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 Emotions 
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Longbeard

Joined: Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:29 pm
Posts: 187
Post Emotions
It took me a lot longer to write up this experience than I would have hoped. It has been a very busy summer and this story ended up being tougher to write than I had thought. My 2017 Virginia season was one for the record books, for sure, and I had the opportunity to extend it by going to New York for the last weekend of their season to hunt with family.

I hope everyone is enjoying these warm months as much as they can! We are less than a month from the start of another hunting season and I, for one, cannot wait!

May 26-29, 2017

Excitement

Wednesday afternoon I made the decision to trek from Roanoke to upstate New York to spend Memorial Day weekend hunting with my cousin. He had tagged out a couple days prior and was already guiding his father (my uncle) for the weekend, so we would extend the family affair. Adrenaline and good podcasts made the nine hour drive seem much shorter. I began seeing turkeys about forty miles from Andy's house. Five here. Two there. Another six in the next field. And those were just the strutting toms.
I am not as accustomed to this kind of spontaneity as I wish I was, but the decision to go north on a whim was a no brainer. I've listened to enough tales of turkey dense farms and vocal birds to know that success rates are high up there. But filling tags was really an after thought. This was an opportunity to hunt with family; my cousin who has been a hunting role model of mine since we were children and my uncle who helped pass the passion on to both of us. And it was another chance in 2017 to hunt turkeys. So yeah, I jumped on the invite quickly.

Frustration

He was still in the tree. His first gobble rang out at 0458. It was now 0615. We cursed him from the cramped pop up blind. Two other birds had flown down already, but where they went we had no idea. After an hour and a half he finally shut up. Twenty minutes later we flipped him the proverbial bird, gathered our gear and left the field.
My cousin had watched that bird for a week on the same pattern. We had roosted him the night before and set up perfectly within sixty yards well before daylight. He had responded to subtle calling. And just like that, he was gone. It just wasn't his day to die.

Exhilaration

Andy held up two fingers. Then three. Then four.
"They're all jakes", Andy relayed.
"I don't care", my Uncle shrugged with a little grin on his face.
We backed off below the knob from which we were glassing and snuck around the side of it. A group of tall shrubs and a hay bale concealed our approach. Uncle Rick and I moved into position behind the hay bale and sat with the tall grass covering us to our heads.
Andy stayed ten yards back and moved to the right until he could see the jakes from behind the strutter decoy he held in front of him. He gave a few yelps and, a few seconds later, said, "Get ready. They're coming".
I didn't see them march across the hedge row and into range, but when they finally came out from behind my uncle's head they were twenty five yards away at the end of his gun barrel. Four seconds later the gun went off and one of the jakes disappeared into the tall grass.

Hope

The rest of the morning was spent prospecting. A gobbler finally revealed himself in a gas line. Andy's calling fired up a hen on the other side, and the pair of gobblers ate it up. After almost an hour of back and forth calling, the birds still hadn't shown themselves, staying beyond the tall grass of the gas line just out of sight. They eventually moved off.
Another property away and fifteen minutes left of legal shooting time, I picked up the strutter decoy from where it was staked and went up the hill where we hoped the two longbeards we had seen would come from. I reached the top to find no birds in sight. The sirens in town blared noon.
That evening we roosted three birds together on the side of a ridge. They readily and repeatedly responded to owl hoots. A plan was hatched for the morning.

Disbelief

Andy made it to the logging road and looked at my uncle, then at me, and fell to his knees and sobbed. I choked on my own tears as the turkey made his final flops under my shaking foot and my uncle picked his up. The three of us were stricken with awe and speechless, our mouths agape and eyes smiling. "What just happened!?" I finally stammered.
When the three birds had first gobbled a mere seventy five yards from us we were still setting up decoys. Finally settled in, we listened to the trio gobble over and over with an occasional response from a fourth bird across the field a quarter mile to our left. They took their time flying down and landed out of sight on the side of the ridge that rose to our front. Maintaining their distance, we could hear them drumming as they moved to the right ninety degrees, then back to the left. The sporadic gobbling of the trio and the responses of the loner let us know that he was slowly closing the distance between them.
I finally caught a glimpse of the trio as they strutted back across the ridge side eighty yards away from left to right. One of the birds stayed in view and I began a whispered play by play to my uncle seated at the same tree to my right. It wasn't until the gobbler was almost to the four wheeler path that my uncle saw him. As soon as he hit the open path the Tom saw the jake and hen decoys together and began an immediate march to show the jake who was boss.
"He is yours", my uncle whispered when the bird hit sixty yards from us. As if on cue, three more Toms popped around the bend in the path and ran in half strut to catch up to the first bird. A jake followed a few yards behind. "Just wait", I told my uncle.
It wasn't until they hit the decoys that I realized we had set up below them. The birm on the edge of the four wheeler path blocked everything but the tops of the gobblers' heads, which were crossing back and forth quickly and at random. My vision was tunneled and I am unsure how long the Toms flogged the decoy and each other, but one of them ended up standing on top of the decoy. With his head and neck exposed well above the other birds, I told my uncle to "shoot the one on top".
Aside from my uncle's bird dropping like a ton of bricks, I had no clue what happened after his gun went off. From my hunched position I sat up as straight as I could, my eyes darting frantically to find the other birds. "To the left!" came Andy's voice. In about the same instant I found two red heads, lined one up with my gun barrel and slapped the trigger.

