By Gerald Tompkins
I got invited by an Amish buddy to go archery hunting for turkeys this year in Locke, NY (Cayuga County) prior to the season. I drove up to his in-laws on Monday afternoon 5/6 to go hunting the next day.
We hunted ‘til noon on Tuesday… but to no avail. We heard gobbles, shotgun blasts, saw deer and squirrels… but no birds. On Wednesday morning we decided to hunt on the edge of a field instead of hunting in the woods like we did the day before. So we set up the blind and decoys in the dark and waited.
Soon it was sunrise. We hit the calls several times hoping to hear a beard respond. Nothing… it was so quiet that morning all Johnathan could hear was dew dropping off alfalfa leaves. All I could hear was the tinnitus ringing in my ears. The birds were not vocal at all… heck, nothing was!
Around 8:30 Johnathan got bored and decided to go for a walk in the woods… I decided to take a nap in the blind. Around 9:45 I woke up to the sound of myself snoring. I opened the blind door and saw Johnathan walking along the edge of the woods coming back to the blind. I stepped out of the blind and stretched a few times ridding my back from a few kinks. We stood there talking for a few minutes eating a few Reese cups and quenching our thirst with a carbonated grapefruit drink.
After we stepped back in the blind, I hit an Amish-made custom box call and immediately got a gobble response from a bird about 100 yards away. WOW… what a shock that was! Almost immediately after that we saw three beards enter the field to our right. They looked our way, but just stood there – totally taunting (if you ask us anyway).
About an hour later they decided to start walking to our blind. Our decoys consisted of three hens (one feeding and two upright), a Jake off to one side, and finally a Tom in full fan (how could any bird not come to a titillating set up like that?). Finally they seemed to gain an interest in visiting us. It took what seemed to be a lifetime for them to close the distance (but they were coming… slow but steady, waddling side-by-side).
When they got about 30 yards away, Johnathan whispered in my ear, “Shoot." I drew my bow, but just waited as they were facing us and still coming. When they got to about 20 yards Johnathan again whispered, “Shoot.” Again, I waited. I guess I was so mesmerized watching them approach that I just sat there with my bow drawn (breathing real heavily Johnathan said). When they hit 10 yards he practically screamed at me to “SHOOT!” So finally, I released my arrow.
I hit the bird straight on and my arrow zipped straight through him. We both had our bows drawn, so after my shot, Johnathan released his arrow but missed. In about an eighth of a second, he quickly restrung an arrow and connected on his bird when it stood still at about 20 yards. We both yelled in excitement and gave thanks to our Lord for an incredible hunt and blessing us with turkeys.
WHAT A RUSH… we had both just shot our first turkeys with archery equipment… and we scored a double to boot! The blind almost fell over during the jubilation that followed inside. Now all we had to do was recover our kills, collect our gear and head for the house. We couldn’t wait to show off our birds and tell everyone about the hunt.
The birds were not monsters – but we didn’t care. They were however both mature Jakes. The one I shot had a beard a little over 5” and weighed close to 17 pounds. Johnathan’s had a 4” beard and weighed in at about 15 pounds.
I gave my bird to Johnathan’s in-laws (thanking them for letting me stay there) except for 1 breast. I’m looking forward to my wife preparing that and both of us enjoying it with a fine glass of wine in celebration of the harvest.
I’ll be picking up Johnathan (along with his blind, decoys and archery equipment) next week to try and fill our second tag, but this time we’re going to wait until their Grampa and Great Uncle come to our set-up.
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