By Jenna Taylor
Photos by Hunter Forbes
Youth turkey season in Kentucky is consistently one of the best weekends to be out in the woods. This year it fell on the first weekend in April, when the birds have lacked pressure and began to embrace courtship.
It was one of those lovely days when the wind blows cold and the sun shines hot. The eminent chirp of the Kentucky blue jay and the quaint sounds of the newly bloomed leaves brushing against one another. A delightful afternoon spent in the shade of oak trees alongside loved ones patiently awaiting a gobbler’s demise and a young hunter’s victory.
This year I had planned to take my cousin Noah. I had deer hunted with Noah numerous times, but had never gotten the chance to sit back and enjoy spring turkey hunting with him. Noah is a 14-year-old Christ-driven outdoorsman who enjoys every minute of nature and the outdoors. He appreciates all that it has to offer, and is an absolute joy to be around. It has been splendid to see the way he has adapted and grown as a hunter and how my uncle Tommy has raised him with the foundations of Christ, family and hunting.
It was the afternoon of April 3, around 2:45 p.m. We pulled up to the farm, unlocked the gate, and slowly pulled in. As we stepped out of the truck, we looked up to see three toms strutting nearby a few hens. Only about 150 yards away, we fell silent, froze, jumped back in the car, and slowly reversed back out of the gate. We changed our tactics and got ready by the road, ditched our snacks and slipped in to the tree line.
As we began our quest to assist Noah in taking a gobbler down, we realized that we didn’t have the time nor space to traditionally set up and wait for them to come to us. So as I sat back in the tree line, Noah began to army crawl towards the gobblers. With a Deception Outdoors full strutter and a fan from one of the past years, he eased over the hillside and got within the boundaries of the toms.
Watching their heads burn brighter red, we knew this had done it. We had gotten too close, and these gobblers were ready to fight. As the fan was gracefully presented to the toms ahead, they began to get closer and closer. Attempting to protect their courtship and keep another strutter from stealing their ladies, they had unknowingly gotten within the confines of the shotgun spray. Within seconds, I called the shot and Noah swiftly pulled the trigger. Immediately looking up, we realized that the shot had somehow missed the gobbler. He instantly took off and was out of range within seconds.
As hunters, we realize that missed shots are inevitable. With time, practice and patience, we confidently make the kill shot with the goal of a sudden death and no suffering to the animal. But as I said, that is sometimes unavoidable and bound to happen—so we don’t lose hope. We learn from our mistakes and we get better so we can avoid those mistakes the next time.
Changing tactics once more, we decided to take the trail leading to the middle of the farm where the woods make a V. There is open field to the left, right and directly in front. It’s an apparent funnel for all wildlife, and we figured we could catch a bird going to roost—or hopefully get one to come in using our Field Proven Calls.
Every 20 minutes or so, we let out a few clucks, chirps, and purrs with both our FP diaphragm calls and FP friction calls. It had been at least 20 minutes since we called last, and as we lay there silently soaking up the cool 55-degree weather, fully immersed in nature, a hen slowly and silently walks by to my left. I quickly whisper to Noah to get ready.
As they’re going back and forth, I look back over my shoulder to my left again, this time to see a red head inching closer. I get Noah’s attention, and we are suddenly frozen in time. As the gobbler swiftly rounds the corner (now in front of us), he begins to persistently peck at the decoy’s eyes. Soon thereafter, the gobbler pounces on the decoy, and puts on a full show for us. At last, he flies six feet up in to the air and violently comes down on the full strutter. As his head comes up, I call the shot for the second time that day. Noah, with his shotgun rested on his knee, promptly pulls the trigger and, at last, the gobbler goes down.
“You got him!” I cheerfully announced, and soon thereafter my eyes closed and I thanked God for the hunt, the harvest and the wonderful memories.
We all got up, gave Noah a huge hug, a fist bump and a congratulations, wrapping up an unforgettable hunt.