A Close Call with Tom

Today was the first day of my selected Minnesota turkey season, a time I look forward to annually with great anticipation for reasons not understood by non-hunters and avid city dwellers. It’s a time that offers a recharge to energies that have been drained during the last 5 months of mostly missing Mother Nature’s wild outdoors. For the last few days I’ve driven, glassed, walked, looked and called to any birds willing to either answer or show themselves. A heavy rain canceled plans yesterday and left roads gooey and slick. But the night before I watched 2 toms showing their very best for 3 hens who ignored their efforts but to me it offered promise, the beginning of a plan and at the very least I knew there were birds in the area. Last night the turkey vest was carefully laid out. Slate calls checked, strikers roughed up, ElimiTick facemask and camo gloves pocketed. The 3 1/2 inch shells in vest loops and improved cylinder choke exchanged for one full. Danner boots were oiled and tick socks made ready and ElimiTick clothes laid out for the 4:30 alarm. Coffee and sandwiches all set too.

As is usually the case I beat the alarm by 40 min. Still dark so just a bit longer I thought. Alarm’s about to go off but I’m here with Snap and Belle and they’re sound asleep so I simply turned it off and stayed in bed a bit longer. An hour past wake up time the thought was hmmm better get goin’ now. At this new later time driving through town heading to my selected WMA the temp read 37 degrees. (For MN Legislators a WMA is the same public land you want to end funding for) It was 6:30 as the truck was parked in the designated area. As soon as the door was opened roosters crowed followed immediately by 2 different shock gobbles and really close. Immediately it put me in a hurry-up mode. More rooster crowing and more gobbles along with honking geese. The morning was bright with a blue sky, no wind and everything was filled with spring noises. Upset with myself now for not getting up the vest was shouldered and snapped, the semi-auto Browning uncased, pulled on a camo facemask and headed toward the gobbling which was in the exact opposite direction of my pre-made plan. Suddenly through brush 3 birds were moving along the opening edge. Thinking they may have been toms I found a place to sit digging into a vest pocket for a call. Yelps had no replies and gobbling had gotten quiet. I had laid in bed too long messing today up, or so I thought. About 10 minutes passed my decision to revert to the original plan was made and stood up. Ooops busted by 4 hens I hadn’t seen that sounded the loud alarm call as they scurried away. Now another plan change I’m going to go in the direction of the gobbles, set up and enjoy the rest of the morning and tomorrow will be a new day getting up on time. Knowing there’s a small clearing ahead with a ditch there too it would be a good place to sit and enjoy the morning. Next came decoys, 2- a hen and a jake placed looking away hoping by chance it might be seen. A plan? Not sure but it couldn’t get worse. Experience has taught me the ground is hard and trees seldom make very good backrests so I carry a Cabela’s short-legged folding turkey chair rigged with a cheap gun sling. It’s comfy and does the trick. The minutes passed and the morning was glorious with geese, roosters, sand hill cranes, peeping woodies in flight and various critters announcing themselves with spring’s message. Once in a while a gobble too. I called but no response. Five deer crossed and suddenly movement caught my eye. Trying to move eyes only a hen stepped into view, then another and another. All total the count was 6 and they now had my undivided attention but they were on the opposite ditch bank as were the decoys. With a soft yelp I got their attention and they froze like decoys themselves. Again maybe 5 minutes passed without a twitch. Mother Nature is so cool I thought then they began their parade toward me again. A gobble could be heard in the distance but the hens showed no interest. Pecking at seeds or bugs as they walked and I watched. Closer and closer now almost on the decoys seeming to show zero interest in my fake birds. Then movement to my right on the side I sat. Looking it was another bird and close about ten yards away. Then his tail came up noticing too the blue and white head. A tom but maybe a jake. I had decided not to shoot a young one. Looking for the tell-tail notch in the fan there was none it was an adult bird. He came closer,

closer going in and out of full strut. The closer he got the more I could see that he was a dandy, definitely a shooter. Not even blinking myself I could feel the adrenalin rush, breathing seemed to stop and suddenly he was close so close I actually saw him blink. Maybe 3 yards away his undivided attention was on the decoys with the real hens having slipped back into the woods. Suddenly he disappeared down the bank to the ditch edge giving time to raise the gun just as he reappeared on the other side. Safe off now about 6-7 yards away, bead on the head and squeeze. The shot was loud I’m sure but I only vaguely remember that as he rolled backward and out of sight. As I stood up the empty was still smoking in the grass and the tom was floating downstream with the current. In a hurry I cut it off stepping into the water with no thought to how deep it might be but the bottom became hard as it got to my knees. Grabbing him by the feet he offered the classic death flop and lifted him up the other side. As he’s laid in the grass the sun reflected the brilliance of his feathers and the genuine respect I have for all I hunt came pouring out. He is truly an elegant bird but today I have bested him! There will be more though because it is the way of nature and the hunter too! Funny thing is the boots filled with water really didn’t matter at all!

My tag is now filled and it’s been a great day I will never forget making a memory to last a lifetime! That is, after all what hunting is all about? It is for me how about you?


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