As I met George the day before the turkey opener and we headed south for our annual turkey hunt, hopes were high that we would be connecting on some longbeards. As we traveled, discussing past hunts and spotting an occasional turkey along the road only fueled the anticipation and after a quick stop at the camp to drop some things off we were off to scouting in an attempt to roost some birds. We hadn't gone far when we spotted turkeys. There were strutting toms in the middle of the field! After closer inspection with the binoculars it was confirmed that there were two big longbeards and two jakes in full strut and another half dozen jakes and hens concentrated on this nice little knoll in the middle of a field. We do a DIY type hunt so we have to secure landowner access as well, so the door knocking started. We took a good guess and went to the closest house, and we lucked out as it was the landowner for the field. He politely declined our request to hunt there citing he had a friend that aimed to do the same. Only slightly dejected we took off for "greener" fields. We hadn't showed up without doing some of our homework, so we headed to check some locations we had already secured landowner permission for and sure enough we started seeing turkeys. A hen here and a couple jakes there, then a nice tom over there. We were feeling good and made a plan. That plan quickly changed as when we went back to check our Plan A, some other hunters were setting up their blind. On to Plan B, which I have found it to be an absolute necessity to have multiple plans when hunting around other people. As darkness enveloped everything and the turkeys were roosted snugly in their trees we set up our blind and headed back to camp for a late supper and some shut eye to dream of those gobbles. Just as we awoke a light rain started on the camp roof and by the time the coffee was ready it was a downpour. Let's just say day 1 was a wash! Long, cold hours in the blind, distant toms in the field that probably couldn't even hear our calls and we were far from rustling a feather. We had made a mid day stop to secure access to a piece of prime turkey real estate and were lucky enough to get permission. As we shifted tactics and blinds to the new locale our hopes were high. As we settled in for the evening, way across the field we noticed a bright red head that was headed our way. Anticipation built as he came from 200 yards to 150, then to 100, but just as he got inside 100 yards he shifted and started feeding away. He completely ignored our calls and his ground dragging beard was out of our lives as quickly as he had entered. As darkness settled, we were discouraged but hopeful for the next day. As we made our way back to the pickup we spooked 8-10 turkeys off their roost right beside our truck, indicating we were in a good spot! The next morning we pulled up in pitch blackness and while the rain had slowed it was still overcast and windy. The first hour was quiet, devoid of turkey activity, but then the clouds started to break and the sun started to peak out and didn't the gobblers start thundering their gobbles. We had two close gobbles and a couple other more distant calls, when one of the gobbles sound noticeably closer and closer. Sure enough we had one coming like he was on a string. I watched as the big red head poked out from the tree line and he and his longbeard were headed right for us. Going to a 3/4 strut as he came closer I put the bead of the shotgun on his neck and let him keep coming. He was well within range, but he was committed and it was neat to watch. As I tracked him across the window I noticed I was running out of window before I would have to switch to the other window and didn't want to risk the movement so I squeezed the trigger. The 3.5" turkey load flopped him on the spot and the grin on my face couldn't have been slapped off. While he was a few ounces shy of the 20 pound mark, his 1" spurs and 9" beard were everything I had hoped of. That was a textbook hunt and I must thank George for all of his help on getting this beautiful bird. Unfortunately, George was not able to connect on this hunt, but would get his own longbeard, definitely not his first, a couple weeks later.
Enjoy the pictures and stay tuned for the next adventure coming soon!