My alarm woke me at 3:45 a.m. I only had a five minute drive from home to the turkey woods and the season didn’t open until nearly 6 a.m. But serious turkey hunters like to take advantage of the darkness by being in the woods before the earliest bird sings, especially if that early bird is a big Tom Turkey perched in a tree.
I had a fairly long walk to the island, a 3 acre woodlot in a massive ocean of picked corn. After setting up three hen decoys, two Jenny Vane silhouettes that turned in a light breeze and an old foam full body 25 yards out, I got comfortable in my turkey chair that sat 4” off the ground and leaned against a cozy oak. The big woods were 250 yards away, sunrise an hour out, but lovesick songbirds were already singing. It didn’t take long for the gobblers to join in.
It sounded like there were at least four Toms 150 to 300 yards in the woods and other gobblers further away. The eastern sky was changing from black to crimson exposing two yearling deer feeding on waste corn. As my decoys moved in the wind, the deer grew curious and wandered over for a closer look. I made a few light tree yelps on my Lohman box call when, from just behind me, a couple turkeys flew down from their perches.
Suddenly a hen turkey flew in, rocketing into my decoys and landing within inches of the closest one. She took a step back, clucked and purred before scrounging waste corn, occasionally glancing at my decoys wondering why they were not chatting back. Out of nowhere a second hen appeared as the deer came closer and another turkey pitched down behind me. That’s when I spotted movement in the field 75 yards out. It was a big Tom Turkey in full strut following a hen feeding on corn.
Noticing the two hens were starting to wander off I picked up my friction call, a slate, glass and metal call with a striker, and began to play calming music to the hens and a love song to Big Tom. I knew I had to keep the hens nearby to have any chance of bringing Big Tom close enough to meet Mr. Browning, my 12-gauge friend I wanted to use to serve up a turkey dinner for my family.
As all of this was going on two mallard ducks, a drake and a hen began to circle the scene. I felt like I was in a movie with two deer, four turkeys, including a strutting Tom in full dance recital with my decoys waltzing in the wind. I wanted to film the scene but I knew I’d mess things up with that many eyes in front of me and more turkeys I hadn’t even seen wandering around behind me. Next, as if on cue, the two hens walked in front of me and the other hen began to follow. I knew Tom would tag along, so as soon as he turned his back so his giant fan blocked his view I shouldered the Browning A5. The morning silence was broken when Mr. Browning spoke loudly, ringing my dinner bell.
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org