Fulfillment

The double we had just pulled off had rewarded us with all of the elements a turkey hunter could dream of. Four gobblers flogging decoys fifteen yards away after an hour and a half of just-out-of-sight drama and my uncle and I had capitalized side by side with my cousin doing the calling. To boot, after killing several jakes, this was my uncle's first longbeard, my biggest bird to date, my tenth bird to date and both of our first double, ever.
Here is where the writing becomes difficult. Not because I don't know what to write, but that I don't know how to write it. If I try to explain why my cousin and I cried like babies in that little clearing it would end up sounding cheesier than it was and would certainly not do it justice. But the explanation lies somewhere within the passion that is shared among family whose lives have revolved around moments like those. Moments of learning and teaching and experiencing everything that the natural world can teach an avid hunter and those who got him or her there. Those tears represent the ups and downs of a hunt. Of a season. Of my incredible luck. Of my cousin and his father's student-becomes-the-teacher moment. Of three lifetimes of firsts and dreams and stories and memories that reach from the deep roots that brought us there to the branches we have yet to touch that connect us all in the extensive tree of generations of people who can call themselves hunters.
Monday's nine hour drive back was not nearly as fast. The adrenaline was replaced with reflection on the 2017 season and the many prior. The podcasts were riddled with hunters discussing conservation and how the passion is spread not only between people but between us and the environment that provides the habitat for this life style. Though my body drove the car, my mind was riding the roller coaster of emotions that this way of life has put me on. Behind a smile my throat tightened and I could feel the tears building in my eyes. At that moment I could feel what I can only describe as heart ache. Not one of loss, though. It was more indescribable than that. It was the pain of pure fulfillment.


As always, thanks for listening.
Best,
Royce

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"We are measured more as hunters by the things we choose not to shoot, than by those that we do." -Unknown


Sat Aug 05, 2017 10:51 pm
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Co-Owner/Dog Feeder

Joined: Mon Dec 06, 2004 10:20 am
Posts: 3303
Post Re: Emotions
guess what: it only gets better !!

I guess the day I stop feeling the emotions you speak of will be the last day I spring turkey hunt. It is quite a rush.

nicely done......

_________________
"even after almost a half-century of hunting of the noblest game bird I am going to confess that I am still in the kindergarten; and I doubt if any human being ever acquires a complete education in this high art."
- Archibald Rutledge


Sun Aug 06, 2017 9:10 pm
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King of Spring

Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2005 7:40 am
Posts: 2209
Location: Baltimore, MD
Post Re: Emotions
Great story. Thanks.

Ditto GN's words. I hunt for food, yes, but the rush is the other side of the coin.
V

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Vic

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!
-Pericles (430 B.C.)


Mon Aug 07, 2017 11:10 am
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King of Spring
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Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:12 am
Posts: 2002
Location: Midland, VA
Post Re: Emotions
Congratulations Royce to you and your uncle. Great hunts right there.


Earl

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God, Family, Country, Corps and then the Wild Turkey.


Mon Aug 07, 2017 4:43 pm
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King of Spring

Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:40 pm
Posts: 456
Post Re: Emotions
I've been waiting on this story since your posts!! congrats again man! simply awesome!!!


Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:22 am
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Longbeard

Joined: Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:29 pm
Posts: 187
Post Re: Emotions
Thanks, fellas! It was and incredible trip. We are talking about getting my father up there, too, next year so the sons can guide the fathers. I can't even explain how excited I am about that possibility.

I usually include pictures in my stories but didn't have time to do all of the resizing the other night, so here are some photos from NY 2017:

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"We are measured more as hunters by the things we choose not to shoot, than by those that we do." -Unknown


Tue Aug 08, 2017 10:03 pm
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Longbeard

Joined: Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:29 pm
Posts: 187
Post Re: Emotions
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This was the second time this past season I tried to have this photo taken. It is a pretty popular "pose" among the turkey hunting world and most people look pretty darn cool. It was after this was taken that I came to the conclusion that I will never be one of those "cool guys". My grin is always too weird. And probably as it should be :smt003

Best,
Royce

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"We are measured more as hunters by the things we choose not to shoot, than by those that we do." -Unknown


Tue Aug 08, 2017 10:06 pm
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Co-Owner/Dog Feeder

Joined: Mon Dec 06, 2004 10:20 am
Posts: 3303
Post Re: Emotions
Nice grin.

Photos show what I call serious turkey country in the background. I could guess easily it was taken in some places hunt down here in the mid south. Reeks of turkeys.

_________________
"even after almost a half-century of hunting of the noblest game bird I am going to confess that I am still in the kindergarten; and I doubt if any human being ever acquires a complete education in this high art."
- Archibald Rutledge


Wed Aug 09, 2017 6:37 am
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King of Spring
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Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:12 am
Posts: 2002
Location: Midland, VA
Post Re: Emotions
Seriously great pics.

Ah those black spurred NY turkeys. Must be something in the water up there. Mostly all my NY birds have had dark/black spurs.


Earl

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God, Family, Country, Corps and then the Wild Turkey.


Thu Aug 10, 2017 4:30 am
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