Foggy Day, Foggy Memory
Spring turkey season is one of my favorite times of the year. I love waking up early and getting out into the woods. Watching the sunrise and hearing those lovesick gobblers is exhilarating. Each spring, I look forward to chasing longbeards and trying to fill my tag.
The 2019 season started on a high note. My buddy, Dan Kuzma, asked if Abby wanted to hunt at his place, and the hunt was a huge success. The turkey came right in and provided us with an exciting hunt. As we were leaving, Dan asked me if I wanted to get together and hunt another property he had. I told him we could get together on Saturday, May 4th.
April 27th was the opening day of the regular Pennsylvania turkey season. That morning I found my way out to a blind to hunt with my Mathews Vertex bow. It was a beautiful morning, and the Toms seemed fired up on the roost. It wasn't long after the sun came up when I saw six hens come out into the field. The hens fed on bugs as they worked their way towards my blind. I was hoping one of the big gobblers I had scouted would join them soon.
Three loud gobbles thundered as I saw two longbeards enter the field. Was it going to happen so quickly? The six hens stopped their feeding, turned towards the two strutting gobblers, and walked in their direction. I yelped a few times, and the Toms broke strut and ran towards the hens.
The hens froze in the field as the gobblers sprinted in their direction. As the two gobblers closed the distance, the hens scattered in all directions. Shocked to see what was going on, I looked around to see why the hens took flight. Off to my right, a lone coyote was slinking through the woodline. The two gobblers stopped 60 yards from my blind, saw the coyote, and flew out of sight. The coyote stopped momentarily, saw the birds were gone, then kept moving. My hunt had ended that quickly.
Halfway through the week, I called Dan to get details about our hunt. He sent me pictures of 9 longbeards he had been scouting. We discussed the details for the hunt and then decided to meet at 5 am on Saturday, May 4th. I told him that I would be bringing my daughter's Mossberg 20 gauge and leaving the bow at home. He found this odd, so I explained to him that there was a new Tactacam FTS scope mount I had added to her gun. Dan said he would have a video camera to get some footage.
Looking at the weather forecast for Saturday, the morning looked great. The night before the hunt, I talked with Dan one last time, and he again sent me pictures of the large flock of gobblers. I was confident that we would at least see some gobblers. As I packed my truck, I had second thoughts about taking the bow. After a few minutes of internal debate, I settled on just taking the shotgun.
Huey Lewis and the News greeted me at 4 am. Turning off my alarm, I quietly got out of bed and started getting ready for my hunt. There wasn't anything for me to pack since I had done that the night before. I ate a quick breakfast, grabbed my turkey calls, and headed out the door.
Driving to the property, I could see a million stars, and the temperature was already in the 50s. It was almost 5 o'clock when I arrived at the property. While waiting for Dan to come, I organized all of my gear. Again. I was having second thoughts about leaving my Mathews at home.
Dan arrived with a smile and said he had a surprise for me. As I helped him unload the blind, I noticed a full-mounted strutting gobbler mount in his back seat. I asked about the mount, and he said that was the surprise and his secret weapon. Now I was upset with myself for not bringing my bow.
Together we walked across the open field, in the dark, to the gas well road. Dan found a good spot for the blind where two trails met. As he set up the blind, I placed the gobbler mount about 15 yards away from the blind. We settled into our seats, set up the camera, and waited for the first gobble.
Waiting in the dark for the sun to rise, Dan told me about some successful hunts with the full-mounted gobbler. He figured that this property was safe enough to place the decoy, so he brought it for the hunt. I was hoping it would bring me luck.
As the first streaks of orange appeared on the horizon, I listened for the first gobble. Looking out the blind window, I could see something slowly creeping our way. Dan and I agreed that what we saw might mess up the hunt. We hoped it would just go away and stop coming toward us, but it worsened!
