With my Grandpa passing away merely days before the turkey opener my heart just wasn’t in it like normal. Opening weekend was filled with heavy hearts and funeral arrangements as my family closed the book on what was the tale of a great man’s life. Having difficulty dealing with all the emotions I figured it best to try to take my mind off everything and do something I love, bowhunt.
Helping Sarah tag her first bow bird in the morning proved to be very rewarding as I saw her beaming with excitement. On the way to the funeral we saw two birds strutting with some hens in an old favorite field from the road as we drove by. I knew where my setup would be the next morning. Long before daybreak, on a rainy morning, I got the blind setup and decoys arranged along the south edge of this long North and South running field. Figuring the bird would come from one of two places I was in position for either entrance into the field. The rain set in hard and steady as the first signs of grey light started to peek in. Preoccupied with attaching my Clip-Shot mounted GoPro to a blind rod facing back at me, I happened to catch movement out of the corner of my eye. In a matter of milliseconds I thought “hen… nope! Coyote!” Luckily I had my arrow already nocked and release clipped on the D-loop of my bow-string which was resting against the side of the blind beside me.
Grabbing the bow instinctually and snapping to full draw I realized this guy was sneaking into my decoy spread. As he inched forward toward the DSD’s he cleared the corner of the blind and paused. Putting the blue fine crosshairs of my “Spark” on his shoulder and slowly engaging my release hand I awaited the arrows release. The shot going off surprised me as well as the yote as a monster cut mechanical zipped through his shoulders. Jumping and spinning simultaneously he took off in a circle bearing back the direction he had come then outward into the field. Roughly 40 yards out he flipped over rear-end first and made his final bed.
“Wow!” I thought. That was about the last thing I was expecting to happen in very first signs of morning light. I gladly accepted the opportunity to dispatch an old elusive coyote with my bow. As a wildlife manager you can’t ever seem to kill enough of them. A short celebration ensued as I finished preparing my cameras for turkey action.
The only sounds heard before fly down where song birds and popping of rain drops on the blind roof. As the light crept in, 300 yards to the north a hen popped out of the field edge and was soon followed by a gobbler.
Slowly, they fed toward my hide. An hour later, they finally broke the 100 yard barrier as they continued to feed in my direction. Though the gobbler was following this hen he had only gobbled once to some passing crows and had never gone into full strut on a single occasion. As they inched closer and closer, I realized the downed coyote was positioned directly between the birds and my blind and that may end up being a disaster. My fears became to reality as the hen rose up on full alert as she cautiously approached the downed dog. Much to my surprise she never alarm putted and just slowly skirted the animal and resumed feeding.
A huge sigh of relief came over me as she neared my decoy spread. The gobbler circled the coyote in similar fashion but now lagged behind the hen a good 40 yards. She slowly fed into the spread as the soaking wet gobbler watched from a safe distance of 50 yards. As the hen started interacting with the feeding hen decoy, I kept awaiting the gobbler to break and come closer. At that exact moment the battery in my Canon 5D died. With the hen at 12 yards I had to slowly take the camera off the tripod, flip it over, and pull out the expired battery. Trying not to break eye contact with the action, I unzipped the front pocket of my GamePlan Gear pack, grabbed an extra battery, and mounted the camera back onto the tripod.
Surprisingly, without spooking anything, I was able to accomplish this feat, however the hen had lost interest and had fed back out to the gobbler standing at 50 yards.
As I powered the camera back on and focused the gobbler in frame I hit a few light yelps and purrs while scratching my foot in the wet leaves beneath me. He slowly turned as the hen passed him and started feeding back to the north again. He was not going to come in but do the exact opposite and leave. I grabbed my rangefinder dangling from my neck and ranged him. The bright OLED display read 49 yards. Grabbing the bull knob on my Hogg Father I spun the dial to the 49 yard mark and drew back but couldn’t get him into view. The blind opening on the far left was too low for me to get him in my sight picture even if I scrunched down. “Dang it” I thought and quickly realized that I would have to move my HuntMore chair and make the shot from my knees.
