The alarm goes off at 4:30am.
The sound of it shrills through me like a lightning bolt. I open my eyes and in a mere second my eyes adjust to the darkness and I can make out the outline of the deer mounts hanging above me. A small shot of adrenaline courses through me as I think about getting up and going hunting, the same feeling I get before every hunt. That thrill of anticipation, nervousness and excitement.
I nudge my husband lying next to me and he acknowledges me with a rather unamused grunt.
We get up and are ready in a flash. Teeth brushed, hair in a ponytail, makeup on, dressed in dark camo, day bag packed, ready to roll in 15 minutes.
We load up and are on the road by 5:05, it’s a 10 or 15 minute drive to Emmet’s Lower, we park, get our gear on and head into the field.
Dan’s instructions ring clear in my head. “Walk NE into the field for a while until you come to some signs, hang a left at those signs and you’ll see the blind.”
There is a swath of grass down the middle of the field; everything is soaking wet so we walk on the edge of it. We walk for several minutes and the sky starts to get light. I wanted to be in the blind by 5:15 – a half hour before sunrise and we’re only 5 or 10 minutes behind schedule – but I’m fearful those 5 or 10 minutes will be the difference in spooking a bird if he’s an early riser.
I don’t see the signs anywhere.
We pick up the pace and are already sweating from the humidity, even though we’ve only been walking for 10 minutes, it seems like the field is never ending and I’m starting to panic as I don’t see the signs!
WHERE ARE THE DAMN SIGNS?
Big sigh of relief.
I see them; little white pinpoints of salvation, the sky is brightening at an alarming pace and the signs are still about 50 yards away.
We are walking as fast as we can without actually breaking into a run, we don’t want to run and trip or break an ankle but it’s everything in me not to sprint to those signs waiting like a tantalizing finish line!
A gobble from ahead of us; behind the incline the signs are set on stop us dead in our tracks and we both instinctively drop to a crouch; making our forms as tiny as we can, trying desperately to shrink in on ourselves.
I motion to move to the tree line to the left of us. We stay low to the ground and we are moving as fast as our crouched forms will allow.
We’re almost to the tree line when we hear another gobble, this time louder and much, much closer.
A million scenarios race through my head.
Do we dive into the brush and let him go past, hoping he’ll come back later?
Do I chuck my bag into the trees, load the gun as quickly as possible, and throw myself onto my belly – immediately ready to shoot?
Do we try to move quietly through the trees to get to the blind?
We get to the tree line and we can just see the blind up ahead. With my heart pounding in my ears I look at Zach and he gives me the “let’s make a run for it” look.
So we do.
We run willy nilly as quick as we can, praying our boots don’t snag on a tree root, praying we don’t step in a gopher hole that sends us flying face first into the dirt.
The blind looms larger in our vision and we literally lunge into the waiting doorway.
Zach begins setting up the two chairs and the tripod while I duck crawl about twenty yards in front of the blind; praying the tom won’t choose that exact moment to crest the rise; I desperately shove my lone hen decoy into the soft grass and make my way back to the blind.
We’re both a sweaty mess, the humidity is atrocious and we’d dressed for 55 degrees not 75 degrees.
I put two shells in my shotgun and lean it against the wall of the blind. I strip off my jacket and begin moving the window mesh out of the way so we can see.
Dan had explained that turkeys aren’t bothered by people in a blind as long as they can’t silhouette you. Well, we are certainly going to put his theory to the test. We open the blind’s windows all the way and close the one behind us. I look at my watch, 6:05am. The sun has been up for 10 minutes and we are ready to roll.
The blind was set up the day before on a grassy rise boxed in on three sides by thick timbered areas. The hilly fields in front of us create blind spots all over and I think to myself “we’ll have to stay sharp”.
Zach begins softly yelping every 20 minutes or so, the tom we’d heard has mysteriously disappeared. The second call he makes is answered from far away to the left of us. We are immediately alert, and as hard as it is, we keep to the plan of not calling too often.
Within minutes I see a head peering over the left rise, the head continues its jerky ascent as it crests the rise about 100 yards away. It comes into full view and struts for a few minutes; unexpectedly we see it’s followed by a second one! The first is in full strut and the second seems to be waiting it’s turn as well. Regrettably, they are following two hens that are making their way through the grass strip splitting the field. All four of them continue on their way past us and then turn and walk back past us only to disappear into the distance.
These toms are just not interested in our little lone hen.
