But one thing was the same.
I killed them all on the edge of a field.
You could say, “I found my edge,” but probably not the way you would think.
Back in the day when we first started using decoys we would set the fake hens up about 30 yards out in a field and set up just inside the woods or in a hedgerow and call and call with our backs to the woods and guns pointed out into the field.
And we got a lot of gobblers to answer.
Lots of excitement.
Nothing like it.
Even killed a bird or two that way.
But here in hard-hunted Western New York, an old wild tom turkey is a very crafty critter indeed.
Just watch the way they move and how they check and slowly process everything on your spring scouting trips. These fully fanned out patriarchs don’t get old by being hasty and running their mouths at the first thing that looks or sounds like a hen, despite what we see on TV and videos.
The toms I hunt are of a different breed.
They are wily critters that do not come in easily.
A gobbler hunter that duels with one of these old long-spurs, sometimes needs an edge … literally.
But like most of my successful tactics in the woods, I stumbled on the notion in the normal warp and weave of a hunt.
The successful strategy was repeated.
It actually worked, again and again.
Ah, I must be a turkey-hunting guru, a genius. Pulled my bicep by slapping myself on the back for thinking up a new idea.
Just dumb luck after decades of obsessed turkey hunting.
A few springs ago … probably somewhere around 15 or 20, during the middle of May, I hit my third spot of the morning.
The first two didn’t pan out, so with time still on the clock, I drove my truck to the third.
That in itself is hardly noteworthy, happens every year, running and gunning around the county.
But that specific morning got tucked into the old neocortex by what followed.
This third hunting spot that day was a small property surrounded by heavily hunted acreages, the sole territory of local legendary gobbler chasers.
As I was hustling up the hollow, a tom sounded off.
The bird … well, sounded like a couple toms.
I was pinned down, couldn’t move, so I played coy and hard to get.
You know, just a putt or a purr once in a while. And maybe five minutes later … a yelp so they’d commit or move off allowing a secondary move and setup.
Sure enough, they eased off a bit and I made my next reposition, scrambling up to the edge of a hidden meadow.
But my jake and hen decoy were still back down in the woods, remaining set up where I had originally been calling.
I chomped at the bit, wanting to put those dekes out in field so badly. I surmised, “that way the toms could see ‘em better.”
But no way.
Didn’t dare because the cover was too sparse.
Too much movement.
Too big of a risk.
So all I could do was crawl up to an ancient ent of an apple tree next to the barb wire fence, and positioned, with shotgun pointed down at the decoys.
Here comes the revelation in the form of three turkeys.
The trio of long-beards had swung out into the meadow, circling, making a big loop coming in from my right side.
The first bird was a sub-dominant, probably a two-year old. And it was fun to watch him stretch his long neck out on his tiptoes, looking over the barbwire at my two decoys down below.
(Luck was on my side because the plastic hen and jake were actually positioned just right down in the woods, not too close to the field and not too far away either …probably about 30 yards.)
My attention and my breath were snatched away on a high rise out in the field by the dominant bird’s fan. Of the three, what a beauty. He strutted in full display, letting the other two smaller toms walk point.
Didn’t have to wait long. The two young gobblers slipped through the fence, drawn to the decoys. Just had to get a bit closer to see better.
And the old tom broke strut and followed to the fence, peering down at the other two with the dekes when I squeezed the 12-gauge right on the edge.
Since then, two other long-beards during subsequent seasons wore my zip-tied tag above their spurs after falling for the same edge setup too.
Place decoys down in the woods so that they can barely be seen from up above on the field-edge.
These field toms feel safe as they edge closer and closer.
Oak Duke writes a weekly column appearing on the Outdoors page.