The Wary Warrior

Posted on April 27, 2021

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By Guest Blogger, Hart L. Daley

 

 

The turkey hunters exert painstaking effort, as they plan to embark on their quest to outwit the wary old mossy head. They enter their hunting area in stealth, under the cover of darkness. As they sit motionless in the slowly awakening morning light, the silence is deafening. They wait patiently, with eager anticipation and a tinge of nervous doubt. The feeling is likened to the innocent child, waking on a Christmas morn, wondering if Santa really came, then rounding the corner and feeling the excitement of their heart leaping in their chest, when they spy the beautifully wrapped surprises! So feels the turkey hunter at the first pre-dawn gobble.

This venture into the turkey woods was no different, as my longtime friend and hunting partner, R.G. Bernier and I crept forth in the darkness to set up for what would prove to be an exhilarating and epic day!

Once we reached our destination at the edge of the sprawling and beautifully rolling lush green farm field, RG set about staking out his decoys (or dummy’s as he likes to dub them). He prepared a breeding hen and jake ensemble that no love lust Tom could refuse if he happened to lay eyes upon them. While he was busy with his task, I was scouring the old stalwart stonewall border along the edge of this field for a perfect ambush site and vantage point to position our comfy turkey loungers.

 

 

As we both settled into our hide, we heard the distant and unsolicited gobbles of some roosted birds thundering from behind us on our left and right. We continued listening intently and just before shooting light was upon us, we began offering some fly-down cackles and subtle yelps for our inquisitive limb dwellers. The response was instantaneous! It sounded as though there were four eager participants.

I know better now, after many years of hunting these wild and wary turkeys, that this situation we found ourselves in is in no way a guarantee we’d be placing a bead on a bird. However, in my wishful silent thoughts, I secretly hoped they’d simply “come a runnin”. But as it happened, and it happens often, the chatty boys suddenly developed an immediate onset of laryngitis, and a silent hush fell about the field.

Now the game of chess was on. I would send out a series of yelps and wait for fifteen or twenty minutes, then RG would send out a few enticing calls. We repeated this sequence for the next two hours without hearing a gobble, yelp, or cluck. We were enveloped in silence. So, we sat patiently, motionless, silent, and yes, a bit dejected. Suddenly, out of nowhere, and without any coaxing on our part, came a lone deep gobble far off in the field to my right.

 

 

Now I must impart upon you the graciousness of my dear friend RG. You see, he had already tagged on a beautiful mature tom prior to accompanying me on this hunt. Unselfishly, he had predetermined it would be my bird to take on this excursion. He can be a stubborn bloke at times, and he assured me there would be “no bones about it”, he would not even raise his shotgun until I had successfully bagged the next long beard, unless of course two mature limb hangers arrived on the scene!

I slowly rotated my head and looked down the field. There, over 200 yards distant, stood a solitary mature long beard, standing on the rise of a rolling field mound, displaying grandly in full strut. The early morning light reflected a glorious sheen off his bronze feathers and his head was a brilliant bright red! I repositioned the diaphragm call against the roof of my mouth and let out a series of yelps. I was mortified as my dry mouth created a squeaky, sort of raspy foreign noise. This can sometimes be a deal breaker, all it might take to send a gobbler skulking back from whence he came, but fortunately, this time it did not prove disastrous.

 

 

This stunning bird strutted left, then right, and would then shuffle sideways a foot or two in our direction, but he was in no hurry to close the gap. I continued to softly cluck and yelp in my efforts to keep his interest. It was clear he could see the decoy setup from his vantage point, but he was a wary old warrior and was not prone to making mistakes.

As the Tom continued slowly sidestepping in our direction, he eventually dropped off the rolling mound into a depression and remained silent and out of site. We did not dare move a muscle! After many tense minutes, he suddenly rose from the gully like a phoenix from the ashes and was staring directly at me and RG from about 40 yards away! RG later told me he was wondering if I were ever going to raise my shotgun into a position to shoot, but I knew at that point, if I even flinched, I’d be busted, and the hunt would be over.

 

 

Then, without any warning, this patient, slow moving giant of a bird suddenly snapped his gaze from us to the decoys and began running at break-neck speed in their direction. As he passed in front of us like a 20-pound blur, I shifted my body to the left, and in one motion, raised my shotgun to my shoulder and pressed my cheek against the stock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The warrior was in full battle mode as he sprinted up to the jake decoy and violently jumped, extending his powerful beating wings, and driving his battle worn spurs right into the body of his imitation foe! The huge Tom leapt completely over the top of the hen and jake and landed behind them facing directly away from us. As his prehistoric feet hit the ground, I unleashed a volley of pellets from my tried-and-true Benelli shotgun into the base of his head. For a fraction of a second, that old Mossy head must have thought that young jake packed one heck of a punch! The wary old long beard instantly hit the ground as his days of love and war were now extinguished. This incredible feathered king was a 5-year-old warrior. He weighed 21 lbs., had a beautiful full fan, and sported a 9 1/2” beard and 1 1/2” spurs.

 

 

This hunt, for many personal reasons, will remain one of the greatest memories in my lifetime of hunting adventures, all thanks to God and my incredible friend, RG! Patience, knowledge, woodsmanship, marksmanship, experience and a smidgen of luck are all needed to remain consistently successful when pursuing the mature bronze feathered long beard, and it was our good fortune, on this spectacular morning, that it all fell upon us on this incredible memorable hunt!

 

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Posted in: Guest Blog, Turkey