We are high on adrenaline by this time, akin to DEFCON 2 I would say, it’s only been an hour and the amount of activity is exhilarating. A calm before the storm gives us a chance to calm a bit. Our heart beats just start to slow when a third tom appears over that same exact rise. He comes in a little closer than the other two and hangs up at 60 yards. He begins fanning his tail and struts back and forth on that rise. Zach is working him, has him gobbling his head off in no time, and that poor tom is trying desperately to convince my decoy hen to come to him not the other way around. Our hearts plummet as we hear hens clucking from far off to our left; the tom immediately turns his focus to them and begins making his way slowly towards the woods line.
Curse you live hens!! Foiled again!! I mentally shake my fist at the sky.
Things quiet down for about half an hour. We are sitting quietly and patiently, observing, waiting, watching. We are in DEFCON 3.
A buck with several inches of growth appears on the far side of the field. He begins eating and making his way down to the field, and that gives us something to focus on for a while.
Out of the blue yet another tom appears out of nowhere to begin his fantastic mating dance, attempting to tempt the wary hens. Right on top of that little rise to our left. Apparently; that is THE PLACE to go if you want to strut your stuff for the ladies!
Even the buck across the way stops to watch the tom strut around for about 5 minutes before eventually working his way into the trees to our left.
We know to be on DEFCON 2, as turkeys can be very sneaky, I don’t want to be caught unawares if that tom comes sneaking out again.
We can hear him gobbling deep within the woods, I sigh as another tom starts answering him, taunting him, from farther away and as the gobbling fades we know this one too is moving off.
We both let out a deep breath.
Our nerves are rattled and at this point we are both stressed from the tension.
I am watching that rise to the left of us, wondering what is beyond there that fascinated so many turkeys when Zach nudges my knee. He nods towards a grassy knoll about twenty feet to our right.
Two hens are slowly making their way along to the treeline towards that knoll, taking their time; they are just sifting through the long grass for bugs and purring contentedly. We watched in fascination as they make a beeline for the high point on the knoll, one lowers her body to hunker down for a rest while the other one pecks the ground and keeps a watchful eye close by.
“We’re so busted” I whisper to Zach.
His eyes are the size of saucers (you have to remember this is all new to him) and he is thrilled to be seeing so much action.
We sit quietly, making slow movements, the hens peer at us every once in a while but are not disturbed by us whatsoever. Dan’s theory holds up and it opens my eyes to a whole new way of thinking.
Tom had explained to us that setting the blinds up in plain view offered animals the chance to see it from a distance. They would shy away if it suddenly and unexpectedly appeared as they rounded a tree line, but seeing it from a distance as they move closer offered them an assurance that it wasn’t moving and was supposed to be there.
Our attention is split between the buck across the field and the two hens hanging out to our right. Zach has the camera zoomed in on him and is getting more familiar with the device.
Suddenly, from directly behind our blind we hear a deafening gobble!
My heart lurches into my throat and wide eyed Zach and I turn to stare at each other. The momentary paralysis is broken as soon as Zach mouths the words “he’s close”.
We know the turkey is coming and can’t be more than a few feet behind the blind, we know we only have mere seconds to get in position so we can be rock still when the turkey comes out.
I snatch up my shotgun and simultaneously flip the safety off while jamming it against my shoulder. Zach is swiveling the camera into position just as I see the head of a turkey moving past the left window, then in front of the blind.
This bird is making a beeline for my hen decoy!
Moving fast I see a beard, I whispered “you got the shot?’ but I don’t wait for a reply, knowing I can rely on my husband to have the camera rolling.
The shotgun hammers my shoulder as the report sounds in my eardrums. The bird immediately goes down in an explosion of feathers.
…and then silence.
We both sit there stunned for a second, the ringing in my ear is loud and as it starts to lessen I can hear Zach whispering excitedly “you got it, you got it” over and over.
And he is absolutely correct, an adult male Eastern turkey just bit the dust 12 yards in front of me.
I don’t know how long the beard is, or how much he weighs or how long his spurs are, I don’t have a scale along, his beard is nothing to brag about but I don’t really care about that. He is a beautiful bird, and my trophy is lying dead at my feet.
To me killing is just the icing on the cake. It’s the shortest part of the hunting experience and not even the most important. To me everything leading up to that part is what truly matters.
Spending time in a blind with my husband Zach who’s never experienced anything like this before. Someone who cared enough to take vacation days, tromp in the woods, get up at the crack of dawn, run a camera and help haul gear around for a woman he loves, even though he doesn’t care for the killing part of the sport.
It’s about great people like Tom and Laurie Andrebo and the skill of a guide like Dan Treankle that helped us get a bird even though he was 1,000 miles away.
It’s about the opportunity to stay with Bluff Country Outfitters and experience all they have to offer.
And it’s about making memories that I will treasure for years to come, because like I said in Part 1; I’m starting my kill ledger over and consider this my very first turkey.
And that there my friend, is something very special.
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