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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 arrows.

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 dreams.
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 chase began.

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.

For a great turkey hunt, contact Double K Guide Service:  Call 605-835-8658 or Email

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