I arrived at Ben's house at 6 p.m. on Friday after a five and a
half hour trip from Houston. Chuck arrived thirty minutes later, and after
a brief exchange of pleasantries, we loaded up three ICE Blinds onto Ben's two
four wheelers and headed out to find a place to put them.
We rode out to an area where Ben's uncle had reported hearing
gobbles a week or so earlier. Nobody had seen birds in the area this year,
but birds have been taken from the vicinity in years past. The lack of
pressure this year might actually work to our advantage. We spent some
time walking around a small, open meadow and then followed a trail into the
woods toward the Northeast boundary of the property. We found some turkey
scat, which although not fresh, indicated the presence of turkeys in the
area. As we reached the fence, we found turkey tracks in the sand that
were no more than a couple of days old.
We walked back to the meadow and decided to set up my Brush
Country camo'd ICE Blind at the top of the rise on the hill. We set up my
flock of Sceery decoys, then, leaving the stakes in place, we put the decoys
inside the blind. The wind was fairly strong, so we anchored the ICE Blind
with tent stakes.
After getting everything set, we mounted the four wheelers to
ride to another potential spot. As I was starting the one I was riding, it
made a loud "POP!", much like a backfire. The wheeler wouldn't
start! Fortunately, Chuck has spent some time racing motorcycles, and is
fairly handy as a mechanic!
He discovered that the spark plug had come unscrewed, so he
replaced it and tightened it as best he could by hand. We had
additional problems with our ride on the return trip, and eventually had to tow
it back to the house with the other four wheeler. Once there, Chuck once
again worked his magic and had it running in no time.
By now, it was well after dark, so we decided to get a quick
bite to eat before heading out to set up the other blind. Ben's eleven
year old brother, Zack, cooked us up a meal of fried chicken tenders and
"Shells n' Cheese" macaroni! Afterwards, we rode out to set up a
second ICE Blind for Chuck to hunt in the morning.
By the time we returned to the house, it was well after
midnight. Keith and Casey had called, and Casey's flight from Houston to
Dallas had been delayed, so they would be arriving well into the morning.
Being a gracious host, Ben opted to wait up for them. Chuck and I, being
older and wiser (emphasis on older!), elected to get some sleep, knowing that
the 5 am alarm would be coming too soon already.
Casey and Keith arrived at 2 am, and as promised, Ben stayed up
until they arrived.
5 a.m. did, indeed, come quickly! Ben woke me up, and I dragged myself
into the upstairs gameroom where Keith, Ben and Casey had slept. We
visited with Keith and Casey for a moment before Chuck came slowly walking
in. We put on our camo, mine of course being of the Brush Country variety,
loaded up the 4 weelers, and headed out to our respective locations. Chuck
took Casey and Keith to an area designated for them by Ben, and set up Keith's
Texas Special blind by Lucky's Tent Company. Chuck made his way out to the
blind we had set up for him the previous evening. Ben and I rode out in
the opposite direction to hunt together inside my ICE Blind.
The wind was stiff already this morning, as I presume it had been all
night. As we approached the blind, we found that it had collapsed in the
wind. Although we had staked the blind down on the corners, I hadn't guyed
it down with the cords, and the force of the wind had folded the blind. It
took just a few seconds to erect it again. We set up the decoys and
situated ourselves inside the blind. We called softly for a bit, but
figured the wind was going to make things tough trying to call in the
birds. We made a few loud calls, increasing the volume hoping it might
carry through the wind. I asked Ben if I could take a look at his slate
call, and after making a few calls to test it out, I happened to look over my
left shoulder to see a turkey walking within 15 yards of the blind! It was
a jake. I quickly told Ben to get ready. I could tell by the look of
disbelief in his face that he didn't know if I was joking around with him, but
after the second time I told him there was a jake within range, he grabbed his
bow and readied for a shot.
He asked if he should draw, and I nodded affirmatively. He drew back
his PSE Carrerra and waited for the bird to enter his shooting lane. I
told him to wait, and as I positioned the bird in the viewfinder of the camera,
I made a few soft clucks, thinking for sure the young, ambitious bird would
begin to strut, and hopefully turn to offer a spine shot for Ben. The bird
slowly made his way across, but never acknowledged either my calling or the
decoys. I waited, with the camera rolling, for Ben to shoot. Click
image for video clip.
As the bird walked out of range, Ben let down. I asked him if he
ever had a shot opportunity, and he indicated that he had a perfect broadside
shot at less than 15 yards, but had waited for me to give him the
go-ahead. In my excitement, I had told Ben to wait, hoping he would offer
a spine shot, but had failed to tell him to go ahead and shoot! I kept
thinking the bird would circle and come back, but unfortunately, he continued on
A short while later, Ben told me he heard a gobble in the distance to our
right. A moment later, I heard the same, and we began making a series of
calls. It didn't take long for the gobbler to respond, and the increased
volume of the gobbles told us that the bird was getting closer. We talked
to the bird as he continued to get closer, but remained out of site for what
seemed like forever. We watched the wood line, anxiously waiting for the
blue-grey head of the gobbler to appear. Finally, we spotted it bobbing
it's way through the woods about 85 yards to our right.
The bird made its way into the clearing. We determined it to be another
jake. We called softly, trying to coax the bird in our direction.
The bird continued to gobble, but continued on it's path parallel to us, and
finally away from our position, gobbling periodically until the sounds became
faint, and eventually inaudible.
Our excitement was still at a high level when I spotted another bird to our
left, walking up the hill toward us.
It was a hen, but Ben and I anxiously watched behind the lady bird, sure that
a long beard would be following in short order.
Unfortunately, no tom ever came, and after a while of waiting and watching,
we decided to head back and check on the other hunters, leaving our gear inside
the blind for this afternoon's hunt.
Casey and Keith had heard a number of birds gobbling, but never was able to
catch a glimpse of one. While the birds were talking, they did not respond
to any of their calling efforts. We discussed their hunt back at the
house, and they felt reasonably sure that Chuck probably saw some birds.
As we were talking, Chuck returned from his hunt and filled us in on his
morning. His blind had also collapsed from the wind. After getting
it set back up, he did have a lone long beard come into the field, but out of
range at about 70 yards.
Chuck tried to call the bird in, but as you will hear if you watch the video
clip (click image above), he must have picked up his elephant call instead of
his turkey call! As you might imagine with Casey, Keith and Ben around,
Chuck caught quite a bit of grief as we all watched the video! As an
example of one Casey quip, "What'd you do, pull out his tail feathers to
make him holler?"
Check back this evening for details from the afternoon hunt!