Luckily the rained steadily continued as I eased the chair backward and dropped to my knees. The rangefinder now read 53 yards. Hitting my anchor point and resting my thumb on the knurled thumb trigger I took aim. The 2x lens in my Spark scope helped me pick the exact spot I wanted the arrow to enter. Settling in, I exhaled as my release hand engaged to squeeze the shot off. Cuooo! As I watched the red Firenock arching so beautifully on its way to the bird my heart dropped as it impacted much lower than desired. The bird took off with a few wing beats before running into the woods. “I missed. It felt perfect. How did I miss??” I said to myself. Sitting my chair back up I flopped down to enjoy my pity party I was throwing in light of a missed shot. Spinning the 5D around to better view the LCD screen on the rear of the camera I proceeded to watch the shot over again. I watched it first in real-time, and then again frame by frame. I found out that while adjusting my sight for 53 yards and peeking once more at the LCD screen to ensure he was still in the frame he had taken a few more steps away from me that I was unaware of.
He was actually standing at 56 yards instead of the 53 my sight tape read. I also noticed that the arrow had actually struck the bird between the hips and tailbone. “The arrow went in that bird!” I said out loud to myself. I lean back in my chair and breathed a heavy sigh of relief but knew I wasn’t out of the woods yet.
I have hit birds back and low before in the “guts” and was able to recover them given they had enough time to bleed out. Though it is not nearly as good as a shot in the vitals, this location is just as effective in killing a turkey. Patience pays off in this situation so not knowing exactly where the bird had gotten to I leaned back and waited for several hours. After only a few minutes I looked up and out in the field stood another gobbler near where the previous two turkeys had come from. For the next 2.5 hours I watched as this gobbler slowly but surely worked all the way into the decoy spread. Unfortunately in North Carolina you can only shoot one bird a day so with an arrow already in one gobbler this guy got a free pass. He finally left the field so I popped out of my blind and walked out to where I had hit the gobbler.
A few soggy feathers lay where he stood and just behind that laid my arrow. There existed no blood on it however it had been pouring rain for the last 5 hours so I was not surprised. I picked off the few feathers that remained in the broadhead and stuck the arrow back into my quiver. I slowly eased over to the wood-line and immediately found blood. Not just a few drops, but more like something you would see from a running whitetail that had been double lunged. “Oh yea” I thought to myself as I broke out my cell phone to take a picture of the blood to send to Sarah whom I had been giving the play-by-play via text messaging all morning. Just to be safe I eased back out to pack up all my things and grab the coyote and head over to my parent’s house for lunch. After a quick meal and storytelling session, my Dad and I headed back over to the property to find my gobbler.
We arrived back at the blood trail that continued as prominently as it had started into the woods. “Blood here. Blood here. Man look at how much there is!” Dad and I bantered quietly back and forth. Dad went up ahead of me as I lingered to film the blood trail and announced, “here he is!”
I rushed ahead to be the first to touch the bird. With my Nikon D5100 in my right hand I reached down and rolled the stiff bird over. Turning to my Dad I said, “These are the best spurs I have ever gotten here in North Carolina!” As I held the camera in my hand and filmed a little interview, Dad grabbed the old gobbler and hung him on a limb behind me by one spur saying, “He’s a limbhanger!”
The healing process of losing a loved one is a long journey. With possibly the most emotional week of my life just barely in the rear-view, the best single hunt I have ever experienced in the turkey woods was merely a step in the recovery. As I knelt beside that bird I couldn’t help but tear up as I recalled an entire life full of memories shared with a man who saw all the morning’s action from his new home up above.
Dedicated in the memory of Paul Davis Breedlove Sr.
Hoyt Vector 35, Spot Hogg Hogg Father with Spark 2x fine Scope, GT Velocity Pro arrows, Firenock nocks and Aerovane II vanes, Carter Simple One release, B-Stinger 17oz 12” hunter, GamePlan Gear Over and under pack system and Snap-Shot bow sling, Dead End Game Calls, HuntMore 19” Chair, DSD Turkey Flock, HECS suit, Double Bull DarkHorse blind, Canon 5D, 4 GoPo Hero cameras, Nikon D5100
Bird specs: 22# 8 ounces, 1 7/16” spur and 1 1/4” spur. 10 ¼” beard.
Coyote: Male 37 pounds 7 ounces