Over the many years that I have been hunting and fishing, there have been moments in time where the big one got away. I am sure it has happened to all of us, and it is going to happen again if we keep doing what we love. I know in my case this has happened a lot over the years, and I some cases it has been my fault. Others, I don’t think I could have prevented it no matter what I would have done.
After getting home from my Kansas trip and getting everything put up, I worked a couple of days and decided that I would spend the last day of turkey season at my hunting club. The weather forecast looked good and it wasn’t supposed to get too hot. In talking to some of the guys in the club no one had been down there hunting since the last time that I was there. So I left the house that morning around 4 a.m. to get there well before daylight. As usual, when I went through the gate the sun was starting to peek its head over the horizon higher than it was supposed to be. I don’t care how early I leave but the sun is going to be coming up when I get there no matter what. I still made it to where I wanted to be in time to hear Mother Nature start waking up in only the way she can. I can sit on my back deck or on the lake and listen as the sun comes up, but there is nothing like listening to all of the critters waking up while anticipating that lone gobbler to sound off. I guess I could have been just appreciating it a little more since this was the last time this year I was going to be blessed enough to experience it.
After waiting around on a gobble for a little while with no luck, I started easing my way back toward the river in hopes of hearing something back that way. I had made it about two hundred yards when I heard the bird from the direction I had just come from. For a bird that didn’t gobble at first light, when he did start gobbling, he sure liked what he was doing. He wasn’t exactly where I thought he was going to be but he was across the road from there next to the pasture. With him gobbling every other breath, it gave me a chance to get around on him and as close to him as possible. The only place I really had to set up was in some thin cut pines that had been burnt this spring and I wasn’t sure I could get him to come through them. The good thing was that I was above him and that is always a good thing in my book. I hid behind a small bush after setting up my decoy and when I made my first call he answered immediately. For about thirty minutes he didn’t come toward me at all he just kept going up and down an old logging road that I had wished I was on.
We played the same game for about thirty minutes and he had stopped gobbling as much. I knew he knew where I was so I just shut up for a while and was thinking about where to try and move to next without getting busted. Having not heard him gobble in a while, I decided to call one more time before moving. When I did, I got an instant answer and he was right in front of me just over the rise. My heart immediately went into overdrive and his white head appeared not forty-five yards in front of me. I had the decoy set out about fifteen yards straight in between where he had been gobbling and where I was set up. When he did appear he was heading around to my right and that’s not where I wanted him to go. Where I had set up there was not a lot of cover where they had burned and I had planned on him coming straight at me or from my left. With him coming around to my right I didn’t have any cover on that side of me and was afraid he might see me. Well, doing what a turkey always does, he came around to my right where I didn’t want him to be and he was in range the whole time. I held off on shooting him because he was in the smaller pines and it wasn’t the best shot in the world at forty yards. I was just waiting on him to come into the opening and head to the decoy. While he was in the middle of strutting, he just came out of it, stuck his head straight up and turned and ran off. That quick and it was over! I knew I didn’t have a lot of cover on my right side but I didn’t think I looked like a neon sign, either; but he must have thought so. So I sat there for about five minutes in disbelief and kicking myself for getting that turkey to forty yards and not killing him.
Now, that is one of the hunts I am adding to the list of ones that will keep haunting me. I ended up getting on some more birds that morning - and even got that bird to gobble later on in the day - but I went home empty-handed on the last day of the season. For it to be the last day of the season and to have turkeys gobbling all day, I was happy to go home without one because now I will get to hunt all of them again next year!