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- Prostaff Member Dan Braman
Our last group of the year was a group with Mossberg Shot Guns. They had bought a turkey/hog hunt to try our their new shot guns. This group consisted of Linda Powell, Mossberg's head of media relations and three outdoor writers. Linda and one of the writers would be hunting with me for turkey.
On the first morning, I wanted to hunt a bird on the far end of the ranch that Walter Parrot and I had listened to one morning a couple of weeks before. We arrived at the place before daylight and I blew my coyote howler. I tried for five minutes to get the bird to gobble so that I could set up on him but he never did. With daylight approaching quickly I moved to a field where I knew birds were roosting. As we set up the birds were already gobbling. We got ourselves tucked in under some brush near a fence close to where I usually watch these birds walk out. At fly down the gobbles went more or less silent. It is awfully late in the year for the birds to be with hens but that was sure what it sounded like. Calling sparingly for two hours I never saw anything and only heard two half hearted gobbles. I was getting ready to suggest to Linda and Holt that we move and try and find some birds when I noticed a tail fan to our right at about 400 yards. I looked through my binoculars and sure enough there were two birds in full strut. I looked to the left of them and there was a third. Thinking that we still had a chance I sat back down and started calling a little more aggressively. After a half an hour the birds never moved so I decided to sneak out of there and go find some more willing gobblers. As I stood up I saw what the problem had been all morning, standing with the gobblers were eight hens.
We got back in the truck and I started driving and glassing trying to locate a bird. Down here I feel like this is the best tactic after hunting a roost because there is so much country it would be impossible to take full advantage of it by walking. After about twenty minutes I found four jakes and two long beards by themselves about a thousand yards away. We moved in closer and set up along a gravel road. Knowing that these birds like to travel the roads when the grass is soaked from dew, I thought if we were on the edge the bird would come right in. I called with my slate call softly but nothing gobbled back at us. It wasn't long before one of the long beards made his way up onto the road and started our way. He came slowly stopping to flap his wings and strut. At forty yards, Holt took him. All were really excited and the hunt was beautiful with the sun turning the bird's breast feathers into a prism of color.
Mossberg Day 2
On the second morning I went to a roost area where I knew there were at least 25 gobblers. As we set up they were hammering away no more then 150 yards away. The birds must have gobbled 150 times but they never came our way. Finally after two hours they gobbled off out of hearing. After yesterday's experience I know they had hens with them. We jumped in the truck to start looking and didn't go a mile before we found two gobblers strutting in the road. We quickly moved the truck and came back to where we had last seen them. They had run off into the brush parallel to a pipeline. I figured of we set up on the brush where the pipeline and the road met they would either come out in the pipeline and come to us or come out in the road. On my first yelp they answered and started our way. I had positioned Linda so that she could shoot at towards the pipeline or the road. These birds came straight through the thickest brush you can imagine and started gobbling ten feet behind us. They were two close for us to turn on so we just sat there hoping they walk to the decoys. They ended up walking within three feet of our cameraman and started putting. I let them walk off to fifty yards and quietly called to them. They stopped and started coming again and just then a whitetail must have gotten downwind of us and started blowing. That was the end of that.
For the afternoon hunt I took Linda and Holt to the same hay field we had hunted on the first morning. I knew there were at least five gobblers in there and I also knew how three of them walked back to there roost. We had been there about an hour when I saw three tail fans in the grass about five hundred yards away. The wind was howling so there was no need in calling; but if these were the birds I had been watching for weeks they'd be close before long. Sure enough they crossed the road and went under the fence right where they always had. When they got to 250 yards I called to them and they gobbled and started strutting. At about 175 yards out they saw something they didn't like. I'm not sure of someone moved or if it were reflections off of eye glasses or what happened but they turned and walked away. I got more aggressive with the call and they started gobbling again. The toms made a semi-circle and started back in again, this time from our right. They got to 70 or 80 yards and hung up behind a mesquite tree. By now the hens had showed up and were standing next to my decoys pecking the decoys on the head. The gobblers walked around to behind our set up and were 25 yards away but we couldn't turn. Two more toms showed up and joined the gobbling. The birds stayed behind us drumming and gobbling for thirty minutes then slowly walked away tot here roost. So close yet so far.
