Seven Day Quest for the Old Man (part I)

Posted on May 24, 2011


Seven Day Quest For The Old Man

(Part I)

“I have long believed that in wild nature you will find as many real personalities as you are likely to find
in human life. The longer a wild creature lives, especially an intelligent big-game one, and the more he is hunted, the more certain he is to develop an individuality that is distinct…but just as all men are created unequal, so many of nature’s children are either created, or else become, far superior to their fellows.”               – Archibald Rutledge – Turkey-Hunting Tales

When I spotted him for the first time he was nonchalantly standing next to an old fence during a persistent drizzle. I think I was more surprised by the encounter than him as the old bronzed man showed little haste in his departure. That’s the way it is with
gentlemen, they move with an air of dignified confidence; and judging by the bird’s size, he’d been around long enough to gauge his best escape. It was at that first meeting I determined this was a worthy antagonist to pit my turkey hunting savvy up against for however many days it may take. And beyond making for a great adventure, I wanted that specific bird.

Day 1

Is it not the most humbling of experiences when, despite your best laid plans, even after careful thought and preparation you’re made to look more silly than tripping over your own boot lace in front of a crowd? In the predawn darkness of the next morning I
silently made my way along the edge of a long field bordered by the woods line; the forest where stately pines towered above deciduous oak, maple and birch, pines that I believed roosted the gobbler I was after.

Once setting my dummies (inflatable decoys) I carved out a spot up against an ancient rock wall built long ago by original settlers and began my vigil. At 5 A. M. sharp, a cacophony of gobbling erupted on the hill behind me unlike I’d ever heard before. For
full 15-minutes the concert ensued with notes I didn’t even know turkeys could hit with the crescendo being the fly down cackle. Unfortunately for me, the birds pitched down in the direct opposite direction and continued to move further away with each subsequent gobble; that despite my most pleading hen yelps.

Who knows what’s in the mind of a wild gobbler or why they act the way they do, but this I knew for sure, after two painfully long, uneventful hours of watchful waiting, there was something much more attractive to these birds then my calls and dummies and I needed to find out what. Striking out in the direction I believed the birds to have gone took nearly an hour. This was due chiefly to applying stealth and negotiating the terrain. Reaching an intimately hidden field where I believe the birds had hit the ground I stopped to listen, and then gave a few short yelps with no response.

Slowly, I walked the edge of this field however, not slow enough. As I came around a pile of wooded debris I spotted a flock of Jakes. Freezing in place only further indemnified my intrusion and caused the raucous of alarm putts to begin emanating from this
youthful fraternity. Gradually, I backed up and instantly began looking for a spot to set-up as quietly as possible. Ten minutes later, after locating a place to hide I began softly calling half hoping that these birds didn’t really see me, and half hoping they were as dumb as I felt at this very moment. It was not to be, turkeys, more so than any other game animal miss nothing that moves
and that includes a well camouflaged guy that wants to take their life.

Day 2

Well before the amber glow of morning’s first ray of light I slipped into the small field, sat down with my back against a maple to wait with hopeful expectations. Just like clockwork, at 5 A.M. on the nose the first gobble radiated from the trees. Following that
‘good morning’ herald, the rest of the gang began chiming in and before long, the noise was even more intense than the morning before. This time there was yelps and hen clucks intermingled that only served to intensify the gobbles.

I purposely did not set out any dummies nor did I call; my operation was of a covert nature, really it was to be a surprise attack. And here he came; vaulting out of his nightly lair the Old Man hit the field at the far edge, well out of shotgun range. He wasn’t on
the ground long before disappearing out of my sight like the thread of a beautiful dream.

For the rest of the morning I made several set-ups within his territory to no avail, he never gobbled again or showed himself.

Day 3

Not wanting to further educate what I believe was one astute bird that had read the book of elusiveness and perhaps even memorized it, I opted to make my play in another field just east of where the old boy was sleeping. As turkey set-ups go this really was absolutely genius, even if I should say so myself. I placed two hen dummies 15-yards from where I sat between two six foot Scotch pines that served to hide me almost completely. There was an old two-track being used by both turkeys and deer that led to an upper field directly across from me and no more than 40-yards distance. With a marsh between this field and where the Old Man slept, the old road was a sure bet for his entrance, or so I thought.

Following the opening monologue of gobbling from the roost, the birds hit the ground and completely shut up seemingly scattering in different directions; every route but where I was camped. After a couple hours of sporadic calling finally, and with great haste
three birds emerged from the old trail heading straight for my dummies.

The first to arrive was the biggest of the three hens and she, looking rather perturbed walked right up to one of the decoys, stretched her head up to the fake’s height and stared straight into the lifeless form. It was as if she was attempting to intimidate
what she perceived to be an intruder.

I watched with great interest as this trio fed all around the dummies for nearly 45-minutes. I figured it can’t hurt to have the real thing acting as decoys. At one point one of the hens actually walked within a foot of my gun barrel, looked me all over from a
variety of angles and then continued to feed as if I was just part of the landscape.

After the ladies departed I finally got up due primarily to a sore derriere. As I emerged from my concealed fortress I spotted him; at the farthest and highest point in the field he stood, as if on his throne holding court looking directly down at me. After calling
myself everything but a turkey hunter I immediately sat back down and began calling…fat chance he’s coming! It was beginning to seem that he was playing with me, taunting if you will with no real fear that I had what it took to get him.

(Stay tuned for the next blog entry as the story concludes.)

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