Triple Take – Three for Three
Turkey hunting. It stirs the emotions and the interests of many. It brings ho-hum to the minds of others. But it has become an anticipated annual event for me.
My kid is to blame for this. Seth became a fanatic about turkey hunting a few years ago. It had mild appeal to me before this, but since we lived in Northern Ohio, there was little game, and little interest from me and others who lived there.
Then God made a change in our lives, bringing us to West central Illinois. Right in the heart of some of the best deer hunting and turkey hunting that could be found.
A few half-hearted and ignorant attempts at turkey hunting brought me no results. But a visit from my son and a friend piqued interest, escalated it, and then multiplied it. Both Seth and John were able to harvest birds that year that we hunted in IL. And my friend Dan helped me sneak up on a bird, and I harvested him from a strut zone with 7 minutes to spare for the day, and on the next to the last day of hunting for me that year in Illinois. Though he was light in weight, he had 1 5/16″ spurs and a scraggly 10 1/2″ beard.
The next year brought a dogged determination on my part to harvest one on my own. I scouted a farm were I was granted permission to hunt. I located birds, set up on them and called them, but each day they seemed to fly down and go another way. One morning they had magically disappeared! No gobbles or any other sounds that morning. The last day, I set up late with decoys due to rain. I called to the gobblers roosting in trees to my West, and when they flew down, they came my way. My Mossberg 9200 spoke, and I had my first personally called in gobbler! He was a nice 22 lb bird. Then on to Michigan to hunt with Seth during their season. God blessed and I harvested a nice bird that came in silent to my calling. He weighed in at 21 pounds.
Last year I was in a different state during the spring turkey hunting season, and did not get to hunt them again until moving to Iowa in mid summer. I hunted last fall during the fall season, taking a young hen on the first day. But she did come to my call. I was learning.
I was excited about this seasons’ possibilities. My Heavenly Father has blessed me in serving a church in Iowa. This is my home state. We have lots of farm families in our church. I have been given permission to hunt on lots of land. Much of this prime farm land is ideal turkey habitat.
I relax by getting outdoors. I scouted different places on several different days as my means of getting away. I located some really nice birds, learning their habits. Scouting is essential to success in most hunting situations. There is no substitute for it, and for the experience in hunting on specific property and places.
Opening of the 2004 turkey season I was as excited as my first time hunting. I got out early. I set up my pop up blind, the one my wife gave me for Christmas last year. I then set out 4 inflatable decoys, facing me for the most part. I had been told that birds, especially gobblers, like to get “in the face” of their younger “jake” counterparts. The jake decoy was set at 25 yards to help me estimate the range on my shots.
Before shooting hours thunderous gobbles came from a draw near me. I had known from scouting they often roosted there. I clearly heard at least 3 different birds. Then a hen started cutting, yelping, and clucking. She was really loud! I thought, “I have a human competitor that has slipped in on the next property.” Every call brought loud ringing gobbles! “Fired Up!” barely describes it.
At the exact minute we could shoot, like she could read the clock, the dominant hen flew down. Right into my setup of decoys! She headed for the upright hen decoy and began to fight it, clucking, pecking it, and making several aggressive sounds.
I heard another bird fly down! It was a tom, a longbeard, that walked right to the edge of my spread. He hung up there for a time, just out of range!
In the meantime, the show with the boss hen continued. She continued pecking the head of the upright hen decoy. I was afraid she would puncture it. Then she beat it with her wings, and tried to push it down to a submissive , breeding stance. Next she engendered a sex change identity and tried to breed it!! At this point, the decoy came off it’s mounting peg and fell to the ground, on its side. Talk about a confused bird! She stood, trying to understand why this “turkey” was lying there on its side. Finally, she moved on to beat up on, intimidate, and dominate one of the feeding decoys.
The gobbler decided to walk in and have a little “face to face” discussion with the jake. I could not decide what to do! 16 minutes into a new season. First day. First season. Not the “Big Boy” I had seen at least 3 times. But the old adage, “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush” came to mind, and I lined him up and put him down. Thank you Lord, for sharing one of your creatures with me.
Number two was in MI, hunting with my son, Seth, and my long time friend, Gary Anderson. He is the head of Baptist Mid Missions of Cleveland, Ohio. We attended college and then seminary together. I helped him get involved in hunting. He reminded me last fall while on a pheasant hunt that we had been hunting together over 30 years. Time does fly!
