with Alex Cote
On the way to work a couple of years ago in Vermont, I kept seeing a longbeard out in a field with a bunch of hens. When turkey season finally arrived, I asked my boss for permission to get to work a little late, so I could hunt that longbeard. He agreed to let me come in late. On opening day, I left the house later than I really wanted to, and I was afraid the turkeys would see me before I could get to a place to try to call to the big gobbler. I hadn’t been able to roost the turkeys the night before, which upset me. But I was fairly sure that I knew where they were roosting. As the sun began to come up, I strained my ears to try and hear a turkey gobble or even a hen tree call, however, I heard nothing. I was getting very discouraged.
Every morning when I drove past this field, I’d dream about hunting that big gobbler on opening day. Now that opening day had arrived, all the turkeys were hush-mouthed. I had put out my decoys. After the time when I felt certain the turkeys already had flown from the roost, I pulled up my decoys and went to a field behind the field I was hunting. When I had scouted this place before, I had seen these turkeys out in this back field. I made the decision to put out my decoys there. Until I had to leave to go to work, I would call to the birds.
Walking to the back field, I stayed low behind a stone wall. When I arrived at the stone wall, I peeped over it. I'd never seen so many birds. At least 16 to 17 turkeys were out in the field. Not only were gobblers strutting out in the field, but jakes and hens were there also. At that moment, my whole mindset changed from being depressed to being wildly excited. But then I began to think, “How am I going to get those turkeys to come from 300 yards away up to the edge of this stone wall where I can get a shot?” I hoped to video myself taking a turkey. I’d just gotten into trying to video some of my turkey hunts, which worked out sometimes and other times not at all.
I started calling. I was trying to get the big gobbler to come to me. However, he had a harem of hens that he was satisfied with, and he wasn’t interested at all in picking up another lady friend. When the two jakes heard me calling, they decided to move away from the flock and come close to the stone wall. They thought all they would have to do was hop over the wall, and they would be out of sight of the dominant gobbler and possibly meet their first girlfriends. The two jakes came running in really hard until they reached the stone wall, about 50 yards in front of me, and stopped. They couldn’t see me because of my Mossy Oak camouflage. In Vermont, taking a jake is legal.
I was an awkward spot, but it was the only place I could get into without the turkeys seeing me. I used soft yelps and gave the gobblers some hen purring from my mouth diaphragm call. The two jakes jumped on top of the wall and spotted my two hen decoys. Then they jumped off the wall and came to my decoys, but they didn’t seem to know what to do next. Once the two jakes were about 20 yards from me, I reached over and tried to move my camera to video the shot. One of the jakes jumped on that hen decoy and started freaking-out. I took the shot. I didn’t get the shot on camera, but I was able to get me running out to pick up the bird.
After I got out of college, I moved to Vermont about 6-years ago. I wish I had known that in Vermont a turkey hunter legally could take two turkeys in a day, because at that time I had both jakes’ heads lined up together. I easily could have taken both of them. But in my home state of Massachusetts, you only could take one gobbler per day, and I just assumed that same rule applied to Vermont. Technically, I could have doubled down that day, but I didn’t. So, I watched the second jake run off, jump on top of the stone wall and putt at me as I went to pick up the jake I just had shot.
Day 2: The Double Down That Worked on a Massachusetts Tom
Tomorrow: Alex Cote’s First Turkey with a Bow