My best "almost" came my second year hunting. The previous year I had shot a jake as my first bird and was damned proud of it. This year I was set on getting a paintbrush/razorleg. It was only the third day of the season and being that I was relatively new to the game, my calling was still very novice compared to that of my buddy, who could purrrrrrrrr like a kitten. He has called in so many fussy birds for others in his day that he is known around us as "the nail" (in reference to the nail in the coffin). If you had a henned up gobbler, he was the man to call. It just so happened I worked with him and he agreed to go with me a weekend to try and get a nice limbhanger.
Whel, we started out that morning working a bird we heard a gobble from a owl hoot at the side of a dirt road on public land we often checked. We had a good idea where he was roosting from locater calls earlier in the month, so we boogied to a field edge that was about 100 yds away from a set of pines we figured he was in. As we setup just at first light ,my pal started mouthing off and we were entertained by what we thought was 4 different gobbles. He didn't have to make another sound the rest of the hunt. This bird wasn't henned up at all, but all of those horny sob's were on a b-line to our hen decoys. They were all running across the field in full view, 3 jakes and a big ole' Tom. About 40-50 yds out the tom started strutting and then would move a little closer and strut again, all the while the jakes kinda walking hurriedly in front of the Tom. So as the Tom approached my 30 yd preference for shooting at that time, the jakes just about came within 10 yrds. of the decoys. They were kinda weary and trying to get the decoys to move, all the while this Tom was absoulutely MASSIVE and spittin' up a storm. The biggest bird in terms of body and beard I still have ever seen in my life to this day, bar none, no comparison. I wasn't really focused on the jakes as I was too excited about the Tom, but they started to get ansy and knew the jig was up and were starting to walk away excitingly towards the Tom back from where they came. The Tom just kinda hung back a bit to see what the jakes reactions were. I figured he would come in kick ass and have his way with the decoys, but he just monitored the jakes and looked about. Smart SOB! Anyway, he crept into range and just as I put my bead on his head and he came out of full strut those jakes went into an all out run and went in front of my line of sight simoultaneously as I squeezed off a round. I didn't know it at the time, but two jakes went down. I only saw one bird topple over. I was sure I nailed the big fella. But, low and behold, when we ran up there, there was two adolescents with a whopping 2" of total beard between the two of 'em. My buddy laughed and I almost cried, as we watching those birds continue to scurry more than a 150 yds away by that time. Later that week a feller' nailed that bird in almost the same exact spot and full mounted the beast. He had 1-1/8" spurs, 11.0156" beard, and weighed a whopping 24.12 lbs. [&o][&o] I'll never foget those numbers. My buddy was so excited for me to get two birds in one shot, but I still kick myself for not taking that shot a split second sooner when he was still in full strut. Oh, well. I tagged one bird and my buddy the other and we had cream of mushroom turkey that afternoon. Not a total loss I guess and we sure had plenty to eat and some story to share. That bird still haunts me in my dreams to this day and looking back now, I'm not sure I would feel the same way if I did get him, but boy that soup would have tasted a whole lot better and I would have some pretty nice braggin' rights in town the rest of my days. LOL