Mossberg Day 3
This morning I set up on a roost and I got tight. We were inside 75 yards from the tree with five long beard gobbling to every owl or coyote. At fly down the birds gobbled and they were so close I could them drumming. After five minutes they walked out into the pipeline we were on and turned towards the decoys. Linda took a beautiful bird at 26 yards. We took photos and started driving and looking. As we turned a corner on a long ranch road I saw a gobbler way in front of us. As I was looking at him with my binoculars the hen he was with walked off the road to the right and he went left. This is perfect; we'll drive up to where they were unload our things and I'll hide the truck. We set up off the road to hide ourselves a little better and I called softly on my slate. A bird gobbled at least ¼ mile away but I knew it wasn't the one we had just seen. Although the bird in the distance was closing the gap I heard drumming really close. We couldn't see him with the brush in the way but we knew he was close. Finally he strutted into view walking down the road to an open area where we could see. Holt made a great shot at 22 yards and got his second and final bird for his hunt. We set up on another bird that morning trying to get Linda tagged out but it wasn't to be.
Mossberg Day 4
Found a roost before daylight and walked in to within 75 yards of the tree. It was a beautiful sight watching the old bird gobble from his limb. I made a soft tree yelp and he answered me. I went silent and figured this would all be over in just a few minutes. As the sun started to light the sky I saw one hen in the tree, then another and another. Man, I better think of something. I decided to play a fly down cackle with my mouth call in hopes that the gobbler would fly down early, before his hens. I knew if they flew down before him I was not going to have any luck. When he heard the fly down cackle he gobbled at least ten times back to back. Unfortunately he never flew down until his hens did and they flew straight in the opposite direction and out of sight. We started driving and looking and finally found birds about 10:30 AM strutting. There were three nice gobblers in the road so we drove around hide the truck and snuck in to set up. I couldn't get any closer then 300 yards without being busted so we set up. As soon as I called they answered and after 20 minutes I realized that they were not coming. I crawled on my stomach through water and thorns to move a decoy into a place that they could see it. The saw it and came our way at a dead run. They stopped at fifty yards and turned around and slowly walked back. Once again I crawled through water and moved the decoy even higher up on the road. This time they came again except now they were at 30 or 40 yards. Linda had a mesquite branch in her way and couldn't shoot. I couldn't see them but she later told me that if they had walked two more feet she had a shot. After they walked back I decided to move and reset up inside their comfort zone. We walked way around and snuck out to the edge. I called and they gobbled and walked off. I knew better but I didn't give up then. I moved on them again and set up even closer. Again they gobbled started our way and turned back around. I tried one more time but this time they were gone and silent. It was a long drive back to the lodge, I don't take failure easily.
I had one afternoon to get Linda a bird and also to make sure Mellon Creek Outfitters could still say that they were 100% on all species every year. I thought long and hard about where to set up and finally decided on an area called the Estaque Pens. This area had big oaks and big hackberry trees, plenty of water and good hard roads that they use for strutting. Also, I knew of two roosts in the area. HuntOnly's own Steve Johnson and Tom Bateman had taken three gobblers at the same location a few weeks prior. I set up in the exact spot that Steve, Tom and I had set up before. After about an hour two jakes walked out and seemed shy of the decoys. I was wondering why they were shy when all of a sudden I heard drumming coming from the left. At a full strut and coming fast was the biggest gobbler I'd seen all year. Linda steadied her shot gun as the bird slapped my decoy with his wings. She couldn't shoot because the bird was spurring the decoy so bad he wouldn't hold still. Finally, I putted loud enough that he raised his head and Linda got him. 11 inch beard with spurs over an inch and quarter long. We took to the last hour but we pulled it off.
Linda got the biggest gobbler of the season and Mellon Creek Outfitters can still say that since the very first client walked through the door seven years ago every single one has taken what they wanted. I am not certain of the exact numbers but it would be very safe to say that 220 deer hunters, 100 turkey hunters, 50 bobcat hunters, and twenty duck hunters, have all gotten their game.