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The Noncommittal Sort

Posted by Jake Edson, F+W Outdoors Editor
Hindsight is 20/20.  After any turkey encounter, you can always sit
back and analyze the reasons for success and failure. That’s why the
best hunters are those who have spent much more time in the woods than
I have.

April 23rd’s lesson? Sometimes it’s best to hold your cards for a while.

After a failed early morning set up, I slowly worked my way along a
fence running down a wooded ridge trying to strike a bird. As I neared
the end, I inched forward for a quick check on a small ridge-shelf
green field. When I spotted the top of a tail fan protruding from a
small fold, I dropped to my knees and crawled forward. Another glance
revealed a trio of strutters courting a half dozen hens.

I dumped my vest, grabbed one call and wiggled to a fallen oak along
the fence. When I peaked over, I found the flock in the same depression
about 70 yards into the field. A fourth gobbler spit and spun 20 yards
closer to the fence, but another 40 yards down from my position. I
thought about trying to crawl closer to the fourth bird, but the cover
was wimpy and my chances were poor. I tried calling the fourth tom
over, but he spurned my yelps and joined the flock.
As the sun climbed, I sat and watched the toms dance, alternately
trying to call the birds and just waiting to see if one of the
strutters would drift a bit closer. I figured a passive approach would
leave me more options if the birds changed their attitude.

Finally, about the time my back began to seize, my patience was
rewarded. A hen dropped into breeding position and two toms rushed her.
The bigger tom jumped high into the air and let loose with a series of
vicious kicks on his rival. He then hopped on the hen and bred her. The
defeated tom quickly deflated and decided that timid, unseen hen in the
woods might be a better option than the girls that were obviously
spoken for. He tucked his wings and strode straight into a pattern of
Winchester Xtended range No. 6s.

Sure, I could have have tried to incite the hens. I certainly thought
about it. But they might have also turned and marched their mates the
other way. In this case, patience paid off. Next time, I might not be
so lucky. But then I’ll learn another lesson — the hard way.

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