It started chilly this morning, probably the coldest it has been in a few weeks. The turkeys started gobbling earlier & more than what I heard on Thursday and last weekend. It sounded like a group of gobblers was roosted in about the same general area. I'd hear one gobble, then another bird would double gobble over top of him and another would fire up on top of that. It was music to my ears! None sounded as close as I would have liked, or seemed to be roosted in the area they had been in the past few weeks. It got quiet for a time & I figured they were already on the ground. At 7:05 I heard one gobble that sounded louder than the rest. I quickly cutt & yelped back to him, which he answered before I got through with the calling sequence. He gobbled again & I stayed quiet, letting him stew a bit. The next time he gobbled, he was closer. This time with a diaphram, I threw a few more cutts & a few yelps away from the direction he was coming to make it sound like the hen was heading towards the bottom. He gobbled back instantly. I got the gun up & got ready to shoot. I was talking on the radio to E.P. who had barely heard his last two gobbles, when the sound of spitting & drumming came from over my left shoulder. Two minutes after that, I saw a black blob easing toward the front of where I was set up. He went into strut and walked along looking for the source of the calls. When he got up beside me, he looked my way, but continued on. He passed about 7 yards to my left. There was only one tree big enough to obstruct his view so I could move the gun on him and I had to wait & hope he'd go behind it. Just before he got to the tree, he came out of strut, threw his periscope head up and looked my way. I think I was breathing through my ears. He went back into strut and crossed behind the big (big enough anyway) tree. I could see his fan out both sides of the tree. He spun a quarter turn and went into half strut, exposing his head out one side of the tree. I rolled him @ 11 yards. It was 7:20. I broke in my new vest the right way.
I'm guessing he is a two year old bird. He has an exceptionally long beard (12 inches!) and weighed 19 lbs. 2 oz., plus had spur length of 1 inch on the right and 14/16ths on the left that was blunted.
E.P. asked me over the radio to come over and call for him once I stashed my bird at the cabin. He decided to move from one blind to a new blind I dug into a small sand bank about 15 yards South where he could get a little better vantage point of where the old logging road & powerlines cross. I took the place he had been hunting at the oldest brush blind on the property that is now getting overgrown with honeysuckle. After letting things cool down for about 45 minutes, I threw out some cutts and a few yelps. Nothing. About ten minutes later, I caught movement to my right and another gobbler was easing out to the opening. I instantly told E.P. over the radio and the bird hung in the shadows about 10 yards to my right. He was just sort of milling about. He did not strut or spit & drum and his body language said he was kind of nervous. He ended up moseying up into the planted pines, toward one of the food plots, and then sprinted onto the neighboring property when activity a ways up the powerlines frightened him. He never knew we were there or how close he came to dying. E.P. never had a clear shot and I did not even have my gun loaded, as we only get two tags here.
I left E.P. who moved to another blind for this afternoon's hunt, as I had a turkey to clean.