Howdy, Mark....Enjoyed your reminiscing about the hunt that hooked you. Mine was very similar, as I am sure many of the others here will attest were their's. Mine occurred in the spring of 1975 in the Gila Wilderness of southwestern New Mexico. I was very lucky back then, in that there were good populations of Merriams turkeys in the mountains of southern NM, unlike many other areas of the country that had either few or no birds whatsoever. I had been hunting spring birds since the mid-sixties, on and off, and had never called a gobbler in, but must admit that I hadn't put in the effort that was really needed.
Those of you that were around back during those days will nod your heads in agreement when I say that there wasn't much information to be had about spring gobbler hunting back then. The "big three" outdoor magazines at that time, Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, and Field and Stream, always had an article or two prior to the spring hunt from contributors like Col. Dave Harbour and Charlie Elliot, which I read with increasing interest and dedication each passing spring. From their annual tales of strutting gobblers coming to the call, my interest continued to mount until finally, I was determined to stick with it until I called in a gobbler.
That fateful day finally occurred on the final day of the NM spring hunt in '75. As I recall, I had hunted several days during the season without success, and on that final morning, I awoke two hours before daylight to a howling wind, which resigned me to the notion that I would certainly go home empty-handed again. I struck out well before daylight, heading towards a major canyon several miles into the wilderness. Two hours, and no sight or sound of a gobbler later, I had worked my way about three miles down into one of the spectacular canyons that are typical of the western mountains. The wind was whistling through the Pondersosa pine forest at such a velocity it sounded like a freight train. I was whipped and ready to return to my vehicle and head home, but nevertheless, every hundred yards or so, I would scratch out a series of loud yelps on my old Penns Woods Roger Latham box call.
Imagine my surprise when, after another series of seemingly futile calls, I heard the faintest of noises from high up on the south ridge of the canyon that I thought might have been a gobble. I wasn't convinced, and in fact, was honestly thinking that it was my wishful and desperate mental state playing tricks on me, but still I lingered at the spot and waited. Several minutes later I again offered yelps from the box, and amazingly, was rewarded by a definite clear gobble from somewhere up on the ridge.
I could go into great detail about what transpired from that point, as I recall almost every second of it now, over thirty years later. However, in the interest of maintaining some semblance of brevity here, it shall suffice for me to say that the gobbler eventually came down that ridge into the bottom where I hid under the limbs of a small fir tree, and put on a show similar to the one you related that, indeed, put me into a trance, fixated on the wild turkey gobbler, that I have not been able to escape from since.
I remember walking up to that magnificent bird, stilled somehow by a shot that I thought would never come, and kneeling in awe next to him at he lay there, glistening in all his glory, feathers ablaze in more colors than I could have imagined. It was nothing less than an awakening for me as a hunter, and there is never a spring morning afield that I do not thank God for those few moments I spent with that bird on that blustery spring morning. ...And I too, smile every time I think of it!