stream bed has many thick areas and the bird stayed hidden. Finally it became disinterested and left. About an hour an hour later we got a gobbler trot by, two decent birds gobbling now and then, moving steadily but not running, heading west to east from one horizon to the other.
Now it’s getting late in the day and the shadows are growing long. The wind has subsided to nothing and two hens enter the field for a snack before roosting. I watched them move from one side of the field to the other picking up insects and left over soy beans. Soon they’re joined by another pair and they calmly go on their way. As the sun dips behind the trees we’re near the two new birds start heading our way and are staring at the decoys. I glass the pair and spot a beard on the biggest bird. I text Joe and he confirms that one bird has a beard but he’s not sure if he wants to shoot this one, but he does. Thus ending our two day two bird Thumb hunt.