They say there’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to turkey hunting, but going after a gobbler with Roy Denney comes mighty close.
When you get an invite to go with Roy you can start getting the dumplings and dressing ready.
The March 30 Opening Day of the spring season found Roy and me hunkered in a blind on his Wilson County farm, overlooking a large pasture bordered by hardwoods.
We had eased into the blind before daylight, and as dawn began to glimmer on the distant horizon, turkeys started to stir.
A soft putt here, a sharp yelp there, and – right behind us – a booming gobble.
The birds were everywhere. Bare treetops in the woodline across the field were dotted with roosting turkeys, and further back in the woods more birds struck up a clatter of clucking and cackling.
Then they started to fly down, big wings beating as they sailed off their roosts and out into the field.
Soon dozens of turkeys were parading around, among them several big toms that fanned their tail feathers and strutted their stuff while stretching their necks and gobbling greetings to each other.
The close-up gobble of a wild turkey makes the hands tremble and the heart pound quicker. It never gets old and you never get used to it. Watching a gobbler strutting and fanning while listening to his throaty gobbling is one of the most exciting experiences in the outdoors.
If that doesn’t excite you, it’s time to hang up your camo and take up bowling.
Gobblers aren’t pushovers. A wild turkey is perhaps the most instinctively-wily creature on the planet. They can detect the blink of an eye at football-field distances, and have a 7ths sense about danger. The birds we were watching seemed to know the precise range of our 12-gauges and remained about 10 yards further out in the field.
They were tantalizing turkeys.
We watched the show for almost an hour – part spine-tingling and part nerve-wracking – and finally some of the gobblers separated themselves from the flock and began to drift our way.
One tom was out in front, trailed by three or four others. When the lead bird got within 30 yards of the blind, Roy whispered for me to take it.
I whispered back that we could wait for a second turkey to get within range, but he said we’d better not risk it. If the lead gobbler detected us, they’d all be gone.
I eased the gun barrel through the blind window, held the bead on the gobbler’s white head, and pulled the trigger. The turkey went tumbling.
The rest of the flock scurried off toward the distant woodline.
The downed gobbler had a 10-inch beard and 1 ½-inch spurs – a prime Tennessee tom.
It was a thrilling hunt, but I felt a tad guilty about taking a turkey that Roy could have bagged if he’d opted. He said not to worry about it – there’s plenty more birds where that one came from, and it’s a long season, running through May 12. I don’t think he’ll have any trouble collecting his gobbler.
It’s not a sure thing, but I definitely like the odds.