Opening day is always exciting.
Every hope and dream you have for turkey season is alive and well. You can still believe that the way you've dreamed opening morning will play out exactly as you've planned.
Then opening day actually arrives and for most of us we realize that dreams are just that imagined scenarios that never resemble reality. I had a lot of hopes for opening day, but I had no idea it would start a trek within my trek that would actually consume me.
I was hunting on my club property. But it wasn't my day to kill a turkey. It was good friend Dave Greene's opportunity. He was with his son, John, and the plan was to call up a good bird for Greene and get a story on the father/son aspect of turkey hunting.
We set up in sight of our cabin near the edge of a pine plantation and next to a food plot where Greene had watched a big gobbler strut the weekend before.
I expected the turkeys to be roosted over the flooded bottom. And I expected that a couple of simple calls would have a gobbler work his way straight to us.
I expected a lot of things. Turkey hunters do that, I guess.
By the time the morning started waking up, a gobbler was already getting hot. If you turkey hunt for very long, then you feel like you can judge how special a bird is by the sound of his gobble.
A little weak yodel and you pretty much have a jake on your hands. Stronger and full and you know you probably have a two-year old fine turkey nearby. But a dominate, three-year old or better bird seems to have a crash and explosion that accompanies his bellowing.
That was the first thing I noticed when this turkey sounded off. I had been to Mississippi and Alabama earlier in the week, so this wasn't just the first gobble of the season. It just sounded special.
I perked up a little. I came down a bit when, after about the sixth gobble, hens started responding, a couple of them in between us and the roosted tom.
The hens seemed to line the other end of the pines. There was no way to move closer until the turkey hit the ground, and then that may have not been possible. The terrain was just too wide open.
Our options included:
1. Shut up, be quiet and hope the turkey comes in our direction and ambush it.
2. Irritate one of the hens. When it comes to irritating the ladies, feathered or otherwise, I've been pretty successful at that over the years. It's a one-shot deal, though. And if you read the first part, I knew it could work, but I felt like we may have been too far away to make it work.
3. Hope the gobbler had a satellite brother we might call away and have slip in.
Considering past hunts, all three were seemed viable.
I opted for a piece of all of them. I would straight up call and hope for irritation or a satellite bird to slip.
The big tom hit the ground, gobbled at every other call I made, but also at every crow that swooped by and even the old Chevy a mile away when it down-shifted. He was hot, and every sharp, booming gobble seemed to move the leaves. But he wasn't coming our way.
Even when we called in a hen, I thought at any moment a red and white head was going to bob into range.
But this tom skirted the outside of the pine plantation, gobbling all the way and walked away with his passel of hens.
An hour later and all was quiet. Greene and son opted for breakfast, and I opted for another hour or two of trying to get the bird hot again.
After two hours of slipping and calling, I assumed he was just too henned-up or I had spooked him. The sharp gobble haunted me, though.
I slipped out of the woods, thinking in my best Arnold voice "I'll be back."
Score one for the turkey.