The greatest thing about turkey hunting is it is a personal sport, just you and the turkey, mano-a-mano.
But this hunt had become even more personal, in a way that only a turkey hunter can understand. This bird had slipped me three times, and I somehow believed that I had a sort of pattern on this bird.
I was 30 minutes early on the fourth day, the day following the last hunt. I only had a few hours before I hit the road for a hunt in Mississippi, so I was pulling out all the tricks.
I had been reading and hearing tales of how affective a strutting gobbler decoy was on dominant birds. I actually own one but had never used it.
In the dark, I set the decoy, adding a hen as quietly as possible. I set up in the pines; along the same path the bird had taken the day before on the edge of a food plot. In the dark, I wondered as most turkey hunters do if my turkey would be in his usual roosting area
He wasn't. My heart sank a bit. He was actually roosted in the same exact place as I had set up the day before. What is it with that?
But he was hot.
Twenty minutes after his first gobble, I was wishing I had a recorder. The amount of gobbling that was coming from that roost was simply unbelievable. Every few seconds the woods rattled with his gobbling.
I swear I thought by the time this bird hit the ground, every leaf would be blown from the tree. That's a pretty awesome position to be in, most times.
I couldn't hear a single hen answering, so it sounded like I was dealing with the most lonesome gobbler in the world. That's the best position to be in, most times.
My confidence was growing with every gobble. After 20 minutes of listening, I struck a few yelps on my slate call and was immediately answered by a double gobble, that same crack, boom gobble that had been haunting me for more than a week now.
I laid the call down, eased my gun barrel into position and thought any minute all of this would finally be over.
I didn't hear him fly down, but I knew he had hit the ground by the sound of his gobble. It sounded further away. But I knew with the green up of the vegetation that he was close. I stood my ground and waited.
The gobbling had decreased; just every few minutes like he was breeding a hen then letting the world know how good he was. By the second round of that type scenario, I realized he was moving away.
I almost panicked but I regained my senses enough to stay put. I quietly started a series of clucks, nothing more and he reversed course.
My first glimpse came from my left. It was the sneaky movement of a quiet, strutting tom taking a few steps then blowing up in a strut not 75 yards away from me on the edge of the pines.
Confidence started raging through my head again. As soon as this big boy saw my decoys he would certainly run right up to me. But he didn't even seem to notice. He stepped behind some sweet gum bushes and squeaked out a series of yelps.
They were immediately answered by that crack, boom gobble I had come to love. But hearing them forced me to curse under my breath. While I was concentrating on the gobbler to my left, the crack boom came from my right.
I was looking at a subordinate, lonely bird. My dominant bird was still in the thick hardwoods and seemed to even closer, but he was well out of sight.
That could be a good position in, but now I was forced to do the reverse cross-eyed thing where you watch both sides at the same time. That sort of thing makes your eyesight blurry and made me remember my mother's warning that your eyes might stick that way.
At the moment I could care less. I had spent four mornings on this turkey and I was going away with something. If I couldn't get the dominant bird, his satellite bird would do.
I clucked and purred. The satellite blew up in a strut, the dominant bird crack, boomed. Both just kept on their same track, basically splitting me. One 75 yards and in the open, the other still out of sight, obviously with hens and acting fairly obstinate about what he was doing.
He gobbled at every cluck and purr, and you could feel the heat turn up a notch when I was certain he could see that strutting decoy in the food plot.
But he had hens with him and he wasn't leaving them. I bided my time. For two hours, he would gobble and the satellite would answer. Something had to break. My back was aching. My feet were asleep and it was actually getting hard.
Big boy, though, was undeterred. He just kept moving up the creek bottom, eventually shutting up all together. As he quieted down, the satellite picked up the pace. He had moved well out of sight and was now coming back my way on the same course he had taken earlier.
To be honest, I was a little bit put out by all of it.
I made a decision that after four days of hunting for one bird when I could have been in four different places I wasn't leaving there empty-handed. I eased around as slowly and quietly to face the satellite bird, catching glimpses of him coming in and out of strut and picking his way through the pines.
He once again was 75 yards away. This time I was facing him. And for some reason, I still don't know why, but I did one of those classic turkey hunting moves that turkey hunters have rued for years: Instead of the clucking that was working, I eeked out a series of three yelps.
Maybe they were too course. Maybe they were just down right sorry. Maybe a lot of things that I couldn't put my finger on. But he slid out of a strut, ran his head up and apparently made eye contact with the strutting tom decoy.
That was the moment I thought things would change in my favor.
Think again, numbuts. He slunk down as low as a pinecone and started skipping out of there at a fast walking pace. Evidently, big boy had beat him down so hard that he either didn't want him to know it was him doing all that gobbling are was hell-bent on not getting his butt kicked by yet another tom.
If you have brothers and sisters and have ever seen them getting a whipping and you immediately duck for cover, you probably know the feeling and the look of that turkey.
I sat there with my little diaphragm dangling off my bottom lip, which was rubbing me about mid-thigh at the time, and silently cursed.
Score four for the turkey, 0 for the hunter.