Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
Up before the alarm goes off, anticipation has made sleep restless; I find my way to my turkey hunting spot, set up at the edge of the woods on my friend’s farm. I hurry and throw out a decoy and then tuck into my blind and wait for the sun to make its appearance.
The morning is misty and thick. A layer of fog has settled in giving my view an eerie feel.
Down the ravine to my front, a turkey gobbles his location and is quickly answered back by two other Toms – one to the left and another in an open woods across the mowed pond dam. My left hand instinctively grips my longbow’s handle.
I wait as long as I can and as delicately as possible, I give a series of quiet yelps on my call. One of the birds immediately fires back a gobble and my heart begins to race. He’s on the ground and from the sounds of it, he’s moving my direction.
A few more soft calls and then I make myself go quiet. I peer into the treeline, scanning through the fog and movement catches my eye. The tall, black form of a Tom sneaking through the brush comes into view. I make a “purr, purr” call, trying my best to sound like a seductive hen turkey and lure him into range. He strides along a path that brings him to the edge of my set up.
My mind is telling me, “This is going to happen.”
My pulse is pounding and I have to force myself to settle down.
The big bird is just out of range, about 30 yards from my hiding spot. I tense the bow’s string and try to will the bird to make a few more steps my way. The longbeard checks out the decoy and hangs up just beyond my arrow’s reach. He silently picks his trail along the edge of the grass and makes his way across the pond. I call to him and he pounds out a gobble, raising the hair on the back of my neck.
I stop the old bird and he turns a few times, but try as I might, I can’t coax him into my lap. He walks on, gobbling about every ten steps letting the world know he’s here and he’s looking for love. I watch the rascal for another 40 minutes until he disappears out of sight and drops off over the hill.
The morning was young so I hunt on. The birds are vocal and the multiple Toms gobbling keeps my spirits high.
A bird fires off close to me giving me a jolt! A second bird sneaks in from my right, a true monster of a turkey, his beard dragging the ground and his chest bouncing with each step. He is coming and coming fast. My bow is ready and I imagine my shot over and over. He’s less than 15 yards from my blind, but the fool bird goes behind me, leaving me no chance to draw my bow at the awkward angle. I watch as he picks through the grass, snatching up bugs, half strutting and shaking his feathers, until he’s decided that he’s had enough of teasing me and slips into the woods and out of view, gobbling as he walks down the hillside.
A quick check of the time tells me it’s time to head to work and be responsible. As I drive home to change clothes, I think to myself that had I been sitting there with a shotgun, my hunt would have been over almost as quickly as it had began, but that’s not why I do this.
I’ve set a goal of taking a turkey with my longbow and for four seasons now, I’ve come home empty handed, but I’m not disappointed. I’m excited and happy for all my gun hunting buddies that have had success so far this turkey season, but the sad part for them is that their hunts are over and I get to continue on!
Will I ever get one with my bow? That’s yet to be seen, but you can bet I’ll be out there again with my stick and string.
– David Hewitt