Danged Ol’ Turkey Burds

March 21, 2013

So the turkey season opened on Saturday, and I found myself sitting around in the early morning after Kat had to go to San Antonio.  What to do? 

The rattling gobble of a jake turkey answered that question soon enough.  I tossed on a camo shirt, and dug around until I found my old box call.  The bow, as always, was right by the back door and away I went, headed to the big pasture where we’d been seeing the birds almost every day for the last couple of weeks. 

Now it only made sense to me that I’d leave Iggy in the fence, just like I do when I go deer hunting.  A bouncy labrador isn’t exactly conducive to getting close enough to stick an arrow in a skittish prey animal.  I explained the facts of life to him as I shut the gate, and he seemed dejected but consigned to his role as yard dawg for the morning.  And all went well for about… oh, 30 seconds after I started walking away.

Iggy has a couple of different barks.  There’s little, yelping bark he does once in awhile as he’s playing.  There’s the throaty, growling bark he makes when something comes close to the fence in the dark (deer, jackrabbits, armadillos, people… it doesn’t matter).  And there’s a bellowing, mournful,godawful, howling noise he makes when I walk off into the woods without him. 

I ignored the dog’s noisy complaining and stalked off, out of his sight, and slipped into the pasture.  I dug into a brush pile, with my Montana Decoys, “Teaser Hen” set up about 20 yards away.  After a few minutes, Iggy finally seemed to give up and it got quiet for a bit.  I pulled out the box call, chalked the edge a little bit, and readied myself for action.  Thus ensued an interesting, yet cacophonous concert. 

I would scratch out a sexy, come-hither yelp.  Iggy would respond with his barbaric yawp.  And a pair of toms would gobble their heads off from the property across the road.  Lather, rinse, repeat… so to speak.  And never once did those birds come toward me. 

Finally, during a lull in the dog’s racket, I caught the sound of hens yelping and clucking from the far side of the canyon.  My neighbor has a feeder over there, and it must have recently gone off.  The toms gobbled another time or two, each time getting closer to those hens and further from me.  Realizing that competition would be futile, I packed up and went back to the house where I was greeted by an ecstatic black blur.  You’d think I’d been gone for a year!

I let Sunday pass.  My back was acting up, and I just didn’t have the gumption to go tramping out in the field. 

Monday brought way too much work, so I stayed in the house and focused on earning my paycheck.  From time to time, through the open window, I could hear the gobbling toms and jakes.  It sounded like the season was really starting to get underway, and sure enough, I glanced across the canyon to see a big tom all puffed up and strutting around a big cluster of hens. 

Tuesday morning I had the farrier coming at 09:00, so I went out to catch up the horses before he came in.  As I strolled across the pasture, I was shocked by a pair of gobbles from the fenceline.  Dang birds!  No time to deal with them, though, as the farrier’s old Dodge rattled up the drive.  They gobbled once more while we were working on the horses, a little further away but still on my property.

The horses all trimmed and the farrier paid, I went back to the house to get to work.  I jammed out some stuff, answered some emails, and suddenly it was lunch time.  I puttered around the kitchen, and decided I needed to thaw something for dinner.  I keep the big freezer out in the barn, so I went out to see what I could find.  Hanging on the barn wall next to the freezer is a bunch of hunting gear, including my “turkey pack”.  I poked around and dug out a slate call and striker.  After a touch of sandpaper, I figured I’d see how the old thing sounded. 

I scratched once.  Not bad.  I scratched again.  A booming gobble blasted back at me from the far edge of the pasture.  “Really?” I replied. 

I walked out to the fence and scratched at the call again.  The gobble was much closer, and as I peered through the branches of a cedar I could see a red head bobbing straight to me!  “Well, hell!”

I trotted back to the barn office and opened the gun safe to dig out my old Savage SxS and a couple of Bismuth duck loads (I used my last two “turkey shells” when I shot those birds back in January), then slunk back to hide beside the water trough.  I started to hit the call again, when I heard the purr and cluck of turkeys… really close.  A moment later, two jakes appeared around the pinon tree, less than 30 yards away. 

