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2017 Indiana Long Beard – Rich Peace

Last year, for the first time since 2002, I failed to kill a turkey.  I still managed to have some enjoyable, even exciting hunts, but the sting of failure has sat with me for the last 12 months.  I knew leading into the 2017 turkey season, there was going to be a lot of pressure on me to get the job done.  After the first three days of hunting in Ohio, as hard as I tried not to, I found myself getting frustrated and discouraged.  The bird numbers near my house are still down substantially compared to years past and I simply wasn’t seeing or hearing any birds on the properties I had permission to hunt.  Thankfully my dad’s farm in Indiana was covered up in birds, and after he and his longtime friend Fred filled their tags on opening morning, he was excited to have me down to see if I could get the monkey off my back.

When the alarm went off at 3:30 AM on April 28th, I found myself surprisingly eager to roll out of bed.  My wife would tell you I’m no morning person; Things change when turkey hunting is involved.  After gathering up my gear and loading the truck, I was on my way to my dad’s place.  I got in right at 6:00 AM and we immediately set out to get set up.  On our way to the blind we bumped a turkey off the roost, but we quickly overlooked it as the gobblers started to sound off in the distance.  We identified 4 or 5 birds that we felt were well within calling distance, and settled back to let the morning unfold.

About fly down time, I began doing some soft yelping to see if we could drum up a response.  It didn’t take long before we had a bird working to my calls.  He was still a few hundred yards away, but was gradually getting closer.  A few minutes after he started closing the distance, we heard several sets of loud yelps just between us and the gobbler.  We figured at that point we were SOL, and for a little while it sure seemed that way.  The tom that was coming our way quickly shut up, and there was no more indication that he was headed towards us.

Around 7:30, I decided to let out another series of yelps.  NOTHING!  Not a peep.  At first I decided to just be patient and wait the morning out, but just for kicks, I decided to call out the back window in hopes that a better focused direction of my calling would get a lonely gobbler’s attention.  Sure enough, a bird answered back immediately.  I waited another 5 minutes and called again, this time out of the front of the blind, he gobbled back almost immediately and sounded to be quite a bit closer.  I knew from past experience that if I continued to call, it was likely that he would hang up expecting me to come to him.  So I put my call down and readied my bow.  10 or 15 minutes passed, and still nothing.  I couldn’t resist any longer, I picked up my call and let out a very soft set of yelps and clucks.  Half way through my calling, the gobble that came as a reply nearly made me jump out of my chair.  He was closer alright, he could not have been more than 40 yards to our left.

I looked over at my dad and told him to keep and eye out.  I knew it would be a matter of seconds before the gobbler popped into the field.  Seconds passed, and then minutes, and I was left wondering what on earth was taking him so long to materialize.  Partially from fear that the bird had started to move away from the blind, and partially from sheer impatience, I decided to grab my slate call out of my bag and see if a few soft purrs would finally lure this bird into our DSD spread.  Apparently my Tom Teasers slate call is magic, because as soon as I put my hands on it my dad tapped me on the shoulder and told me that there were two strutters right next to the blind.  And when he said right next to the blind, he meant RIGHT NEXT TO THE BLIND.  As I glanced up and saw them quickly approaching the decoys, I could hear their wing tips dragging the dew-covered wheat in the field.  I quickly grabbed the tripod handle and got the birds in focus, while at the same time picking up my bow.  Before I even had time to zoom in on the lead bird, he began his assault of my dad’s DSD Jake.  I let him go for a few minutes before I clipped on my Carter release and prepared to take the shot.  With the tom quartering towards me at 8 yards, I settled my pin right on his waddles, and began putting pressure on my release.  It surprised me when it went off, but what surprised me ever more was seeing my arrow zip 2 inches over my intended target.  I was in complete disbelief!  I had aimed so precisely and had such a good release, I could not believe I had botched this opportunity.

I was more than a little relieved to see that the two toms had not gone far and were still standing within 20 yards from the blind.  I quickly grabbed my backup arrow and started to nock it.  It was at that time I realized the pin on my Hogg Father was set for 35 yards.  Of course, that explained why I had shot so high.  Quickly I adjusted my sight and came again to full draw.  I settled my pin once more, this time right above the copper band on his left wing.  I released arrow number 2 and POW…I shot right through the side of the blind!  Now, I was in a panic.  I grabbed another arrow as quickly as possible and prepared myself to make one last shot at these birds, which amazingly were still standing right where they had been seconds earlier.

I’m not sure what it was, but something told me to calm down, and try to call these birds back to the decoys.  So instead of rushing another shot, I began to softly purr and cluck at them.  Gobble-Gobble-Gobble!  That was a good sign.  A few more soft calls, and another set of gobbles as a reply.  Just then, a Jake showed up from the field edge just beyond where the toms were standing.  He was wary of them, as well as the DSD Jake which was now laying on it’s side just in front of us.  He began to slowly walk into the middle of the field, and was just enough of a distraction for the two toms to forget what was going on.  They started to follow him, but it was apparent they were not planning to investigate the decoys further.  This was my chance.  I checked quickly to make sure the birds were back in frame on my camera and drew my bow.  I let out a few yelps in a effort to stop their walking, but they were having none of it.  At 25 yards, I led the front bird about and inch and squeezed off.  My Grim Reaper tipped arrow slammed home and brought the tom to the ground.  RELEIF!  My Dad and I began laughing hysterically now that the crisis had ended.  What seemed to be a slam-dunk hunt had suddenly turned into a roller coaster of emotions.

I can’t say it was my finest turkey hunt ever, but it was certainly the one I will remember most.  Not only was it my first turkey on Dad’s new farm, it was also my first turkey while hunting with my dad.  Add in the excitement and pandemonium that ensued after that first shot, and it’ll be a long time before I experience a more enjoyable hunt.  Bird number 1 for the year is down, now it’s time to get back to Ohio and see if I can’t finally connect on the monster bird I chased all season in 2016.

Bird Stats:

  • 21.5 lbs.
  • 11.25″ beard
  • 1″ spurs

Rich’s Gear:

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