Growing up we didn’t have many turkeys here in New York. But as the flocks increased, I became very interested in wild turkeys, because I could hunt them in the spring when there wasn’t anything else to hunt. Our deer season closes in mid- December, so I had a long wait until I could get back in the woods again. Today, our turkey season starts on May 1 and runs through May 31.
I went to college to learn to hunt turkeys. A local community college offered a course on turkey biology, turkey tactics and turkey calling. Once I finished the course, I felt I was fairly competent to go out into the woods and hunt turkeys. Back then, not many people in my area hunted turkeys. I hunted a year by myself without taking a turkey, but I got very close several times. That really increased my confidence that one day I might be able to take one of those birds. One thing I learned that first year was that turkey hunting requires a tremendous amount of patience, and I spooked a lot of turkeys. When I thought I had sat still long enough to see the turkey, I’d get up, and then I’d watch the gobbler either run off or fly off.
I met a friend who owned an archery shop named Hern Leonard, and he took me turkey hunting a few times. One afternoon I was at Hern’s archery shop, and we were talking about turkey hunting. Hern said, “You go back to your house (which was 30 minutes away) and try to roost some turkeys. I’ll go to the property I hunt this afternoon, and I’ll try to roost some turkeys. Then we’ll get on the phone with each other tonight and try to decide where we’re going to hunt in the morning.” So, I went to the farm that I usually hunted, and put about 11 gobblers to bed that night. So, I called Hern, and he said, “I only saw two or three turkeys.” So, he came over to my house very early the next morning. I told Hern that the gobblers were roosted along a gully just inside the woodlot. Hern said, “You go into the woods and set up where you think you ought to be, and I’ll stay out here on the edge of the field. If the turkeys come out into the field, I’ll sneak back into the woods and try to call the gobblers past you.”
I set a decoy out in front of me and a decoy to my left, because I'm right handed. I backed up against a tree and waited on daylight. Just at first light, all 11 turkeys started gobbling, and I kept waiting for Hern to start calling. As luck with have it, a longbeard pitched down out of the tree and landed 25 yards from me, strutting back and forth along the edge of the gully. The only call I had made before daylight was a soft tree call, and that gobbler must have heard me. The bird was to my right, and still Hern hadn’t called. The turkey was strutting, and I knew I couldn’t move to get into a position to take a shot, because we were in open hardwoods. The tom finally saw my decoys and started coming to the decoys strutting. When he turned away from the decoys, and I knew he couldn’t see me. I slid around the tree to be able to get into position to take a shot. Once the turkey broke his strut and started looking for the hen, he was only 22 yards from me. I squeezed the trigger on my Remington 870 12-gauge. Only a few minutes after I shot, Hern came into the woods looking for me. He had set-up about 60 or 70 yards away from me. “I thought you were going to call. I kept waiting to hear you call,” I told Hern. “I could hear and see you and the turkey, and I knew you were in a position to get a shot,” Hern said. “I didn’t want to call that turkey off of you. You bagged that gobbler all by yourself.”
That was one of the happiest days of my life. I had been hunting turkeys for 2 years, and I had finally bagged a turkey. Two weeks later I took my second turkey all by myself.