Sunday, 9 April 2017

JAKES AND HENS, PART TWO

JAKES AND HENS

PART TWO

My first morning turkey hunting in Texas started off before dawn with me being taken to a small-elevated covered blind, by Clay Pope my outfitter.  He gave me some instructions and quietly drove back to camp, it didn’t take long for my eyes to get use to the darkness and only a few minutes after Clay had left I spotted two white tail deer.  I let every thing quieten down after my arrival for ten minutes before I started my first string of calls, I kept them very low key and very subtle, that way I could increase the volume and the excitement with in the calls as the morning progressed.  As the darkness receded and was replaced by the dawn of a new day I hadn’t seen or heard a single turkey.  I changed from a pot and peg type of call to a box call, which is considerable louder, and worked up the excitement level in the calls to replicate the clucking and cutting of an excited hen, but still no response.


It wasn’t until a couple of hours had gone by that I spotted a small group of turkeys, they were probably 250 yards away and had just emerged from some thick cover, I had my box call in my hand so I started calling, I got no reaction at all.  I changed to a mouth call and still nothing, finally I changed to the pot and peg type of call, and instantly got their attention.  Their heads shot up as they worked out the direction the call was coming from, I was just purring and clucking on the call, but so quietly you would not have thought that they could of possibly heard it, but they did.  Moments later they were coming my way, and they weren’t hanging round, as they approached I looked at them through my binoculars and I could see that they were all Jakes.  As a male turkey ages he grows what is called a beard from the centre of his chest, the beard is a tuft of long hair like feathers that get longer with age.  A Jake is a male bird of about one year old, he will have a beard of just a few inches long, while a Tom a bird of two or more years old may have a beard of ten or more inches.  I decided I wouldn’t shoot one of these Jakes, even if the opportunity arose, instead I would wait for a Tom.  


The five Jakes in a matter of a couple of minutes had covered all the ground that separated us, and were now that close that I could no longer see them out of the windows of the blind, they were almost directly beneath me.  I had stopped calling when they were about twenty yards away, and now I sat silently for fear of scaring them away with the slightest of movement.  After a minute or two and not having found the elusive hen they started to drift away, when they reappeared from under my blind I allowed them to move off some twenty yards before I started to quietly call again.  The first note the call made stopped them dead in their tracks, two of them started to strut, fanning their tails, lowering their wing tips and puffing them selves up, trying to impress the unseen hen, one of them gobbled, which started them all off and I was treated to an ear splitting display of gobbling by all of them.  They worked their way back under the blind searching for the source of the hen calls, and again I let them drift away again before calling them back, this carried on for a quarter of an hour before they lost interest and slowly drifted back into the thick cover.  I learned more about turkey calling in those few short minutes than in the six months I had spent watching DVD’s and reading books, there is no substitute for experience.


Later that morning I started walking back to where Clay had told me to meet him, I moved slowly and called every now and then, listening for a male turkey to gobble back at me, but the woods were silent.  Clay arrived in his pickup and we set off for camp, as we rounded a corner there on the side of the track were another five jakes, they turned and disappeared into the tree line, Clay stopped the truck and I jumped out.  I set up on the opposite side of the track with my back to a small bush to break up my outline, I loaded the pump action 12 gauge, and with it lying over my legs I started calling using the pot and peg.  The turkeys had disappeared into the trees around fifty yards down the track to my right, I thought if they reappear in the same area I would have the opportunity to raise the gun and call them in to range, but like most best laid plans it wasn’t to be.   On hearing my call they must have doubled back inside the tree line and when they emerged they were only about five to six yards away directly opposite me on the other side of the track, I froze, they were to close for me to even blink let a lone raise the gun.  They looked me over but I sat absolutely motionless waiting for them to make the next move, they crossed the track diagonally to my right, this made shooting for a right handed shooter impossible with out moving my whole body round, so I sat tight hoping for another opportunity.  As they got into the long grass on my side of the road I lost sight of them, thinking I might have a chance to move I swivelled round to give my self a chance of a shot, but I was seen as they were almost on top of me, literally the other side of the bush I was sitting under.  They ducked down and ran for the tree line behind me, passing with in a few feet of where I sat.  I was pleased with my calling success; I just needed a better chance in the shooting department.
  


After a little while I heard Clays pickup heading my way again, I unloaded the gun and jumped in, and started to relate my story, we hadn’t gone more than half a mile when Clay stopped the truck and grabbed his binoculars, there on an old stock fence sat a turkey, and on the ground beneath him were at least three more.  We watched as they milled around for a minute before disappearing through the fence and into a particularly thick bit of cover, Clay said there’s water down there, they will be going for a drink.  I left the truck loaded up again and made my way to the stock fence, finding a place I could shoot from I sat down, and started to call, instantly two turkeys gobbled back at me.  The water was in a natural hollow surrounded by thick vegetation and shrubs, and that is where the turkeys were, I continued to call and the gobbling got louder, then I could see the heads of three turkeys coming up out of the hollow towards me, I raised the gun and continued to call.  As the birds crested the top of the hollow they stopped to look around, I levelled the gun and made a single call, there heads went up and I picked my target and shot, two birds turned and ran one remained, his wings flapped involuntary, I had my first turkey.  It was now 1.30 pm I had been out since before dawn with out food or a drink, but none of this mattered now I was ecstatic, I picked up my bird and marvelled at its beauty, I had shot a Jake as there wasn’t a Tom in the group, but that really didn’t matter now. Clay arrived shortly after and took the pictures of me with my trophy.  We loaded up the pickup and headed back to camp, no stops this time.

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