Officers, Best Friends Get Their Gobbler
Hunter's Journal - May 2016
By Pat Womack
This hunting adventure all started when I met John Seabolt after becoming a police officer in Covington in 1995. During my first couple of years there, I’d heard the guys talking about turkey hunting, and I was clueless because I had never been. I would listen to their stories and mishaps in the turkey woods. This rocked on for several years, and during the 2000 season, John stopped by the police department after a successful hunt to show me two birds that he had called in that morning. This blew my mind because I had never seen a tom turkey up that close.
Shortly after that, John and I had the opportunity to work on the same shift and became great friends, more like brothers, and the rest is history.
Let’s fast forward to the 2016 turkey season. On March 29, we were heading for the turkey woods together. We arrived early and decided on the way down that John would have the first shot on a bird that day, and I would run the camera. We got in there early and set up in some short pines overlooking a food plot. After getting the decoys out, we settled in.
At daybreak, we didn’t hear anything, but around 8 a.m., we had a bird fire off 100 to 200 yards away as it came down the road through the pine thicket. The bird continued down the road to the edge of the food plot and gobbled a few times as it looked for the hens. He would take a step or two into the food plot and then retreat back out of view. John would call, and he would step back out, but the thunder chicken had been down this road before. He could see our tom decoy in half strut, but he wanted nothing to do with it because he wasn’t the man of the woods. The bird stayed a short time out of range before giving us the cold shoulder and leaving.
Just a little after 9, John decided to break out the glass slate to change things up. The second time he hit the glass, another thunder chicken just couldn’t stand it and sounded off. This bird was about 400 yards away on another ridge, but he quickly started toward us like he was on a string. He gave a new meaning to over the river and through the woods because he came off the ridge and crossed a creek to get over to the food plot.
He worked his way through the woods but circled around behind us in the short pines as he tried to coax the hens from the food plot to come to him. This bird stayed behind us and to our left, gobbled a number of times and wouldn’t step out to give us the shot. He finally left.
After that, we decided to regroup and formulate the game plan for the afternoon hunt, which was best done eating lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant. After eating, we made a stop by Academy Sports and picked up a standing jake and two hen decoys to see if that might change our luck.
We decided to return to the scene of the crime but moved up to the top of the hill and changed up our decoy spread just a bit to make the party scene a little more appealing. We set our original spread back where it was that morning, minus the half-strutting tom, and put the new decoys on top with us about 50 yards to our left.
For several hours, John called with mouth and slate calls but didn’t get a response. We started to question our decision to set up on the same field and were just about to call it quits for the day when a couple of hens made an appearance on the food plot a little after 6. They fed around for about an hour, moving around between the spread of decoys, and after watching them for a while, we were ready to call it a day. John decided to cluck loud on the glass slate to hopefully push them off the field to roost, so we wouldn’t educate them. After he hit the slate, we heard the undeniable gobble of a thunder chicken boom through the woods 300 yards in front of us.
John scratched on the slate again, and the bird hammered back. This rocked on for about five minutes, and the bird seemed to be in the same spot, trying to get the hen to come join him at his favorite roosting spot. John sent back a few more calls to no avail, and the bird went off the grid, giving us the cold shoulder.
We waited a few minutes before scratching on the slate again, but this time he fired off and was much closer. We hunkered back down, knowing we still had to coax the gobbler across the creek and up the hill to the food plot. This bird was dead set on finding his bedtime partner and was wearing it out with mouthy gobbles.
We knew he was coming and both started looking hard. John picked up the slate and was about to hit the call when the thunder chicken made his appearance. The bird was straight out in front of us, and all I could see was the white, blue and red knot at the edge of the field. At first, John didn’t believe me, and then a few seconds later, he saw the mature tom in all his glory.
The gobbler came into the field in full-blown strut and strutted 40 yards straight to the decoys. Once at the decoys, John clucked, causing the tom to drop out of strut, raise its head and meet a load of No. 5s from John’s smokepole.
We both jumped up and ran to the tom in disbelief and started to high-five, jumping around like school kids. Then the relevance of the hunt truly sank in, and we had a bro-hug. We all know that it happens, but we don’t admit it in public.
This is a hunt I’ll never forget and will forever cherish, and I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to John Seabolt for sharing his love of turkey hunting and teaching me the ways of the turkey woods.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t give thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving us the opportunity to share the beauty of His creations and giving us the opportunity to hunt and share the outdoors.
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