Editor's note: In this recurring blog, Editor Brian Lovett looks back at memorable moments in his turkey hunting journey. This entry covers his first hunt of Spring 1997, which to this day remains one of his all-time favorites.
It was my second year representing Turkey & Turkey Hunting. I was probably a little wiser and had certainly been made more humble the previous spring. Little did I know I was about to take a huge leap up the learning curve courtesy of a legend.
Deb Knauer, my boss at the time, and I had traveled to western Kentucky to hunt with David Hale and Harold Knight, founders of Knight & Hale. The first day, we hunted as a group, and Deb just missed out on killing a pesky gobbler that played hide-and-seek with us. The second day, we decided to split up, and I was to hunt with Harold.
He'd seen a gobbler in a field the previous afternoon, and that's the turkey we'd target. As we drove to the property, I listened intently to Harold's plan.
"He'll probably be roosted on a point up on the ridge," he said. "Hopefully, we'll get on him there, but if he gets in that field, we'll have to slip around and try to kill him there."
Sure enough, as predicted, the gobbler was roosted just over the edge of a fairly steep point. He sounded off well enough before flydown but then pitched the other way and went silent. Harold waited for a minute and then called. The bird responded from about 200 yards away, already in the field with hens.
Harold immediately backed out of our setup and dropped over the other side of the point. I followed him as we cut through the woods, trying to complete an end-around on the bird and his harem.
As we reached the far edge of the field, Harold motioned for me to stop. Then, he slipped toward the edge and peered through binoculars.
"Yep, he's on the other side of the field with six hens, and they're feeding this way," he whispered. "Come on."
Harold slowly eased toward the birds, stopping behind every tree to check. If the coast was clear, he'd motion me forward. That continued for about five minutes, until we'd sneaked about 100 yards along the edge. Then Harold found a large white oak surrounded by some underbrush, and we set up.
Soon, I saw two hens feeding in the field about 125 yards to the west. Slowly, more became visible. The hens pecked and scratched through the field, paying no attention to the unseen gobbler behind them.
After a minute, the lead hen veered toward us. And soon, we were surrounded. The gobbler then popped into view and strutted, motionless.
Soon, Harold cutt, and the bird gobbled. When the longbeard's neck snapped back, I fired, ending the hunt. There was a fence between us and the field, but you wouldn't have known it by the way Harold and I jumped over it.
It had been a great hunt, and we basked in the moment. However, I still had to ask Harold about his strategy.
"I wanted to make sure we walked around to the far end of the field so we wouldn't bump the birds," he said. "The last move before our setup was the key, though. Turkeys almost never walk from one end of a field to the other. They'll usually exit the field somewhere in the middle, and I knew that. That's why I set up where I did."
Experience is indeed the best teacher, and I was privy to 40-some years of it that glorious morning.