Thick fog was blanketing the woods and making it impossible to see. The heavy clouds covered everything with water droplets, and I knew the turkeys would not gobble. Dan suggested that I make a few tree yelps to see if there were any gobblers around. After a few yelps, I stopped to listen and heard nothing. My excitement turned to frustration as the clouds got thicker.
Dan and I felt we could wait until the fog cleared, with it still early. For nearly 4 hours, we sat in the fog, talking about old hunts and places we had been. I would give a few calls every so often, but nothing wanted to speak. We discussed moving to another property or even just calling it a day.
My legs and back were getting tight, and I needed to stretch. Slowly I unzipped the blind and got out to stretch. Dan followed, and we stretched our tight backs. I walked over to grab the strutting decoy, and Dan stopped me. He said I should give a few more calls just one last time before we cleaned everything up for the day.
Placing the Mountain Hollow Prima Donna call in my mouth, I sent out a few sultry notes. Immediately a gobbler exploded, and he wasn't far away. Dan said to call one more time to ensure we weren't hearing things. Another few soft calls and the Tom triple gobbled! He was hot and ready to see the lonely hen talking to him.
Anyone watching would have thought Dan and I were the Keystone Cops. As we ran back to the blind, we bumped into each other several times. Laughing when we reached the blind, we frantically struggled to get seated and the camera set up. The bird was close, and we hoped he hadn't seen us running back to the blind.
A loud gobble erupted behind us as the lonely Tom had cut the distance. The heavy fog had moved through, and now there was just a light fog making visibility better. I could hear the bird spitting and drumming but could not see him yet. Dan turned on his camera and was waiting for the bird to appear. Again the gobbler broke the silence, and through the light fog, I could finally see him walking our way.
Walking quickly in a semi-strut, the gobbler hit an opening and saw the mounted decoy. Immediately the fired-up Tom began running towards his opponent. I had already shouldered the Mossberg 20 gauge and started tracking the unsuspecting Tom. Dan asked me to make sure I shot the gobbler before he could attack the decoy. I was waiting for my moment to pull the trigger.
Gobbling and closing the distance, he challenged the strutting bird he saw. In one split second, he stopped on the gas well road to eye up his competition. His white and blue head was easy to see in the fog. I exhaled, found the gobbler's head in the scope, and touched off the trigger.
Everything went dark, and I remember hearing Dan say, "Nice shot! You leveled him." My head was throbbing, and I felt what I thought was sweat running down my face. I slowly turned to Dan, and he started to laugh. I asked what was so funny, and he asked if my head was hurting. I reached up and wiped my brow, and saw the blood on my hand. Dan recommended I look at my head in my cell phone. I opened the camera on my phone and to a look.
Shocked and surprised to see a large gash above my eye, I wondered what had happened. The Tactacam FTS had come back and cut me. There wasn't enough eye relief to cushion the shot from the 20 gauge. Dan took a few pictures as the fog cleared from my head.
Sitting in the blind waiting for the blood to stop, Dan said got some excellent video. As for me, I completely forgot to turn on my Tactacam camera and had zero video footage. Looking out the window of the blind, I could see the gobbler about 15 steps away. I should have brought my bow for this hunt.
Outside of the blind, in the light fog, Dan and I took many pictures. The blood had finally stopped from the gash above my eye, but I still had an enormous headache. The gobbler had 1-inch matching spurs and a beard that was almost 9 inches long. He was a massive bird and would make a great dinner later that evening.
Dan decided that he wanted to leave his blind in that spot to bring his daughter for a hunt. We packed up the rest of our gear and headed back to our vehicles. The fog still lingered in the woods but had cleared up significantly. I figured it would eventually burn off and be a sunny day.
Once everything was packed, I hopped in my truck and headed home. When I arrived at my house, my wife suggested that I clean out the cut and maybe get some stitches. I cleaned out the wound thoroughly and then put some antibiotics on it. I figured the cut would heal and leave only a tiny scar. Besides, each time I looked in the mirror, I would have a reminder of the foggy day gobbler hunt.
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