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I had gone scouting (with shotgun in hand) during the middle of the first week of November to see what the fall flocks looked like in a couple of areas relatively close to home. I had procured a Southern Region Fall Turkey Permit, and I had set my sights on a mature tom to bump up my fall hunt challenge. Hens and poults abounded, and I could have scored multiple times during the first hour of my foray, but I am ALWAYS nice to girls, and bagging a jake wouldn't be a consideration until my last available day to hunt this season. Winter had not yet arrived with its hoped-for snows, and neither had the big boys... at least not to the Division-designated areas where I needed to find one!

Fast forward 7 weeks and a couple of small snow storms to Dec. 22 - I had picked a rainy/snowy/windy morning in which to try my luck again, but who knows what the weather is like where I wanted to head, and besides, ya can't kill a turkey in the rack! Heck, if it ended up just too wet and miserable to hunt, at least I might be able to determine where (and if) the long-beards were hanging out where they were legal to bag....

By the time that I arrived at my destination, the wind and precipitation had completely subsided and so had my lack of confidence at being able to work turkeys that morning. I hopefully left the truck and headed up the ridge to where I knew turkeys frequently roosted. Sure enough, by the time I arrived at my pre-dawn listening location, hen yelps and kee-kee's greeted me from right where I thought they would... the only problem was that ALL I heard were hen yelps and kee-kee's... where were the toms? Not 30 seconds after that last thought left my undersized brain, I heard what I wanted to hear - GOBBLER yelps!... but 400 yards in the direction from which I had come. I didn't think I could hustle back fast enough to get in a good position before fly down, but I was dang sure going to try, so off I jogged.

When I got as close as I dared, I plopped my Quaker Boy World Champ diaphragm onto my tongue and let out a short burst of deep yelps. Gobbler yelps answered me from 12 o'clock and 10 o'clock, both about 60 or 70 yards away. I responded immediately, and so did they - one even choked out a half-hearted gobble! I sat down where I stood in the 10-inch deep snow and began to sparingly communicate with the turkeys. They and a couple of hens would respond occasionally, but after 2 or 3 minutes it sounded like they all moved off to my left down the canyon and naturally developed lock jaw. No problem, just get in front, right? Right, but to do so without being seen meant hustling down the ridge for a quarter of a mile and then stumbling down the side of the canyon mostly on my hind quarters because of the slippery, snow-covered bank.

When my position suited me, I emitted a couple of gobbler yelps, followed by a brief series of kee-kee's to sound like the mixed flock that I was pursuing. A kee-kee run answered me from about 70 yards ahead, so I advanced about 25 yards to a location that offered me shooting lanes, and I sat down. I worked what sounded like a jake and a hen for about 10 minutes (I figured the flock was mixed, so even though I didn't HEAR a big boy, there would likely be one with them) until they slowly moved away from me, telling me to "come on" the whole time. I stood up to reposition, and a silent hen that obviously had been moving to me, took off and flew right to left and landed 150 yards away on a side hill. She hadn't spooked the rest of the flock, so I moved up 40 yards, sat down again and began to call. I worked the jake again for 10 more minutes to no avail.

In the meantime, I heard additional yelping, both hen and gobbler, about 120 yards ahead of me, so I decided to desert my current quarry and move ahead to try that new group. in order to avoid thick brush and to walk easier, I decided to move slightly up the hillside to my left to make my approach. I kee-kee'd and occasionally gobbler yelped as I went. I noticed fresh tom tracks in the snow that moved up the hill I was on, so when 2 hens answered my calling from above and ahead of me, I suspected that they might be with some silent toms. I sat down to work them, and we hen yelped back and forth for a couple of minutes. One of them S-L-O-W-L-Y approached me to within 25 yards, and when I gently craned my head to see her, I spied a big turkey with a long beard walking left to right about 15 yards up the hill beyond her. It didn't take me long to find an opening through the cedar branches in front of me, to push off the safety on my little Remington 870 20-gauge and to take the gift offered me... Got 'im!


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