I’ve been bluff charged by an elephant in Africa and narrowly escaped a real charge by an irate black bear sow when I inadvertently got between her and her cubs in Maine, but never in my wildest dreams did I believe I’d get charged by a big old long-bearded Montana gobbler!
It all started when my hunting partner, Tom, got permission to access some public land through a piece of private property owned by a friend of his. The public land boundary was just a couple hundred yards from his friend’s house, and his friend asked that we not shoot any birds on his property or on his adjoining neighbor’s properties. We agreed, delighted to gain access to the lightly, if rarely, hunted piece of public land surrounded by private land.
Open morning was perfect-well almost. I called three gobblers within 40 yards of the public land’s boundary, adjacent to one of his neighbor’s property. But no amount of cajoling, sweet talk and come hither calls would entice them to leave the hens and cross over onto the public land side. It was simply maddening, made more so by the fact that a ravine between the birds and our location would have allowed us to close the distance, making for a lay up shot. But private land is private land, and the rules are the rules, so Tom and I just watched as the hens lead the big boys away deeper into the private lands.
Late in the afternoon, thinking a strutting gobbler and a stranger to the area might attract the attention of the local boys, I set a full-bodied strutting gobbler decoy complete with a real turkey tail, who we’d nicknamed Romeo, on an open hillside. We waited, we called, and we watched, hoping one of the area’s long-beards might see him and come to investigate. As the end of legal shooting time approached, we’d not seen a single bird, so we picked up Romeo and called it a day.
Approaching the truck and not fifty yards from Tom’s friend’s house, we were completely surprised when we heard a gobble close by and from the ground. We figured all turkeys in the area had already gone to roost.
I couldn’t resist the chance to try Romeo out again, so Tom and I dropped to our knees and hid behind some thick bushy conifers that were right in front of us. Holding Romeo like a big hand puppet, I made a soft cluck with my mouth call. The response was aggressive and immediate. A few seconds later, not one but four mature Toms were headed our way. When they were 20 yards off, I made one very soft yelp and moved Romeo from side to side, staying on my knees behind him in the conifers. The gobblers stopped and began to circle, sizing up the bold and audacious stranger now in plain view.
I moved Romeo again and that’s when it happened. The lead gobbler, followed by his palace guard came on a dead run. They stopped at five yards. I moved Romeo again and…Katy bar the doors…the lead bird came heading right at me, blood in his eyes, all puffed up like a riled-up rattle snake and looking for a fight. He pulled up short at four feet, just as I expected impact, and threw his head serpentine-style right at Romeo and cut lose a gobble that about blew me over. I expected the enraged, 25 pound feathered warrior to land on top of me in the next instant. But he pulled his head back, looked quizzically at Romeo and waited for a response. When nothing happened, and old Romeo silently capitulated, he and his lieutenants walked away, stopping three times to look back.
After they disappeared, I turned to Tom, who was right behind me during the whole sequence.
“I saw it with my own eyes, but I still don’t believe it,” he said. “You could have killed him with a stick.”
As for Romeo, he was non-pulsed by the whole episode and didn’t say a word, but you can bet he’s going along on our next turkey hunt because he’s unflappable and one cool customer under fire! And most importantly… he works.
Please note that the author of this story was on private property very close to a house, where there were no other hunters and no chance of other hunters in the area. He strongly recommends that you do not try this in the woods.