There we were: Day One of our quest to harvest the beautiful black turkey of Wisconsin. My guide, Scott, had gotten me in range of a majestic long beard on the first day. However my aim would not find its way home to capture the elusive bird. The disappointment on Scott’s face paled in comparison to what I felt when the bird flew off. The sound of flight mocking me, taunting me… I knew I needed to find a way to make it up to him and to myself.
Morning, Day Two: It seemed all odds were against us when, while setting up for the morning fly-down from roost, we had visitors. A few deer had made their way from the cover of night in the deep woods to the field’s edge where Scott and I were perched, waiting in anticipation. Though it was a magnificent moment in nature, it was quite distracting from our objective. For about ten tense minutes, the deer hung around trying to figure out what the strange shapes lurking in the dim light were when they finally moved on… Moved on- sure… Done investigating- not yet. Once the deer got downwind and caught our scent, our worst fear happened- the doe snorted her warning of danger for anything within earshot to hear.
We decided shortly thereafter to move to a different location. After spending the morning getting close and getting busted by other turkeys, we wanted to get a bite to eat and have a game plan for the rest of the day. After getting some much needed nourishment, it seemed to spark a new attitude and give a fresh perspective for the rest of the day. Day Three was not looking like favorable weather, so we needed to make something happen.
We continued to chase calls of promise and only to find disappointment when they were broken. On the way back to the truck with our heads hung low with shame, Scott decided to take one last look over the nearby hill into an open field. He went to the field edge to see if anything was wandering about and made one last plea for a response with his trusty slate. Suddenly, we heard another call of promise from yet another “tom.” A plan was formed to outsmart the bird, which had made fools of us… until now.
We risked being detected and darted across a field, leaving us unconcealed. Luck was on our side– neither bird nor deer saw us to warn others. We made it to the far side of the field and again heard the sound of the elusive bird cry out. Somehow this gobble sounded not like a promise, but rather a call of redemption. Scott and I set up along the woods’ edge to shock the timid turkey. A few yelps from Scott’s slate call made the bird aware of a possible hen in the area, or so we tricked him into thinking. Love was in the air. Could she be the one? Unknown to the “tom,” it was a promise to him which would be broken.
The “tom” walked in like he was on a tightrope to the sound of a potential mate. When he made the corner and did not see his mate, he became suspicious. Have I been stood up again? So he decided to walk into the woods to see if she was playing hard to get. Could she be around this tree or that tree? She was nowhere to be seen.
When I realized where my last-chance bird was heading, I realized I was out of position and that he was moving around behind me. I would not get a shot and would fail in my quest. I decided to take yet another risk and make the turn to get a better angle on him as he grew more suspicious. As I twisted my body and swung my gun to the right, I began wondering if I would need to shoot him left handed. Could I do it in time? Suddenly, there he was, no longer looking for his mate, but looking at something strange. I would have to shoot him right handed but twist as much as possible to get the barrel on him.
After two days of broken promises, be it by deer or by turkeys, I would not allow it again. As the timid “tom” got more and more nervous looking at this strange figure, he began to make a warning noise that meant only one thing. BOOM! Redemption.
Once the shot rang out, I found myself falling backwards from the kick of the gun. I sat up and looked at Scott unaware if I had hit the bird. When I took the shot, the bird was in some tall weeds bobbing his head up and down. Scott walked over to the scene of the bird’s demise. “There he is!” Scott called out. “You got him this time!” I ran over to see the proof for myself. Sure enough, the bird was down. I had done it. I redeemed myself from the failed shot the day before and made my guide proud. Always remember, persistence in your game pays off.
I would like to thank Scott Kirkpatrick, owner of Buffalo County Outfitters, for the assist on this bird.
Check out my pictures and others at www.buffalocountyoutfitters.com. I hope all have enjoyed my version of the story.