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First Tom with a Bow

“So, there I was … ” When my dad answered the phone, that was all I could think to say.  It was Monday, 5:30 am, and I was tagged out.  
  Sunday had been the start of my nine-day leave from the Navy. My dad and I inhaled dinner, kissed our wives and my little boy goodbye and jumped in the truck to see if we could spot a few gobblers for the next morning’s hunt.
As we drove to an abandoned farm, I told my dad about my goal of shooting a gobbler with a bow. I had luck the past two fall turkey seasons with hens, and now it was time for a shot at a longbeard. As we rounded the corner on one of the fields, we saw them — three good birds stood in the far back. The gobbler in full strut was easy to spot. After a few minutes of watching him we eyed up a big pine that would offer some cover, then left before we spooked them.
A cup of coffee and visits to check a few more fields made for a great night behind binoculars. I had some backup spots picked, but I knew where I wanted to be in the morning.
 I had just stepped out of the truck a bit before 5 the next morning when I heard what I thought was a gobble, far off in the field across the road. I should have been a little earlier, I thought. About 70 yards short of my tree, I found my feelings were correct. Another hunter rose up from my intended spot to alert me to his position. I did the only thing I could: waved, turned around and headed back to the truck. “At least he’s in a good spot,” I muttered under my breath.
I put my bow in the truck, and then stopped. “Was that really a gobble I’d heard a few minutes ago?” I wondered.
Out of curiosity I grabbed my dad’s box call, stood in the middle of the road and let out a few loud yelps. Instant response! I grabbed my bow and a ruck sack with a few hen decoys and took off. I made my way across a stream and under an old wooden cow fence to the field edge. Even with a light drizzle falling, daylight was starting to threaten. I saw a fallen apple tree that would make perfect cover, but it was a third of the way into the field. I’d be seen by a roosted bird for sure.
I had to settle for the corner to my left. I set out two hen decoys 15 yards at the wood line to my right, found a big oak to hide behind and waited. Five minutes went by. I made a few yelps from a diaphragm call and got another instant response.  He was to my left and now on the ground. I watched as he strutted with two feeding jakes. I called again, this time watching through binoculars. He hammered back, turned and started working my way. He was 200 yards off and closing. Moving up the left side of the pasture, he hung up beside the fallen apple tree 80 yards away. I knew he could see my decoys.
Not wanting to draw attention to my location, I remained silent. He had come far enough to meet my hens. Then, two hens appeared from behind a little knoll. Five birds now — this could be trouble. If they all came in it would be tough to draw without being spotted.
The hens began feeding away to my right. The gobbler remained visible for a moment, strutting to the left of the tree, then followed. My opportunity was slipping away. I had to get aggressive if I wanted this bird. As the hens fed over the knoll and out of sight, the gobbler hung back for a moment. If he followed I could try to make it to the apple tree. I had to cross 80 yards of field, but I had nothing to lose. 
When the gobbler started to follow his hens, I took off, staying as low as possible. Twenty yards from the tree I stopped dead in my tracks. The tom and jakes were right on the other side! If I could see them, I was sure they could see me.
The birds started moving back to the left. As soon as they went out of sight behind the treetop I dropped to one knee, drew and held my sights on an opening. A jake came into sight and continued on. Next, another jake stepped into view, paused and putted. This froze all of them. A few tense seconds went by and they continued to my left. Then the Boss cautiously stepped into view.
I held my 20-yard pin on him, and as soon as he cleared the last branch, I hit the release. The gobbler was hit hard. He fell, rolled and tried to take off. I jumped up and gave chase. He expired after a 75-yard run. I set my bow down to admire my bird and to try to grasp what had just happened. (I later found he weighed 25 pounds, had a nearly 10-inch beard and 1-inch spurs.)
After a few moments I picked up my bow, threw my turkey over my shoulder and headed back to collect my gear. Stuffing the decoys back into the bag, I remembered the phone in the side pocket. I turned it on and called the house. My dad answered, and I said the only thing I could think of: “So, there I was … ”

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