Patience pays in the turkey woods

Dan Braman

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  • Category Turkey Hunting
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  • Prostaff Member Dan Braman

After some serious negotiations I finally received permission to hunt some property about 35 miles west of where I live. This property is typical south Texas brush country with draws running through the thorn-infested hills.

The ranch foreman met us at a service station at 5:15 in the morning so he could unlock the gate for us. At 5:30AM we were putting our vests on as the first shades of light began to grace the eastern horizon. The draw we were hunting ran from northwest to southeast covered in small to medium size live oak trees. We chose to walk southeast as the wind was blowing and this would give us a better chance at hearing the morning gobbles.

After about four hundred yards we stopped and I blew my owl call. We heard nothing as we looked at each other with an almost desperate look. What could be wrong; we know they are here. I blew the call again and it happened. Around three hundred yards in front of us a gobbler shattered the morning silence with what we were waiting to hear. Silently as possible we crept towards the bird. In south Texas this can be difficult as the brush is low and being sky lighted is always a possibility.

Using whatever cover we could find (at one point we used an old deer blind) we moved in the direction of the bird. As we got closer the bird was gobbling on his own about every thirty seconds, with other birds doing the same in the distance. Within 150 yards of the bird we found where two old roads intersected above the draw. I figured that the bird would most likely fly down into this road to avoid having to fly down into the ever so thick brush that lies on both sides of the draw. With this in mind, I opted to set forty yards down the road that ran parallel to the draw. This would enable us to be out of sight when he landed; yet he would be in range the minute he came around the corner.

We sat down and I played a very soft tree yelp or two to the gobbler; just to say, Hey big boy I’m here. Immediately, his gobbling doubled and I knew he heard me. I sat there without a sound for the next 20 minutes waiting for fly down. Just when I thought this bird was going to sit in the tree all day long I heard his wing flap and my heart started to pound. No matter how many years I have guided hunters or hunted myself I always second-guess myself at this moment. Did I set up right? Am I too close to the intersection? Is there something shinning on my face? Is my hunter in a position to shoot? All of these things raced through my mind in the 3 to 5 seconds it took for the bird to reach the ground. I felt a little better when I heard the big tom land and gobble within feet of where I thought he would.

He stood there gobbling for a couple minutes as I answered him sparingly. I have always been a firm believer that calling less is better. Though each time I called to him he answered he wouldn't budge. Should I move and reset? Should I wait him out? This is when I always have to remember Walter Parrot telling me, “ Patience is the most important aspect of hunting turkeys.” “ Let the turkey make his move before you make yours.” So, we waited. Sometime around 35 minutes into the ordeal the bird slowly started walking away gobbling as he went. The turkey had made his move; it was time for me to make mine.

There happened to be a fencerow that I didn't know about that ran parallel to the draw just below the road we were on. The gobbler walked the fence line and we walked the road. Moving at a fast pace to get ahead of him we came across a draw that ran perpendicular to the fence he was one. I surmised that the tom would get to that draw and walk down it to the big opening near where we were. I thought for sure it was his strut zone. Again we set up; this time I added a decoy to the mix. Ok, my clients in position, the sun is not perfectly to our back but there is a huge oak tree giving us good shade. With my box call I played a string of clucks and yelps.

Gobbling as much a turkey can gobble he closed the distance. I could tell he had made it to the draw we were on and hung up right there. Yelp, cluck, cut, purr on my end, gobble gobble on his end; the distance between us stayed the same. This could have something to do with my client dropping his gun TWICE. It's funny how loud something can be when it's not supposed to happen. It didn't seem to phase the birds though because now there are two toms within 75 yards of us and both hung up.

With my mind racing for a solution I looked to my left and up the old road to see if there was a clear cut headed in their direction. Sure enough I could vaguely see what I thought was an old grown up road running in their direction. They have to be on that road!!! I crawled up to my client and suggest that we move up close to that intersection. Taking great caution to move as silently as possible we set up again. I didn't like this set up. I couldn't see the bird if he approaches. I couldn't see my client at all. This was an act of desperation and I didn't like it.

The outfitting business that I work for has a very stiff policy about not taking any animal that's not mature. Turkeys are not an exception. All I pictured in my mind was a silent jake hanging out with the big boy gobbling. He would be the first to walk out and I would really have messed up. Sometimes bad judgment calls happen but I had purposely put myself in a place where I couldn't make a judgment call at all. My client is an avid turkey hunter and he knows we don't shoot jakes. I had a tough time convincing myself of this but it was all I had.

My fears started to fade when I yelp softly and heard a gobble 45 yards away. I am now waiting for the shot; 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 30, and nothing. I can't see and I don't like it. What's going on? Finally the gun went off, startled, relieved, panicked, happy, what am I. Stretching my neck just like a turkey does I am trying to see what has happened. I see nothing but my clients face looking at me with a huge smile on his face. PHEW!!!!! He must have got him. He did and what a turkey he was. 11-½ inch beard, his spurs were both 1-¼ inches long. At 20 pounds he was a good weight for a rio.

This is a perfect case scenario on just how important it is to know the land your hunting before you actually hunt it. I didn't have permission to even be on the property until the morning of the hunt. So, I got really lucky in finding the draw and the old grown up roads. It likewise didn't hurt to have Walter Parrot's words ringing in my ears saying to let the turkey make his move first. It was truly a great hunt and hopefully one that my client will relish in his memory as it will certainly be relished in mine.

Posted by Dan Braman under Turkey Hunting on May 24, 10 01:17 PM | Permalink

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