After years of chasing Eastern toms around Indiana and Virginia, my recent success in Osceola County, FL reminded me how quickly luck can switch when chasing the ghost of the woods. The weekend after my return from the Florida trip, I went back to the drawing board to finally tag my elusive Eastern tom. Given I had not had a chance to do much scouting in the prior weeks, I decided to try to mimic the technique I had successfully used in fooling my last tom: Run and gun.
Since I would be hunting on private ground, the less-pressured birds would be more likely to come into decoys than the Osceolas I had been chasing the week earlier. Feeling optimistic, I decided to bring my Hoyt along with hopes of a preoccupied tom offering an easy shot.
Thirty minutes before sunrise, I had settled into a natural pinch point between a fence row and large section of woods. While I was enjoying the early morning scenery, several toms erupted to the north. If they were headed to the fence row, they would have to pass by me. I let out several soft clucks and purrs which were met with an immediate response. Taking cues from my last tom, and more exposed than usual without my Double Bull Doublewide, I decided to shut up and wait.
My DSDs were set up in front of me along a service road in the woods, and I had imagined that these toms would be traveling down this road on their way to the fence row. After a few minutes, I could hear something approaching from that direction… but then it stopped.
Slowly turning my head, I could see a Jake following closely behind a hen about 50 yards away from me in the woods, towards the fence row. Too thick for a shot, I let them pass and make their way across the road to the private land to the south. He’s safe for now.
After waiting another twenty minutes without a gobble from the other toms, I made an educated guess where the others might be heading. I’d have less chance of bumping anything if I were to follow the rock road back to the other area, so I hit the rock road at a brisk walk. Imagining my next setup, I was blankly staring at the rocks paying attention barely enough to keep myself from tripping. About halfway along the five-hundred-yard trip on the rock road, I am awakened from my hunt planning by the sound of flapping wings. That beard disappeared over the treetops from the middle of the road a mere twenty-five yards from where I stood. That’s it. I’m calling it a day.
My next opportunity to hunt would be the following Friday before work. Given I had only a couple hours—and no chance to roost a bird due to my late flight in—I decided to try the same run-and-gun approach but to use an actual gun this time. I was not going to let yet another year pass without punching a tag on an eastern. Especially if he decided to travel through the woods like list time.
I found myself sitting in roughly the same spot where the tom and hen passed a week ago, decoys set up offering the most visibility in the woods possible. Shortly after shooting light I hear the bittersweet sound of a gobble (across the road on private property). Wind not in my favor, I let out the largest yelps I could muster. No response. Either way, I switched the pop-up blind to that side to give me a visual break if he did decide to cross my way.
To my surprise, I heard footsteps to my left from the direction of the road. I quickly switch on the camera, and pan as far over as possible. Out pops the red head of a jake who appears to be completely enthralled by my DSD Jake. He’s visibly not quite sure what to do, but dead-set on beating up this intruder in his woods. He got in a few good hits before giving me the shot window I had wanted. Boom! Just like that the third species towards my grand slam was in my hands with some unforgettable memories.
- 14 lbs.
- 3.5″ beard
- 1/4″ spurs
- Remington 870 Wingmaster
- Hoyt Carbon Spyder Turbo – 70# 28.5″draw length
- Spot Hogg Hunter – Seven Deadly Pins
- Gold Tip Velocity Pro 340 arrows
- Firenock nocks and Aerovane II vanes
- Carter Too Simple release
- Grim Reaper broadheads – 125gr Whitetail Special
- DSD decoys – Jake, Submissive, Upright and Feeding Hen.
- HECS Stealthscreen
- Sitka Gear
- Benchmade HUNT Knives
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