Written by: Nathan Diesel, Orvis Leawood
Our twin daughters came early and, for me, spring turkey season came late. Don’t misunderstand. Having twin daughters trumps a good turkey hunt any day of the week, but I will admit that I was more than happy when my wife told me that she had things under control and I could go hunt. I had listened to those turkeys gobble for a month, so I knew where they were. I had scouted the pasture and chosen a perfect spot for my decoy and a comfortable place to hide.
I got to the cattle pasture in plenty of time to settle in before dawn. A small pond lay just ahead of me in the timber, and I was sure the three Toms that had been roosting there would pitch down right to me. As daylight approached, I was greeted by their gobbles. Gobble, gobble, gobble – this was going to be perfect. I made a few tree yelps, and the hens were answering just as fast and loud as the Toms. I noticed movement on my right…could it be? Had a fourth Tom snuck in while the other three were hammering from the tree tops? I turned my head slowly toward the carefully placed decoy. As I did, I heard a familiar, but disheartening sound.
“Mooooo,” said the white-faced Hereford, licking away at my decoy. And it wasn’t just a little investigative lick. It was a purposeful, full-tongued slathering of my plastic turkey.
I am certain the three Toms, as well as the two jakes with them, were laughing their feathers off. I was busted—foiled by a cow! What in the world would my twin daughters think? Immediately, I decided I would never tell them. I regained my composure and considered my options. First, I chased the cow away and retrieved my decoy. Then I headed up the hill. As I did, I heard another chorus of Toms hammering away in the pasture bottoms, which lay just over the crest of the hill.
I peeked over the hilltop and saw three groups of strutting toms in the open meadow – about ten of them in all. I used my mouth call to entice them, and they responded to every yelp and cluck I threw at them. They were fired up. I set the decoy in a spot that I thought would be in their direct line of sight as they crested the hill, and I moved back and tucked myself under a tree. I felt like this was going to be a sure thing.
I used my slate and my mouth calls to pick a turkey fight with myself on top of that hill. I must have had the attention of every tom in the country with all the noise I was making. Then I heard it again: “Mooooo.”
I had moved all the way across the farm only to run into another herd of cattle. Roughly twenty head came walking through. Luckily, they continued to move south. I yelped a few more times and was rudely interrupted by the eager response of a Tom not more than 30 yards away.
I watched in silent anticipation as his perfectly round fan-tail slowly broke the crest of the hill. The bird was definitely a Tom. He was spitting and drumming, and it seemed like it took him 30 minutes to crest the hill and walk five yards to where I could get a clean shot at him. Bang! The big Tom dropped to the ground, and there was a whole new round of anxious gobbling from the other side of the hill. Gobble. Gobble. Gobble.
The sound of the gun shot had caused two more Toms to shock gobble. They were close. I sat still and made a few more yelps. They responded, and I went silent. About three minutes passed before two more magnificent fans crested the hill. I wished I had brought the good camera because these two boys were undoubtedly going to put on a show. But, alas, I had no camera. But I did have a shot gun, so I took aim and fired one more time and tagged out with my second Tom. The first bird had one inch spurs and a paint-brush beard coming in at a thick 10.5 inches. The second had a skinny 10-inch beard with one and three eighths inch spurs.
While my opening day was late and disturbed by a curiously misguided cow, it was very successful. And, after taking time to reflect, I’ve decided I may tell my new daughters, and their older brother, the whole sorted story someday … after I butcher that cow, of course, though I can’t do it now. My freezer is too full of turkey.
Nathan Diesel is the Fishing Manager and Orvis Leawood, in Kansas.