VT Turkey: Hunt 1 – Shoot the Bird, Not the Tree.
Like most people, I don’t enjoy looking like an idiot, but I possess an unshakeable talent for it that is deeply embedded in my genetic makeup. Such was the case of my first ever spring turkey hunt on Sunday morning in Vermont.
Toward the end of the morning hunt, Christian and I found ourselves lying in the grass on a field edge, pinned down from the eyes of the wary gobbler, Tom. He’d been hung up all morning on the wrong side of a drainage ditch that divided the field in two. The ditch was about eight feet wide from the top of one bank to the other, three feet deep, and was lined with scrubby brush. Ten inches of water flowed slowly in the bottom. The ditch was enough of a barrier to keep Tom from coming to Christian’s calling, and the brush was just thick enough that we could only catch glimpses of Tom as he gobbled constantly and fed back and forth in the field.
The big bird had glided down from his roost just after daybreak and landed on the wrong side of the ditch. He’d totally ignored the decoys Christian had set up the night before while flying over, most likely because Shells, my recently purchased decoy, was not a starter in the lineup. She was back in the truck sitting this one out, but I have a feeling if she’d been present the outcome would have been different. The brush shielded Tom’s view of the decoy set up from where he’d crash landed in the field, so he was content to stay put.
Time was of the essence for this hunt since both of us had to get to church, and as I watched Tom’s body move back and forth in the field through the brush that separated us, I knew it was going to take a miracle to pull off the hunt. I inched forward looking for any gap in the brush that would afford me a semi-clear shot. Tom was only forty yards out into the field, but each time I tried to draw a bead on him while lying on my belly there was too much brush in the way.
Then I heard the unmistakable voice of Siri in my coat pocket, “I’m sorry, I seemed to have lost my Internet connection.” Fortunately she shut up quickly, but I got the feeling the whole situation was about to blow up, and I crawled forward another couple of feet and found my best opening yet. Christian gave a couple yelps and Tom stuck his head in the air and let out a ferocious gobble. I lined up the shot, squeezed the trigger, and blew apart the tree that was not five yards in front of me. I didn’t miss the bird, I just didn’t hit him. Know what I mean? My aim was true; I just have no idea where the tree came from. Tom was as surprised as I was.
Despite our best efforts, the beast flew off into the tree line unscathed. My pride, however, was seriously wounded and my resolve to redeem myself on a bird will soon overtake my responsibility to show up for work on time. I’ll be back.
Many thanks to Christian who was extremely generous to do all the work to set me up on a turkey; it’s too bad I blew it. I garnered many tips from him in the short amount of time we had to hunt, and for that I am very thankful. I’d also like to point out he learned a thing or two from me, such as how to clear shooting lanes with a 12 gauge.
I’d like to take a moment and give a shoutout to the nonresident hunters who were already parked at our hunting location when we arrived shortly at 4 am. Both parties had, unknown to each other, roosted the same birds the night before. If we hadn’t already had a bunch of gear in the field that was set up the night before, we would have hunted a different location. Even though you didn’t have another place to hunt you were gracious in conversation, and though we could all feel the disappointment, you were willing to leave to find another location. I hope the place Christian directed you to go proved to be fruitful for you. Being new to this turkey hunting thing, I am surprised at how many conflicts take place between hunters. You, gentlemen, are clearly a cut above the rest and there are many that could learn from your example.
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