A faint gobble caught my attention. It was a long way out and probably across the river. Daylight was coming now, and I needed to get closer to be sure. A brisk walk down the sandy logging road brought me to a junction with another logging road. This road was the boundary to our hunting club. I stopped to listen.
Songbirds were serenading the morning, and crows were calling. A distant gobble confirmed that the turkey was definitely across the river, and even if he came over, he would still be on the other club land.
Pulling out my box call, I banged out a yelp as loud as I could. The turkey gobbled. I waited a few minutes and made another loud yelp. Another immediate gobble. This turkey could hear my calls and seemed interested, but the chance that he would fly across the wide river seemed remote.
I couldn't get any closer and figured this road junction would offer good visibility, so I pulled a hen decoy out of my vest and stuck it up in the road. It was still early enough that another gobbler might start up on my side of the river.
Picking out a big pine near the road, I sat down with my back to the other club. After a few minutes, a muffled call back toward the river caught me by surprise. The turkey was on the ground now and seemed to be on our side of the river. I waited a minute or two and made a loud call. The turkey gobbled, and he was closer.
Immediately, I jumped up and scooted across the road to a big pine tree on a slightly raised bank. I sat down facing the other club, got situated and made another yelp - not so loud. The turkey gobbled again even closer. He had flown over the river from a great distance away and was coming.
My heart started pounding. It was going to happen. I had to make a conscious effort to calm myself down. I needed to get this gobbler out into the road and onto our property to shoot. He had closed the distance from the river very quickly, and I was sure he would keep coming.
But the only sure thing in turkey hunting is - there are no sure things. This gobbler stopped out in a little hardwood bottom on the other club land. He was only about 40 yards from the road, but I couldn't see him. He stood there and gobbled at every call I made. After a while I decided to give him the silent treatment to see if that would budge him. But it did not.
Silence, then the sound of wings beating and clucks and purrs came from the bottom. There were multiple gobblers over there, and they were fighting. I realized that I was shaking like it was cold, but it was just nerves. What was next?
When it got quiet I scratched out a soft yelp. One gobbled just to the right, and another one gobbled just to the left. I didn't know which way to look. They were so close that I was amazed that I couldn't see them. I yelped again, and they gobbled farther to the left and right. This wasn't going right. All I needed was for one to walk out into the road.
Silence again. Then one gobbled even farther away on the right. Movement to the left caught my eye, and I saw a shadowy movement in the timber coming my way. Then, a loud gobble sounded right to my front. I eased my gun around toward the gobble. The movement was very slight, but it caused a loud "put" to sound from a screen of brush at the edge of the road, 20 yards to my front. My heart sank.
A loud put, or alarm call, will usually put every turkey in the vicinity into retreat. But not this time. Another turkey started alarm putting farther back in the brush, and the gobbler to the right answered with a double gobble. Wow!
A beautiful gobbler walked out into the road as I looked right down my gun barrel. I punched the safety off and put the bead on his head. But it was a big jake, which is just an immature gobbler. Even though they are legal, I don't shoot jakes.
The turkey back in the brush continued to make puts and clucks, and the one in the road just stood there looking at my decoy. The turkey to the right gobbled and walked out into the road 70 yards away. It was a big longbeard, and he strutted out into the middle of the road. I just knew he would come my way. But he did not.
The longbeard turned and started walking down the road. All I could do was watch him walk away. The other turkey that had stood back in the brush making alarm calls walked out into the road. That one was also a jake.
The two jakes eventually wandered off, and I sat there thinking about the morning's hunt. Maybe next time.
Dan Geddings is a weekly columnist for The Sumter Item. Email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.