Now, I’ll add that I wasn’t exactly camo’ed out.  I was wearing my work pants and an orange t-shirt.  I also had Iggy the hyper-dawg with me, although at the moment he was in hunt mode and crouched beside me (you would almost think he was a hunting dog).  We were situated pretty much in the open, with no cover at all between us and the birds.  I was pretty sure I could get the gun up and kill one of these guys if I wanted to, but instead I just waited to see what they’d do.  I figured I’d hear that tell-tale, “dork!” any second now, but instead the birds looked around for the “hen” they’d been chasing, and then, when she didn’t appear, proceeded to wander up the fenceline toward the woods.

I thought about it for a second.  If they were that willing to come to the call, I could get Kat out there and call one in for her.  I went back to the house.  We were both pretty busy with work the rest of the day, but at some point around three or four in the afternoon, Kat came back into the living room with a funny look on her face.  “Where’s the gun?” 

I couldn’t figure out the joke.  “What gun?”

She pointed out across the yard.  Out in the barn pasture three turkeys poked around, pecking at grasshoppers or ants or something and oblivious to the bloodthirsty thoughts of the two humans in the house.  I happened to have another double barrel in the closet, and some 3″ magnum, #2 steel shot close at hand.  She grabbed the gun while I grabbed the box call and we slipped out the back door. 

The three of us (Iggy was not about to be left behind again) snuck around the corner until we could see the birds.  I purred with the box call.  No reaction.  I clucked a few gentle clucks.  They didn’t even raise their heads.  I tossed out a couple of soft yelps.  Now I had their attention.  If I could coax them across the pasture they’d be in range for Kat to try a shot.  It wasn’t exactly a scene from the Outdoor Channel, but hey, I’m all about taking opportunity where it comes. 

For a moment, it looked like the two jakes (probably the same ones from earlier) were going to come up the hill.  But the third bird was a hen, and she wandered off in the wrong direction.  I called again, and while the horny, young birds seemed to think it over, I guess the real hen in front of them was more tempting than the unseen floozy behind that black Dodge truck.  In a few moments they were gone.

Wednesday morning dawned grey and cool.  Wednesday is trash day, so at first light I tossed our garbage in the truck and carried it down to the county road for pick-up.  The birds usually roost along a dry creek over on the neighbor’s place, and sure enough, as I put the bags by the road I could hear the fly-down cackles as they came down to start their day.  A little later, several gobbles echoed down the canyon.  I finished off-loading the trash and boogied back to the house. 

I gave the birds a little time to regroup, then went out to the edge of the pasture with the slate call.  I scratched out some soft clucks.  No response.  Gentle yelps got no answer.  Louder, more plaintive yelps went unanswered.  I sat silently, waiting to hear any turkey sounds.  I heard cardinals.  There was the song of a canyon wren.  A jay squawked from the cedars.  But no turkeys could be heard.  No hens.  No toms.  Not even those silly little jakes. 

I thought we’d give it another go this morning, but Kat had too many other things to deal with.  Truth be told, I did too, so I don’t know if the birds have disappeared from the face of the earth, or if they’re out there gamboling in the pasture even as I type this post.

Danged ol’ turkey burds.


4 Responses to “Danged Ol’ Turkey Burds”

  1. Dave B on March 22nd, 2013 08:25

    Loved this story Phillip! I guess the trials and tribulations of turkey hunting are no different if you are out in the wild or in the wild of your own front yard. I also love how no matter where you were (the barn, the house, etc.), you had a different gun or bow stashed away….”I happened to have another double barrel in the closet…”

    That cracked me up!!!

    We back up to open space and, just like you, I have been watching the Turkeys every day. I also work from home and it is hard to concentrate when they are right in the back yard strutting their stuff. I am always so tempted to take the pellet gun out and try for one.

    My lab (who thinks he is a lover and not a fighter) sits and watches the birds, never chasing them. The danged dog will chase squirrels, raccoons and skunks, but run down a Turkey? Nah, he just lays their lazy while they walk all around him and his German Sheppard step-brother.

  2. Phillip on March 22nd, 2013 08:53

    Hey, Dave. Turkeys is turkeys, wherever you hunt them. No doubt about it!

    As far as the guns, I keep those twice-barrels close by in case of home invaders. I want to be ready to run out the back door and fire two shots in the air. I hear that’s how you get rid of them.

  3. JAC on March 28th, 2013 19:11

    Respect the dog or expect his baleful stare.

  4. Phillip on March 28th, 2013 21:04

    I see you have met this dawg.