Late Morning Gobbler

It was 10 minutes after 11 when the gobbling woke me up. The last hour and a half I spent sleeping and soaking up the late April sunshine. It was warmer now, and the bugs had begun to move around. My nap had freshened me and I was ready to do battle with the black-feathered monarch of these Illinois woods.

I first spoke with this big tom at about 9 a.m. I had already managed to mess-up one gobbler right at daylight. An untimely movement on my part sent that first bird of the day to another county, or maybe even another state. But I learn quickly and I would not make the same mistake twice in the same morning.

There are few sights as awesome to a turkey hunter as a mature tom strutting late in the morning. (Photo by Mark Clemens)

Patience Is The Key
I knew my gobbler was with hens when he answered my first call at about 8:50 a.m. I made loud, excited cutting calls into his valley and he responded immediately. I also heard one or more hens call from his exact location. Patience was the key for this bird. I made a series of yelps, which he answered, and then I shut-up and took my nap. Many years of chasing these big birds has taught me a lot about patience.

Gobblers do not mind taking their time to do most anything they do. The only time they hurry is when they are leaving. I knew this old boy would service and then slowly lose his hens. I also knew he would come back looking for the one he never saw. He would come back looking for me.

As is their usual practice, he came back to the exact spot where we began our conversation several hours earlier. When he reached this point he began to gobble to reinitiate the contact with the hen he heard that morning. As he woke me with this racket, he was about 80 yards away.

I took my time to set-up. I got comfortable. I adjusted my headnet, and readied my calls. I was prepared to take great care and great time if need be, to harvest this old bird. My first call was just a couple of clucks and a purr. I figured this round could take quite a while.

A Surprising Gobble
His gobble was so close and caught me so far off-guard that the hair on the back of my neck stood-up so fast it almost knocked my cap off. He had cut the distance between us in half in less than a minute. I could not see him, but he was already within 40 yards. I eased my gun up slowly, pointing in the direction of the gobble. If my distance judging was correct, I should be able to shoot the second I see him.

The next four or five minutes seemed like a week. No movement, no sound. Then, very close but off to my left, I heard him. “Phtt… Phtt, voooomm.” The spitting and drumming of an adult gobbler is a sound that causes blood pressures to rise and palms to sweat. If you can hear those sounds, you know he is close, very close. I could not move, he was close enough to see me think.

He passed only a few feet from the end of my gun, but I did not shoot, for two reasons. First, because he arrived much closer than I had anticipated, I was holding a good foot over his head. And second, with the super-full turkey choke I had in my 12-gauge shotgun, I had no pattern what so ever. It would be like shooting a slug at that distance. That leaves way too much room for error.

The author holds his late morning gobbler. (Photo by Sue Caldwell)

I let him spit and drum and strut and gobble for an eternity, waiting for him to get out far enough so that I could move and shoot. Having a gobbler too close is a problem I enjoy having.

Finally, as he strutted, he turned his back to me at about 20 yards. I moved slowly and got on my target. He came out of strut to gobble, but the sound of my gun was all that could be heard. He weighed 24-pounds, 12-ounces and had a 11-inch beard and 1-1/8-inch spurs. Patience paid off.

What Choke Do You Use?
I wished several times during that hunt that I had used a different choke. Traditionally, the tighter the choke the better for turkeys. Making consistent 40-yard shots does demand tight chokes, but, as described, sometimes tighter is not better. More open chokes, especially for the experienced caller, can be very effective and very deadly.

Regardless of the gun you choose, whether it be pump, auto or over-under, you should pattern each of your choke tubes with several different loads, to find out what works best for you.

You may find that 2-7/8-ounces of #4-shot gives you a more uniform pattern than the same amount of #6-shot. You may find #6-shot with a modified choke gives you more lethal hits than #4-shot with a full choke.

The key is, find out well before the season what combination suits you best. Test firing and patterning your turkey gun will help you become a better hunter. Nobody wants to wound a nice big gobbler and lose him. Knowing what you and your equipment are

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