Decision Time: The Altar Boys

In this interactive feature, Editor Brian Lovett shares a scenario from his 20+ years of turkey hunting, asking "What would you do?"
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Ben Sobieck
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Decision Time: The Altar Boys

Postby Ben Sobieck » March 30th, 2011, 8:26 am

In "Decision Time," Editor Brian Lovett will share a scenario from his 20-plus years hunting turkeys. Each hinges on a critical decision. Post what choice you would have made, and then see how things actually turned out.

The Altar Boys

I'm a pessimist by nature. Too much turkey hunting, I guess.

Now and then, however, the little optimist on my right shoulder chimes in, making me try things I'm sure are hopeless. How I loathe him.

Three springs ago, I took two good friends on what would surely be a fruitless turkey walk. We'd killed a bird that morning, so the day was already a success. However, one buddy didn't want to quit and insisted I try the small property across the road from his house. He was adamant because our other friend hadn't killed a turkey in years.

Sure, I'd go. And believe it or not, as we walked up a small hill toward the woods, a distant gobble rang out. We carefully topped the hill and belly-crawled to a stand of planted pines bordered by a field. The property line was within sight, so we could go no farther.

I yelped, and the turkey double-gobbled. He might have been a quarter-mile away and was well off the property. Sigh. We'd never kill him, of course, but my buddies seemed like they wanted to try. Whatever.

I sent my turkey-less friend ahead and told him to set up at the edge of the pines down the hill. I stayed back with my other buddy atop the hill. Because the birds were so far away, we just kneeled in the grass like altar boys, not wanting to take the obviously pointless hunt too seriously.

My first calling series sent the gobbler and another longbeard into a gobbling frenzy. They hammered at everything I sent toward them for about 10 minutes and then shut up.

"Good," I thought. "Soon we can go to work."

Then I heard a yelp about 40 steps behind me in a small line of trees. A thunderous gobble followed, and before we could do anything, two gobblers and three hens burst from the trees and walked behind us. They had traveled a quarter-mile and crossed a town road to find the source of the calling -- which, of course, was kneeling like an idiot with his buddy atop a hill. A couple of birds saw the two buffoonish kneeling blobs and got rubbery, but one gobbler and a hen were too far below the lip of the hill to bust us.

Crap. The turkeys were on one side of the hill, and my turkey-less buddy was on the other, with a pair of kneeling twits in between. Failure seemed imminent, but we had to try something.

What would you do? Post your choice below, then click here to see how things really turned out.


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Cut N Run
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RE: Decision Time: The Altar Boys

Postby Cut N Run » March 31st, 2011, 6:45 am

If the turkey-less buddy was any kind of a caller, it would be a good time for him to try to distract the birds with some purrs to get the bird's focus away from you and onto the area he was in.

You said that the other turkeys were getting rubbery, but they didn't break into a putting dash the other way, so all is not lost. If you hold still sometimes turkeys won't I.D. you as human and curiosity may get the better of them, especially if they're hearing realistic turkey sounds from nearby. As wary as turkeys can be, they will sometimes think the coast is clear if there are other comfortable-looking or sounding birds nearby. That's why decoys work so well.

I'd say let the hunter work 'em from were he is and hold tight to your position if you are not totally busted yet.

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RE: Decision Time: The Altar Boys

Postby Gobblerman » April 2nd, 2011, 10:27 am

Brian, since you are already in the position, I would first suggest you should go ahead and pray for a miracle.  But, hey,....maybe you did that....
Let me get this straight,....You, an experienced turkey hunter, decide to just kneel down on top of a hill in the middle of a big open field while there are birds answering your calls....(admittedly, a long way away)?   How long did you say you have been hunting wild turkeys?  ...Oh yeah, but you did have the presence of mind to send your shooter to cover.  I'll give some credit for that, at least. 
Okay, you are kneeling on the grassy knoll,...the shooter is past you towards the birds....the birds are gobbling to beat the band,....and the thought does not occur to you that, just perhaps, these birds may break and head your way?  C'mon Man!!....
Then,...somehow or another, these birds do an end-around, and end up all the way around on the back side of the three of you without somebody hearing or seeing something that might tip you off that they were on the way?  Hmmm,....sounds mighty suspicious to this turnip grower. 
Oh, I get it,'s an April Fools joke, right?!   You had me going there for a minute, buddy!
Allright,...allright,....let's assume for a moment that you, editor for a major turkey hunting magazine, have really gotten yourself into this fiasco of a fix.  I think Jim's (CutnRun) plan has as much merit as any.  Perhaps your shooter could salvage this mess with a little persuasive calling,....and perhaps you could somehow relay the message to him.... that his skills were needed to overcome the folly of his more experienced guides...without sending all of the birds into the next time zone.  ...And perhaps, by another whim of cosmic fortuity, you and your sidekick could assume the persona of two large, out-of-place rocks just long enough for the birds to saunter by, wander blissfully within range of your shooter, and place themselves in a position where one of the gobblers could be ventilated without the two stooges on the grassy knoll ending up with a bad case of lead poisoning, as well.  ...As long as we're all at the wishing well, we might as well go all the way, right?!  Toss in another couple of quarters and let's see what happens!
Now, I don't want to be looked upon as "part of the problem, and not the solution", so I am going to go ahead and humor everybody by throwing in my foolproof plan for salvaging your dignity.  If jimbo's plan didn't work, and the birds were "Einsteinian" enough stick around through it all, I would do my best to indicate, through cleverly concealed hand signals and innocuous grunting to the shooter, that he might slither up the hill, peak over the top, and waylay one of the gobblers.  If any of this did not work, I would suggest to him that, assuming he wants to kill a gobbler in the near future, he might consider finding other "buddies" to take him out next time.
But really,....this was an April Fools joke,....right?    [:D]  [:D]   [:D]

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RE: Decision Time: The Altar Boys

Postby TRapper » April 2nd, 2011, 4:06 pm

turkeys respond to movement,  i have seen turkeys bust out of sight when a curious cow or horse comes by only to come back in 10 minutes after they realized what it was.  if you were kneeling down,  going slowly to a prone position to "humble yourself" to the birds may have been the right call,  they might possibly bust but likely come back if there is no action against them.  i would have went prone and waited til out of sight and call softly to the opposite direction to coax them back for a look.
Joshua "TRapper" Jones
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