|The evening before the Ohio season opener, my dad Kirk and I stood at the crest of a hill trying to pinpoint the location of what we believed to be two toms below us. Both toms were responding beautifully to our owl hooting.As we sat in the cabin that night playing cards and discussing tomorrow’s hunt, our outlook was positive. Nothing is guaranteed in turkey hunting, but roosting a couple toms on private land the night before sure boosts your confidence.
The next morning we crept through the dark woods and found a pair of trees that looked like they would make an ideal setup spot. Before daylight even broke, the morning’s first gobble boomed through the forest, shattering the silence. The gobble triggered another bird to hammer back. At this point I became overconfident and began to envision at least one of the birds becoming Thanksgiving dinner.
The two birds gobbled back and forth until finally legal shooting time arrived. Unfortunately, as the sunlight moved in, so did a hen. When she began to join the morning serenade, Dad and I knew we were in trouble.
Being an experienced caller, my dad began to mimic and challenge the hen, but apparently she had moved within sight of the toms. As far as they were concerned, a hen they could see was much more enticing than one they couldn’t. We listened as the two birds flew down toward the hen, hoping that one might leave her and head toward us.
But as the next few minutes passed, the gobbles grew fainter as the hen quickly led them away. As rapidly as the action had heated up, it diminished.
We tried a few other setups that morning with minimal action. Trekking back to the cabin, we contemplated what to try the next morning. We agreed to go back and try to roost the birds again. Sure enough, they returned to the big oaks. We just sat back and listened as the toms gobbled themselves to sleep.
We got up extra early the next morning. Our plan was to get nice and close in an attempt to be the closest “hen” around. We took our time as we closed the distance, hoping to sneak in as tight as possible without bumping the gobblers off the roost. Finally we got where we wanted to be and settled in to wait for daybreak.
As the sun started to filter through the treetops, the toms cranked up. We followed the sounds with our eyes and spotted the pair on a limb only 80 yards away, their beards dangling against the gray morning sky. But then we spotted something we wished wasn’t there: a hen roosted right next to them. That was not a good sign.
Dad decided not to call while the birds were roosted so the hen wouldn’t fly off in the opposite direction and the take the toms with her. It seemed like an eternity for the birds to come down, but once they did we let them have it.
The hen angrily responded to every one of Dad’s calls. She did not approve of the intruder. My dad and the hen squabbled back and forth for quite a while, both trying to win over the gobblers, which were going crazy. They responded to every exchange.
We watched as the toms strutted back and forth, putting on a show, but once again they wouldn’t commit to something they couldn’t see while they were already with the real thing. We didn’t give up hope because at least they wouldn’t let the hen lead them away while there was so much action going on. This continued for close to 45 minutes, but no matter what we tried or how hard we called they just wouldn’t come.
Then the unexpected happened: A flock of 10 jakes popped up over the hill and headed toward us. Just as the young birds silently crested the hill, one of the toms spotted them. It was sheer pandemonium. The toms were not going to let a bunch of jakes take either of their hens, so they charged toward us, chasing jakes as they came. Amongst all of the bobbing red and white heads I was able to pick out one of the longbeards and let him have it.
Once the echo from my shot faded and the woods had settled, we got up and retrieved our bird. As we stood admiring him we both broke out laughing, joking about how if it hadn’t been for the jakes we never would have bagged a tom.
To this day I still think back to that morning’s hunt with my dad, the great memories it made and the lesson we learned about jake jealousy.
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