That afternoon, I joined Mossy Oak's Chris Paradise at another property. He'd seen a large breeding flock in a pasture two days earlier, so we planned to slip into a blind, call quietly and wait for something to happen. After about two hours, something did.
Several hens answered our calls and soon ambled past our blind. They began feeding about 20 steps away, so we tried our best to remain motionless while watching for trailing gobblers.
"I see three fans," Paradise said, while leaning back and peering behind us. "They're coming."
I froze, motionless, trying to make sure the hens remained calm and acted like natural decoys. Meanwhile, I worried whether the gobblers would come to my left or go behind the blind, which would necessitate me turning around to shoot. I had my answer quickly.
"Forty-five yards to your left," Paradise whispered.
I peered through a hole in the makeshift cedar blind to see feet and then a tail. No doubt, they belonged to a gobbler. Paradise urged me to shoot immediately, so I slowly started to shift myself into position.
Unfortunately, I never got the chance. The bright afternoon sun was beating off the exposed parts of our faces — the part of my forehead between my cap and facemask, specifically — and the lead gobbler picked me out in a second.
Before I could raise the gun and fire, the first gobbler putted, and the longbeards flushed and flew a half-mile. The hens followed. It was finished.
I sat in stunned silence for a moment. Wow. Score one for the turkeys.
The next morning was my last, so Paradise and I went for broke. Before daylight, we set up in a wide-open mesquite field near a huge roost. The gobbling was phenomenal, so we expected action soon after fly-down.
Soon, several hens raced past us and started dusting. A longbeard followed them. I shifted my finger to the safety and waited for the bird to clear a mesquite bush before firing. But then, the gobbler raised his head, putted softly and went the other way. What?
Minutes later, another gobbler came screaming in to our calls. However, he also putted and ran the other way.
Then we figured it out. Jakes. Ugh.
In a last-ditch effort, Paradise and I tried calling near the roost. After the first yelp, birds responded from every point of the compass. We quickly sat down and got ready. Two fired-up longbeards roared in to less than 50 yards, unseen just under the crest of a small hill. But then furious jake gobbling erupted to our right. After a tense five minutes, the longbeards faded away and shut up. We'd been punked again.
What a great hunt it had been. Seeing all those jakes and jennies had been frustrating, but it sure made you feel good about future years of Lone Star turkey hunting. In fact, 2014 seems like a pretty good year to return, don't you think?