May 20, 2024

I started intentionally hunting turkeys a few years ago. My first one, a hen, fell to my bow during Virginia's fall season. A few years later, I took my first, second, and third toms on an industry-guided hunt in Maryland and Delaware with shotguns.

I tried to punch my tom turkey tag alone for the next few years. I came close a few times, but I just wasn't able to connect on my own. But I learned something new on every trip. More often than not, the thing I learned was how little I knew about turkey hunting.

I called too often. I didn't call enough. I got too close before sunrise. I didn't get close enough before sunrise. I made too much noise. I wasn't hidden well enough. I called like a drunken moose. I called it a mute turkey. I hunted in turkey-free forests and passed up turkey-rich pastures. I passed on shots because I thought turkeys were too far. They weren't. Hell, once I sneaked up on a gorgeous gobbler with my patient wife in tow only to act surprised when he was precisely where he should have been when I poked my head out of the treeline, spooking him and his two lady friends only to hike a mile back to the truck with one very annoyed wife.

I repeated many of these mistakes over the past few years. Some comically and others in heartbreaking fashion.

Last Friday morning was my last shot this season. Saturday, Virginia's last day for spring gobblers in 2024, was spoken for with an all-day American Legion meeting.

So, I hunted one last time. For over a week, I planned and over-planned Friday morning's sit. I knew where two toms were, or at least where they were twice on evening hunts in an unhunted pasture, two fields, and a block of hardwoods from steady hunting pressure. I read more on turkey hunting. I remembered what Mike Tussey, Chene Gear's all-world turkey pro, taught me on two hunts. I read some more on turkey hunting. Then, I adjusted my game one last time.

By 5:45 a.m., I was tucked into the marshy treeline on the edge of a freshly planted soybean field. My Mossberg 940 Turkey Pro, which patterned like a sledgehammer with Federal Prairie Storm #6's and a Burris FastFire 4, made one last trip with me, probably more out of habit than hope.

By 6 a.m., I heard gobbling to my right and my left. I wanted to go after both, but I didn't. I stuck to the plan and stayed planted. I softly called about every 15 minutes or so. A gobbler would come in from the left or the right—if at all.

Then at about 6:45 a.m. I saw a nice tom about 250 yards ahead of me and the two hen decoys I placed. He must have come from the other side of the farm. I stayed ice-cold, calm. I didn't call again. He zig-zagged his way to the decoys, and when he turned to my right at about ten yards, I placed the red dot on his head, pulled the trigger, and finally connected. Then I leaped out of the camp chair, put my hands on him, and called my wife, Wendy, to share the good news.

And now I'm telling you.

I hope your spring was safe, fun, and successful.

Thank you,