We hunted on the first Thursday of Michigan’s season, hunting on private land. Seth served as our guide. He has competed in several calling contests over the last few years. He has not placed first yet, but always is highly rated. The turkeys don’t go to those contests any way.
We hunted early in the day, and then moved at mid day to the same property where I had harvested the MI bird two years before. Many think turkey hunting is only a morning game. But where it is legal, it can be productive most of the day. The only exception is that Seth says, “I have had very little success from 2-4 in the afternoon. I think they find places to rest where they can avoid the midday heat.”
I decided to set up where I had been two years earlier. Completely camouflaged, essential for turkey hunting, I picked a low spot at the base of a tree, facing the West. I got out the new call. Seth and Trish had given it to me for my birthday. It is a custom call, called a Shallow Rio, hand made in Ravenna, MI, Seth and Trisha’s home town.
I had been sitting for about ten minutes, having called as soon as I sat. I had put down the box call and taken out a slate call I like. I used it to quietly purr, yelp, and cut some. I watched in front of me. Something caused me to slowly turn my head to my left! Something large and dark is there, and I am barely able to see it. I know it is a longbeard! And I think, “BUSTED.” I slowly, quietly, put down the slate call and move the gun around and up. He gets alarmed at the movement! I am able to get the gun around, get the sights on hid head, and put him down. Biggest bird yet, weight wise. 22 1/2 pounds. 10″ beard, and 1″ spurs that are hooking. Thanks again Lord. Double Take, will it be a Triple Take?
Back in Iowa, I am able to get out the evening of the second day of our 4th season. I am late in the day, as I have to traveled to provide care for one of our families during a critical surgery for one of their family members. My wife has decided to go shopping, so I decided to go hunting! Sounds good to me.
I set up about 200 yards from where I was opening day. This time I set up in a fence row. I back up to a tree after setting out a jake decoy and two hens, one feeding and one upright. The upright one had survived the assault of the boss hen on opening day. I use a ground blind to surround me and to further disguise my form and movements. It was twenty till six in the evening. I am glad we can hunt the full day here in Iowa.
After calling for 20 minutes I spot movement to my right. It is a turkey! But it takes a minute to clear a lone multi floral rose bush. It is a jake boy. Yep! He came in to get some action! Quiet. No gobbles. No cuts. No other vocalization. I pass on him. The Big Boy is still here some place. And he eventually walks away.
Twice in the next hour I think I hear distant gobbles to my South and East. No other action.
The hour passes. I catch movement to my West. It is across freshly planted corn field. This field had been in beans last year. The bird displays! It is a gobbler He looks big! I convince myself that it is him, the Big Boy! I realize he has seen my dekes. So I quietly call to him. Hen sounds only. Clucks. Purrs. And VERY SOFT yelps. He comes part of the way. He struts. He comes a little closer. I talk turkey to him, and then he decides its worth it. He’s coming in. I step it off later, and it is 350 yards!!
I wait for him to go down into a low draw. I get my Mossberg 9200 up and in the ready position. I put the bead on the jake. I think he will come to dominate the jake before he makes love to the hens. I chose correctly. There he is! Up into my view comes that big, bright, head. These turkeys change the color of their heads according to their emotions. His is almost white right down to his wattles. After looking him over, and convincing myself that it is “HIM”, I squeeze the trigger. TRIPLE TAKE! Thank you Jesus, for this success.
As I walk up to him, admiring again his beauty, I realize that it is NOT “HIM”. The Big Boy still walks. But it is still a nice bird. Probably a two year old. He weighs in at 21 pounds, with 9 1/2″ beard and almost 1″ spurs. What a great year! A friend told me of a man he knows that hunted 12 years before taking his first bird, and Dan helped him get that one.
What a year! God is good. And someone added recently “All the time!” I agree.
Hunting is a great hobby. Some don’t like it because you have to kill the animal. That is not the real thrill for most of us, but it is a necessary part of the process. It is difficult to eat one on the run!
By my Heavenly Father has given us “all things richly to enjoy,” and that includes his creatures. I am thankful to be his child. I have been adopted into his family by receiving his Son, Jesus Christ, as my Lord and my Savior. I was saved at age 6. God’s presence and comfort have been with me ever since. He would love for you to receive his forgiveness, provided in his Son Jesus as well. If I can help, let me know. You can contact me at the email address on this website.
Jack McCullough, Monroe, IA
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