The 12-gauge shotgun blast caught me totally by surprise. In fact—to define it more creatively—astonishingly astounded would best describe my reaction. Less than five minutes prior to the shot, my friend Steve Petris and his son Josh and I were quietly walking out a woods road that paralleled a long and narrow two-and-a-half-acre field. Our plan was to get a gobbler in front of Josh—the only tag bearer in our party.
Despite our nonchalant footsteps, I knew we were in turkey country so steaming hot that condensation will often coat a box call. How did I know it was hot? Inside scoop! Dad had repeatedly mentioned the longbeards he’d seen in this area while traveling the nearby Township road before the season opened.
The three of us had barely lost sight of the truck when Josh stopped us. He was certain he had heard a tom turkey. Picking up the pace, we’d only covered a couple dozen more yards when we all heard the second gobble. Instantly, Josh dashed for cover, while Steve and I backtracked a short distance, where we found a suitable tree to sit against to look, listen and attempt to coax in the “star of the show.”
With an eye on Steve, I watched as he revealed an assortment of calls and accessories from the pockets of his vest, and placed them by his side. Next, he unfastened the rawhide strip from the paddle of his Lynch box call, and expertly cast a short sequence of hen talk. The tom was speechless.
A few minutes had passed when I slowly leaned toward Steve and mentioned the suddenly silent bird. Steve’s whispering response was accompanied by a snicker. “Get used to it,” he said. “That’s not uncommon. I guarantee one thing, that gobbler heard my call. Now it’s a waiting game to see if we’ve enticed him.” Steve’s remark taught me something, since I was a very inexperienced turkey hunter at the time.
Settling back against the tree, I was trying to foretell what Steve or Josh might pull out of their sleeves next, when the shotgun blast broke the silence. Steve and I briefly made eye contact, and as I jumped to my feet and started toward Josh, I heard Steve say, “See what I mean?”
By the time I’d reached the smiling young hunter, the flopping had ceased from the ten-inch bearded gobbler. A firm handshake had me expressing my extreme thrill in witnessing someone else’s sweet success.
I once read in a turkey hunting publication that good turkey hunters commonly wait with gun ready at least twenty minutes after their last calling sequence before moving on. That’s because a gobbler’s behavior or mood is so totally random that he may burn rubber coming in as vocal as can be, or, he may come in tiptoeing inch by frustrating inch with nary a peep.
Since that turkey hunting episode with Steve and Josh, I’ve witnessed both variations, so I’m a firm believer in the twenty minute cardinal rule. But, rule or no rule, I’m sure there will be many times in seasons to come when I’ll return home from hunting without ever seeing a turkey, but a turkey probably saw me...when I finally moved twenty-one minutes later.