The Elusive Gobbler By Steve Bartylla
Aug 10, 2005 - 12:24:00 AM
Steve with the elusive gobbler. When it all works: great guide/caller, great equipment and great shooting.
When Tom Carroll, field advisor for
Double Bull Archery called and asked
if Iíd be interested in chasing long beards with him, I was thrilled. Sure,
part of it was because of the birds. Simply put, the Double Bull guys know
turkeys and they hunt some premier locations. Still, a bigger part of my
excitement was because Tom and I had become friends over the years, yet every
attempt to get together on a hunt had previously been thwarted by scheduling
issues. Finally, I was going to get the chance to share a blind with one of the
more knowledgeable turkey hunters and top end callers that this sport has to
offer. I knew that it would be both fun and a valuable learning experience for
me. I was not disappointed.
I arrived at Gregory, South Dakota
to a beautiful spring evening. Double K
Guide Service boarding facility was empty, with all their clients and
guides out chasing turkeys. Keith Beam, who along with Brooks Johnson created
Double Bull Archery, Tom and his fiancť Kaila were to arrive late that night.
Picking the first empty bunk, I dumped my gear and headed outside to fling some
Before long, the camp came alive
with hunters and guides. A great diner was filled with laughter and the excited
stories of the hunt. It didnít take long to see that this was both a fun and
serious group of hunters and guides. With a full stomach, I headed to bed. It
seemed I no more than shut my eyes when the alarm began to slice through my
Double Bulls Ultra realistic decoy and perfect calling made the differance.
After quickly preparing, Tom and I
jumped into Double K Guide Serviceís owner Dave Keiserís truck and headed out.
A short drive later found Tom and I following Dave through the dark. Dave was
quietly explaining to us that we were being setup on a great Tom that heíd been
trying to kill for the past two weeks. Though some of his hunterís came close,
none had been able to drop an arrow on this great bird. As he explained the
setup, I couldnít help thinking that I was glad he was giving us a shot at this
bird. After wishing us good luck, we slapped up the Matrix blind, positioned the full body mount hen decoy and were
settled in before first light.
With the birds waking up with the
sunrise, it was obvious that Dave was right about where they roosted. After
flying down out of sight, they began working their way toward us, just to hang
up on a rise a couple hundred yards away. Time and time again, Tom would call
to the tom, jake and group of hens, an excited reply would follow, but the
group held their position. Disappearing over the rise, time melted away
uneventfully until right after 10 AM arrived.
At that point, Tom spotted the hens
working their way down the fence line towards our blind. With the blind placed
about 20 yards out into the hayfield from the fence line, their route would
bring them right past our position. Unfortunately, they had broken off from the
tom and were traveling alone.
Reaching about forty yards away,
everything changed rapidly. With all three of their heads snapping back toward
the middle of the field and changing course, I peeked out the backside of the
Matrix to see the tom at full strut. With the tom approximately 50 yards off
the back corner of the blind, Tom knew he had to draw the hens to us fast or we
would be added to the list of hunters that had close calls with this old bird.
Forgetting about the tom, Tom
challenged the hens with a series of loud, excited hen yelps and fighting
purrs. Focusing exclusively on them, he needed to draw them up the rise just
enough to see the hen decoy. Doing so, Tom believed that the dominate hen would
rush in to attack the foreign hen. He was right.
Coaxing the lead hen just far
enough to see the decoy, her demeanor changed instantly. Coming in on a run,
she led the other two hens directly to the decoy. As the group attacked it with
a fury, the tom began strutting his way over to collect his hens.
With the tom now steadily
approaching, my greatest concern was that the hens would pick up on my
movement. Less than five yards away, they were still mercilessly trashing the
decoy. Carefully, I brought my Mathews
Outback to full draw. Having previously ranged the point that the tom was
approaching, I knew that when he hit it he would be at twenty yards. Settling
the pin, I let the arrow fly.
In an explosion of feathers, the
tom tore off. Instantly, I knew that my shot was a smidge low and back. In my
early days of chasing birds, I would have made the mistake of tearing after
him. However, those early days had taught me what a mistake that was. Instead,
I would treat it like a deer hit and give the bird a little time, before the
Knowing that this approach would
deliver us the bird, Tom and I exchanged excited high fives and mutual
congratulations. They were not premature. The three-bearded tom was ours.
Truth be told, I had very little to
do with taking this tremendous bird. Dave had correctly identified the spot and
Tom put on a calling clinic to draw him in. Our equipment also played an
invaluable role. There is no way we would have taken the bird if it we had not
been using a blind. My early years bowhunting turkeys taught me how difficult
it is to come to full draw on these birds. Sure, I was able to take three
turkeys without using a blind, but I donít even want to mention how many other
times I was busted cold, as Iíd tried to come to full draw. Without the Matrix,
we would never have been able to take this bird. Further kudos goes to Rocky Mountainís Snyper expandable
heads. My shot was not perfect, but the Snyper still did the job. Finally,
Double Bullís hen decoy was key to drawing in the hens, when they had no other
desire to come in. As importantly, it held them there. Add all of that
together, and the end result was a tom that had eluded every other tactics that
hunters could throw at him.