Success When the Longbeard Turkeys Aren’t Coming to Calls

Neither of this hunt’s birds came to hen calls.

(Photo: Russ Chastain)
(Photo: Russ Chastain)

Turkey hunting is a heck of a thing. It’s fluid, it’s frustrating, it’s fantastic. Traditional methods didn’t do much for us on this hunt, but luck and fast thinking put two birds in the freezer.

Slow Beginnings

Like so many of my turkey hunts, it began slowly. The toms weren’t gobbling much, and on opening morning I only heard one distant gobble. When the rain moved in, I decided to head back to camp to stay dry. Why not? After all, I had nine days to hunt.

Sunday morning brought more rain, so I happily slid back into my sleeping bag and zonked off again. The weather improved later in the day, so I headed out with my longtime hunting buddy John, with whom I’d been hunting more than twenty years. John and I started hunting together when he was a teen and I was in my early twenties; while everyone else stayed home, he and I were always ready to hit the boondocks to hunt for some hair & feathers.

(Photo: Russ Chastain)
(Photo: Russ Chastain)

This time, we went in style. John brought his hotspot-enabled phone and laptop and we set up in the tower at the clay range around 3:00 PM, sitting in comfort and staying connected. A chance for us to do a little work-related communication and still be out there where the birds lived. Laugh if you like, but it beat sitting around back at camp.

Eight minutes later, we heard the first gobble. Laugh no more.

The gobbler was ahead of us and it did come our way, but turned long before he got there. We also heard a lot of gobbling from the woods behind us. An hour and a half after settling into the stand, a tom snuck in silently from behind and busted us. We did some walking later and turned up a hen, but nothing else.

The Hunting Heats Up

Monday’s weather was horrible, and I spent some hours in the woods but never heard a bird. The 45 MPH wind gusts didn’t help. Tuesday morning was windy again, but I did hear some turkeys. None were nearby and none would come to call, but at least I heard something.

Come early afternoon, John and I decided to head back to the clay range; he had heard some birds that morning and was hoping they’d return. He headed out in a hurry a few minutes before I did, so when I parked my UTV near his Jeep, John was nowhere in sight. I grabbed my gear and started walking down the narrow driveway towards the clay range.

As I walked down the road, staying off of the gravel for stealth reasons, I thought I heard a distant gobble in the breeze. When I got about halfway to the range, looked up in the tower and failed to see John. That was odd.

I eased up closer and spotted my friend. He was down on one knee near a corner of the food plot with his shotgun shouldered, looking around a corner at something I couldn’t see. He was clearly onto something, I just couldn’t tell what.

A Friend’s First Longbeard

I stepped into the cover of the woods and slipped through them to get closer to John, who kept his gun up and never looked back — and couldn’t have heard me coming anyway due to the wind. At one point, he scooted up closer to the corner of the field, and when I got about 40 yards behind him I hunkered down, threw on my face mask, and produced some plaintive yelps on Dad’s old Lynch World Champion box call. I was hoping to pull the gobbler — which I still couldn’t see — closer to my buddy.

Less than a minute later, I watched as a hunter I’d had a part in training dropped the hammer on his first wild turkey. Turns out, John had been on his way to the tower when he’d spotted the bird strutting in the field; the tom hadn’t noticed as John faded back out of view and closed the distance, then closed in again. John called a little — you already know that I did too — but the gobbler never did come any closer. John finally got a good clear shot at the bird’s head and nailed it at 40 yards.

(Photo: Russ Chastain)
(Photo: Russ Chastain)

Lucky? You bet. But also a great example of making the best of a situation and taking the initiative to get the job done. That longbeard was his first wild turkey, and I reckon he was happier than I was — but not by too much.

We took photos and had a good old time after some hugs (manly, of course) and back-slapping, then took a long walk to check other fields for gobblers. At one point, John spotted a turkey in the trail ahead, but it was gone in a few steps, and that was that.

It had been a great day.

Running For a Tom

On Wednesday morning, John joined me for an hour’s hunting before he had to head home. We heard many gobbles, but no birds came our way. After John headed out, I did…

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