Johnson County Gobbler Earns a Ph.D.
Brock Burley, 12 at the time, may have given this tom an education, but the young man from Tennille was in school himself.
“Brock! Get up! It’s time to get ready,” said my dad.
It was March 22, 2014, and I was just getting up to go turkey hunting. I put my clothes on and stood by the heater for a little bit before going to the cabin to get an early morning glass of milk. We run Woods-N-Water outfitters and had two hunters down hunting. When I stepped into the door, they were already up sipping coffee. We talked a little bit before getting in the truck and heading out. Every morning before we hit the woods, we stop in Wrightsville at the BP gas station. We get some breakfast, which is usually a link sausage on wheat bread and a Yoo-Hoo.
This particular morning was the first time I decided to go turkey hunting by myself. When we reached the property, it was about 6 a.m. It was about a 300-yard walk in the pitch dark with a flashlight that could barely light up my path as I stepped. As you would imagine, I was pretty tense the whole way in.
When I got to the little quarter-acre plot, I put my things down and set up my hen decoy. When I reached down to pick my stuff up, a gobble rang through the woods about 80 yards away. My spine shivered with excitement.
I quickly grabbed my things and got set up to where I could see the plot and a strip that came off the southern end of it. Once I got set, I hit my box call, and he hammered. I had hens around me yelping, and he was gobbling at them.
It wasn’t until 7:30 that he decided to fly down. I waited a little bit, and then I hit my call, and the gobbler responded. After a little bit of just sitting and watching, I caught movement 75 yards away.Just inside of the tree line stood the big gobbler ruffling his feathers in a display that seemed like he was mocking me.
After playing with him a little bit with my calIs, he kept walking, and I didn’t see him the rest of that morning.
It wasn’t until Spring Break that I was able to hunt him again. On Thursday, April 3, I went back into those woods to try him again. This time I went down the strip and about 10 yards off into the woods to where I had seen him walk a couple of weeks earlier.
When I sat down, it was still dark, but right when I got comfortable, he began to gobble. He gobbled a while before flying down. On that morning, he had a good many hens with him. Instead of coming to where I was sitting, he went up to the little plot I had sat in during the previous hunt.
After a little bit of not hearing anything, I stretched my legs and prepared to sit for a little bit before doing some walking throughout the property.
After sitting there about 30 minutes, I heard some leaves cracking off to my right. I didn’t think much about it until I saw something blue about 15 feet away. When I got a good look at it, I realized it was a peacock just staring at me. I thought about shooting it but decided not to.
I had a tail fan and messed with the peacock a little bit before getting up and walking after him. After he was out of sight in the trees, I went up the trail that went off the northern end of the plot.
After walking a little ways, I stopped and heard some scratching. I knelt down to see under the brush and saw some hens feeding around, so I quickly sat down. I had just put my gun up when I heard a “Yack, yack, yack.” There came that annoying little peacock. I don’t think the hens liked him too much because they left at a fast pace. That was the end the morning.
The next morning, I once again went after the same gobbler. It was Friday, April 4. This time I got closer to him to see if I could get him right off the roost. I went down the same strip as I had the day before, but this time I went to the left and set up about 60 yards from where he was roosted.
The morning started off with a hen flying into a tree about 40 yards to my right. Then the tom gobbled, and it made my ear drum ring. After that, the five jakes that were with him joined in with the crescendo. It was truly the most gobbling I had ever heard in my life.
After they were done, they flew down, and that was when the excitement really started. They had flown down into a little opening and were stretching and ruffling their feathers. I could see the gobbler, the five jakes and about four hens plain as day in front of me. I began using my mouth to cluck, and they were getting more and more fired up. At one point, all the male turkeys gobbled at the same time. I used my mouth to gobble a couple of times, and this got the big gobbler curious, and he began to circle around to my left with the jakes right behind him.
They came out at the little plot, and he eased down the strip behind me. It was tough because I was trying to turn around without them seeing me. I finally got turned around. After a little bit of waiting, his head popped to what was 50 yards away. When I finally got my gun up to where he was, he was already gone, leaving me wondering if I would ever kill this turkey.
The next morning I went out again. This time I took a gobbler decoy with me to see if I could get the gobbler mad enough to come right on in. When he flew down this time after gobbling on the roost a while, he only had a couple of hens with him, and they left quickly.
After he saw my gobbler decoy, he began strutting and gobbling. He kept a consistent pace, walking back and forth about 60 yards away but no closer. He finally gave up and started to walk away, and that’s when I made a mistake. I tried to pull my tail fan up quickly, drawing his attention right on me. He putted once, twice, and then he was gone.
The very next weekend I was after this bird again. Now it was personal. I had gotten to know this bird really well since the first hunt. I figured out where he was roosting, his strutting zones, his fly-down area and where his hens went walking on their daily feedings. I even got to where I could tell his gobble from the rest of the jakes with him. So when I started out through the woods, I had a good bit of confidence on my side. I went down that strip off the bottom of the plot and took a right at the end of it. I set up in about the same place as I had when I saw the peacock. I sat down and waited for that first gobble.
When it came, about four other gobbles followed. After gobbling about 80 or 90 times, they finally flew down. But instead of coming by me headed toward his strut zone, he followed the hens to the plot up to my left. From where I was, I could hear hens clucking, jakes fighting, and same as always, that gobbler gobbling. I gave a couple of yelps with my box call just to let him know I was there.
After sitting and just listening a little bit, he stopped gobbling. I guessed that he had left following the hens, so I got up and started walking up the strip to the plot. When I reached the plot, a gobble thundered very close to me. It had come from the little road that ran from the north part of the plot. I quickly found a spot on the side of the plot with a mound and flowers growing on top of it. The opening to where the road opened up to the plot was about 30 yards away. I had heard from a man that in these situations less calling can be more and only to yelp a few times and the gobbler would eventually come looking for you. So I did as he said and only yelped about every four or five times that the turkey gobbled.
After about 40 minutes of doing this, he finally went quiet. I thought he was coming to me right then, and I sat there all tensed up for about 20 minutes. I finally got tired of this and thought that I if was going to sit there a while, I might as well be comfortable, so I stretched my legs out and laid my gun across my body. I shut my eyes and was sitting there a little bit when a fly began to land on my face, and every time I swatted at him, he would come back. He landed on my nose and kind of tickled it, so I swung. I laid my hand down and kind of wiggled my shoulders just getting comfortable with my eyes closed when I heard, “Putt, putt, putt.”
I was thinking it was just going to be a hen that snuck in and saw me swatting, but when I opened my eyes, there stood the gobbler. He began a fast-paced walk across the little plot. The thought ran through my mind that this was my chance. He was still walking across the plot and was almost to the trees when I quickly pulled up my gun with my legs still crossed and fired. My aim was true because be began flapping all over the ground. I jumped up, ran to him and put my foot on his head to finish him off.
He weighed 21 pounds, had 1 1/4-inch spurs and a 10 1/2-inch beard.
This was the best hunting moment in my life.
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