The gobble was faint but distinct, carried on a gentle breeze wafting across a rocky ridge a couple hundred feet or so above me. I turned and faced the steep incline, working up the gumption to take the first step.
By Gordy J. Krahn
Turkey & Turkey Hunting Editor
“Stairway to Heaven,” my brother Tony called this sheer, rock-strewn slope because it leads to a long, narrow meadow that runs the length of the ridgetop. I had scaled it before and had a pretty good idea where I’d find the tom once I got up there — even though he’d become tight-lipped.
An hour earlier, Tony and I had clawed and scratched our way down into the deep box canyon — a jagged wound that cut through miles of Black Hills public land turkey utopia. The ridge jutted out from its opposite side like a long, narrow peninsula. The predawn darkness was beautifully quiet, and we had decided to split up to increase our odds of an encounter of the feathered kind.
Have you ever noticed that distances don’t seem quite as far or hills quite as steep when there’s a gobble at the other end? Fueled by the optimism of that single gobble, I scaled the cliff and was soon on level ground again — where I stopped to catch my breath … and listen.
Another gobble! This time there was no doubt the tom and I shared the same ridge. I eased over to the edge of the long, narrow clearing and pulled a foam hen decoy from my backpack. I hadn’t called to the tom yet. I wanted everything just right before I let him know I was there.
Finally settled in, I retrieved a well-worn diaphragm call from my shirt pocket and sent out a soft invitation. To my surprise the tom cut me off with an aggressive double gobble. Less than a minute later he gobbled again, having cut the distance between us in half. The sight of that gobbler strutting across that sliver of open ridge, walking right up to my decoy, was a sight I’ll never forget. Many times since that encounter, I’ve sat up on that ridge and replayed the events of that day in my mind. I can’t recall ever killing another bird up there, but that ridgetop still draws me in — beckons me.
I’m guessing that you also have places in the wilds that call to your spirit — those that are special to you for any number of reasons. And the fact that you’re reading Turkey & Turkey Hunting tells me that a turkey probably showed you some of those treasures. Maybe it’s where you killed your first turkey. Maybe it’s an incredible vista that warms your soul. Maybe it’s where a wise old tom gave you the slip.
Cherish these magical places and the time you have left together. Each of us is allowed only so many springs in the turkey woods. Make every moment, every sound, every sight, every smell count. If you kill a turkey along the way, so much the better.
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