Eleven hunts. That’s how many times I hit the field last spring before I shot “the” turkey I had been eyeballing. Some may call it dedication, others bullheadedness. I suppose it was a little of both.
I set a goal of shooting a mature tom. I’d taken jakes in previous seasons, but I was ready for a big-boy. It was a realistic goal – I had a great hunting spot lined up, ample vacation time, an older bird picked out, and a spring turkey permit ready to be inked. I had everything I needed to get the job the done. Little did I know, that job would be a tough one.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my spring turkey season, let me explain the title. Growing up, “tough toast” was a phrase commonly used by my mother letting my brother and me know we weren’t getting our way. For example, I might have said something like “But Mom, everyone else is wearing them at school! Why can’t I?” She would reply, “tough toast.” Translated, it meant whatever I wanted wasn’t happening. Last turkey season defined “tough toast” for me, at least in the beginning. Luckily I had the foresight to document my hunting experiences. Here are some exerpts:
|Sweetarts: NOT a breakfast of champions.|
Hunt 3: The technical side of my brain is engaged. Brainstorming for any missed opportunities or mistakes in my plan of attack. Decide I’ve got a good set up and just need patience. Hear lots of activity behind the blind - turns out to be hens.
Hunt 5: Abandon blind to adjust for new change in their traveling patterns. Set up near treeline just south of the roost. Immediate activity has me confident today is “the” day. Am quickly discovered by a member of the turkeys’ frontline- a very snoopy hen. Hunt is over, but I’m still satisfied with my location change.
Hunt 6: Manage to nestle between two bushes for better cover. Coyote appears, attacks my decoys, and flees. The plastic mold must have scared him. Turkeys emerge shortly thereafter, taking an unconventional route. Coyote’s presence put hens on full-alert and I’m discovered.
Hunt 8: At this point I’m just trying to justify why I’ve been suffering through the incessant tingling sensation in my poorly-positioned legs. Discover that sitting still, even as an adult, is difficult for me. Turkeys arrive on schedule and within range again. “The” tom shows, but I don’t have clear shot; too many birds in the way.
Hunt 9: Attempted a Hail Mary and decided to hunt from the draw. Turkeys are on the move, so I resort to an army-crawl and move with them for a closer shot. Clothes are soaked and my tushy in the air results in being spotted again.
Hunt 10: In the morning darkness I faintly make out two white stripes. I unknowingly enter the personal bubble of Pepe Le Pew. He doesn’t appreciate my presence. I quickly walk backwards and seemingly satisfied with my response, he continues on his way. Lose 10 minutes of time backtracking. Turkeys show, but no tom today. Feeling confused and disappointed.
|The tom immediately after the shot.|
|Hunting alone: one of the few|
instances where a "selfie" is
Moral of the story? The right tools, some ingenuity, and a hearty supply of Sweetarts can get you far in life, but perseverance is what will get you to the finish line. That tom was a tough turkey to hunt, but I’m an even tougher hunter for sticking with it.
In hunting, as in life, never settle for tough toast (unless your mom says so).