Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.
Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.
It's been an interesting spring turkey hunt for sure.
Day One - Thursday, April 12
Arose shortly after 4 AM, brewed myself a steaming pot o' joe, took Sister out to do her business and put her back to bed. Then packing my rucksack with a thermos of that joe, a couple of sammiches, water and three Hevi-Shot 12 ga. turkey shells I trudged a half-mile to a turkey blind that Girlfriend and I had set up last weekend. A couple of foam decoys were in a duffel bag inside the blind along with a sling chair.
It was a crisp 29 degrees, little wind, a waning moon and the peepers and woodcock were performing their twilight symphony. I had high hopes of bagging my Thanksgiving bird early.
All so much lotus eating.
After situating a decoy about thirty yards from the blind in a large meadow I situated myself in the blind. Here's where things began to go downhill. In loading the Mossberg turkey gun I somehow manufactured the mother of all jams in the receiver. Fumbling in the dark I was thinking - Crap! There are birds flying down and gobbling. You have screwed-up your weapon Gaertner.
Field stripping the firearm in low light and taking pains not to drop any vital pieces in the grass I cleared the jam, reassembled and loaded it and commenced my crooning of the turkey love call.
Gobbling to the east, gobbling to the south, gobbling to the west and north. Gobbling all around me and not a bird to venture into the open.
Seeking to answer the call of nature I walked back to the house several hours later and stepping into the trail ambushed a couple of gobblers who hightailed it to freedom.
Returning to my blind as I rounded the trail leading to the meadow I ambushed a big tom with a couple of hens who hightailed it to freedom.
Bad news runs in threes maybe? Or is it crap that runs downhill?
Nothing for the rest of the day. My pal Lawyer and I traded emails about my pathetic lack of hunting prowess. A tooth began to ache.
On a positive note a couple of bluebirds and a passel of tree swallows have set-up housekeeping in the nearby nest boxes. Robins and northern flickers entertained me with their picking-about in the turf.
Day Two - Friday, April 13
That's right - Friday the 13th.
Up at the same time. Another pot o' joe, different sammich and Girl Scout cookies. I was going to show those birds a thing or two today. That tooth was throbbing. Undiscouraged I donned my lucky green wool socks and shoved a handful of ibuprofen into my pocket.
Very crispy low of 24 degrees overnight and the peepers were subdued.
I've been getting a couple of miles of walking in each day with a break to return to the house at mid-morning.
If you have to use the facilities why don't you save yourself the trouble and just go in the woods. What's the matter with you man. Have you lost your outdoor skills!
Excellent point. My answer to that is hip precautions. No squatting in the bush for fear of dislocating my new hip and being left for the coyotes to feed-upon. I'm sure that's probably too much information but it is what it is.
Same thing today. A crescendo of gobbling but nothing coming into my (now two) decoys. Plenty of deer however. In the space of about thirty minutes I had seven whitetails cruise through my ambush and only one winded me.
Only a solo hen approached to check-out my set-up.
Over lunch I contemplated my Friday the 13th predicament and decided to relocate. Not that I'm superstitious or anything I simply thought it best to pack-up my gear, collapse the blind and relocate to a place on the trail where much gobbling had emanated and even more turkey poop was to be found. In the process of this move the umbrella-like ribs from the blind became dissembled and in trying to put it back together I ripped the roof of the blind and stretched a muscle in my right hip that I shouldn't have. Note to self - Don't squat.
I limped back to the house for the second time today and Jill and Girlfriend accompanied me back to the site of the mayhem to erect another blind. This time we took the ATV.
Ensconced in a new blind in a fresh location I sat there for the remainder of the afternoon and saw nothing. Lawyer emailed me from The Big Easy about oysters and shrimp. My report - cold sammich, Girl Scout cookies and no birds. Preoccupied with my toothache I made some progress in a rather good book.
Lamb - The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal - by Christopher Moore. If you're of my generation and were raised as a kosher Roman Catholic or Lutheran you might just appreciate this novel. Too funny.
On a positive note I saw a herd of deer today and my buddy Frank the pheasant greeted me with crowing and strutting when I returned home. It's nice to be loved.
As I tap this out my hip is killing me and the tooth is no better. The book is terrific.
Back at it tomorrow.
Day Three - Saturday, April 14
12:30 PM - Third time's a charm. Just popped a celebratory beer. Crazy story and crazier pictures later today. Cheers!
8:00 PM - Update
Up at O Dark Thirty again. 49 degrees. Overcast skies and compared to the last two days it felt positively tropical. The peeper chorus was in full throat. But at fly-down there was hardly a gobble to be heard. I suppose some of you may have an impression that I am superstitious. I confess that it occured to me that this was not a good omen. Nevertheless, I was wearing my lucky green wool socks and I had set-up a killer decoy arrangement. A lone hen (in feeding position) and a jake (immature gobbler) gazing seductively at the foam lady.
Settling-in, a bit preoccupied with a worsening toothache, I began calling the love-sick lady turkey call at thirty minute intervals. Not much was happening until shortly after 10:30 AM. A gobble in response about a quarter mile to the west.
I called and gobbler answered. This went on for about 20 minutes. As the gobbles became closer I went into silent mode. A nice breeze was making the decoys move about. It was time to allow them to do their magic. A lone hen walked into view and a strutting gobbler followed. Gun-up, I waited for a clean shot. Without warning the big bird deflated and turned tail - his lady friend in tow.
Before too long the gobbling resumed way to the west from where I first heard it. I would scratch the turkey love song and the big tom would gobble in answer. Hidden from view the gobbling would at times be closer and I'd have my trusty Mossberg at the ready. This went on for about another 20 minutes. Back and forth we went. Me intent on getting a bird and the big male bird intent on playing hard to get.
So focused was I on that solo bird I never saw the gobbler pounce from the other trail and attack the jake decoy. (I told you it was provocative didn't I?)
As the interloper prepared to charge the decoy a second time I fired a single shot to the head at 20 paces. He dropped like a bag of rocks.
Unseen to me was the rest of his posse. In an instant four big gobblers materialized and raised a fuss the likes of which I have never seen.
One would peck or scratch at the dead bird and they would all respond in a cacophony of gobbling. Followed with more gobbling and strutting.
I have never seen such an outrageous outpouring of seemingly strange animal behavior. Was it confusion? Did I slay their exalted leader? Who knows. All I can say is that in all my years I have never seen anything quite like this. A gang of paid, professional mourners couldn't mount a dirge of such proportions if they tried. As most birds will scatter hither and yon after a shot this is deserving of further investigation.
After taking about twenty pictures I stepped into the open to get everyone to move along.
Big bird - 24.5 pounds, a ten-inch double beard and 7/8th inch spurs.
The entire experience was worth the wait.