Third time not a charm

This is Part 4 of a six-part series chronicling Steve Bowman's six-day chase of one elusive turkey.
Follow Bowman's Turkey Trek: 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

Day 3
They say the third time is the charm. This time another four days and a whole lot wiser, I set up in the middle of the wood edge within range of the water's edge and the outskirts of the pines.

I had hunted tough turkeys before. Most of the time, they can be had with patience and attention to detail mixed in with a little luck.

I once found a turkey strutting in a pasture with no less than 50 hens with it. I stayed with that turkey all day, all the next day and the third morning I was able to get the shot I wanted.

In other cases, a day or two of playing the game and, if you just don't screw up totally, you will get your chance.

I kept telling myself that. I was in the middle of a turkey trek and I was spending way too much time on this one bird. It would have been easy to forget this turkey and move on to hundreds that were gobbling in hundreds of other places.

But every time I would hear a turkey gobble in another place, see a strutting bird in another spot, they all paled in comparison to the way I was thinking of this bird.

Plus, he was setting there almost within sight of my cabin challenging me.

I had spent one morning close to the cabin, one morning in the pines and close to the open hardwoods.

Harold Knight once told me "If a particular approach didn't work that first morning, why do they think it'll work the second or third morning?"

I had been changing every morning, but not enough to get in the wheelhouse of this bird. I got there early enough to get in the hardwoods with this bird. The last two times, he had hit the ground and moved on a direct path to the north end of the property.

It was easy to figure that all I had to do was slip in there to the north, get quiet and wait as he moved through the 60 yards of dry ground between the water's edge and the pines.

It wasn't even breaking daylight yet and I thought I had it all worked out.

This day, our boy was hot. He gobbled and double gobbled from the roost. One time he actually quadruple gobbled. I actually got a little excited thinking of the hooks this bird must be sporting and in a few minutes would serve as perfect limb hangers.

I called very little. No tree yelps, just a mouth call in case I needed it.

After about 50 gobbles from the roost, he finally hit the ground. That's when I called. He cut that call with a gobble, not the double gobble I anticipated or even the trip or quad I hoped for.

Two minutes later, he gobbled again and I was convinced he was moving in the opposite direction. I quickly scrambled and crawled to the edge of the line of hardwoods overlooking the pines. I called again, and was answered again.

I shut up and waited.

After another half dozen gobbles, I caught the sleek movement of a turkey moving with a purpose. If I had seen it sooner, I would have had the shot I'd been waiting for.

I didn't though, and by the time I was anywhere close to being ready, my gobbler was standing 45 yards away strutting and gobbling behind the same short sweet gum trees I had used for cover on my last hunt.

His short spit and drum seemed to roll across the ground and vibrate all around me.

I would purr; he would gobble. I would cluck; he would gobble. He would strut, twirl and dance behind the trees, never presenting me a shot for more than 30 minutes.

Occasionally he would slick down from his strut and I would catch a glimpse of his head telescoping up and waiting for the hen that should have already succumbed to his sex appeal.

There were moments when I almost talked myself into taking the shot, but I could never be certain I could do it successfully. I bided my time, thinking my patience would rule the day.

My tom, though, played hard to get. He had played this game many times before. The hen was supposed to come to him. For every morning that this game had been played, he would gobble and the hens would present themselves.

Having sat in the same spot he was strutting in, I knew the bottoms looked dark and ominous from that position. Any hen that was sitting around in that dark place would surely want to join him.

I, on the other hand, had no recourse. I couldn't move, not even an inch. I had finally gotten in range and laid eyes on this turkey and had no clear shot. Just pieces of a shot that my respect for this turkey (any turkey really) wouldn't allow me take.

The tom finally sauntered away, leaving me with yet another missed opportunity. I watched him for another 20 minutes as he crossed the pines. By the time he was in a position for me to move he had gone totally quiet and I was out of time, again.