The baggage hadn't been unloaded from my flight yet and Andrew Pashley of Stick and String Outfitters was already firing me up. He told me how he found a flock of Merriam's gobblers roosted
2:30 AM seemed earlier than normal - but the weather looked good and we loaded up the truck. It was a short drive to the field and once there, we tiptoed to the blind. The Double-Bull blind was set up in the brush at the edge of an alfalfa field. Andrew pointed skyward. "You never told me they were THAT close?" I said. The birds were probably no further than 50 yards - and there were dozens of them. We settled in and tried to nap.
The first gobble was heard 90 minutes later. But a chorus of gobblers and hens soon followed it. After twenty minutes of yapping, the birds flew down and grouped up in the field. Andrew decided not to call, and we hadn't risked setting up dekes. His plan was to wait until the birds wandered around and having hunted here many times, he believed they would walk this edge. He was right! Two hens split off from the rest of the flock and came right at us. Two mature toms followed. Andrew whispered, get ready" as they closed the distance. The first tom passed us in full strut. The second was a bit closer and when he appeared in the window of the blind I pulled back and flung an arrow at him. DARN IT!!!! My arrow flew harmlessly over the bird, by about a foot! I knew I was a jerk for not picking a spot and just shooting, and once again I was the victim of Turkey Fever!!!
With the turkey's now cleared out of this meadow, Andrew suggested we take a blind, and some dekes and try stalking a river bottom where a flock has been known to hang out. I was skeptical at first but we had nothing to lose. We hopped in his truck and headed to another property. It didn't take long to locate the flock and we discussed our tactic. Andrew and I would sneak down the bluff, then stalk closer by using a cut bank. A few minutes later, we stopped and Andrew called. Nothing responded from our first or second locations. But the third location a gobbler responded. We set up the decoys and blind and began calling. The birds were hung up. Occassionally a tom or hen would respond, but they would not move. Andrew suggested moving even closer to "push" the birds. It was risky, but I was game.
We snuck along a river bank. I kept wondering why Andrew was not stopping - my guess is we were pretty darned close. We moved about 150 yards when he stopped and called. The response from a gobbler was almost deafening - he was less than 40 yards away. Andrew and I looked at each other and said "Oh #$%#" the tom was coming and we hadn't even set up the blind. I've never seen a double-bull go up so fast. He stuck a decoy next to the door and we piled in. I turned on my video camera and got an arrow out. Andrew made two yelps and the gobbler was there. He was a great tom, but he was a little far - about 25-30 yards. I passed on that shot. Two more, closer toms headed in. The second was in full strut as they passed the blind. The shot was around 20 yards, a long shot for me - especially on a bird. But I picked a spot and drew my new Black Widow Recurve. I held the 50lb bow for about six seconds - completely focused on the birds' wing butt. I released and the arrow buried right into that exact spot. The bird flopped then took off running. Andrew chased him but the bird had only gone about 50 yards. We were pumped!
Andrew and I admired the large Merriam's gobbler - it had 3 beards and weighed over twenty pounds. My best bird yet and by far one of the most exciting turkey hunts I'd ever had. Andrew was a great caller, and knew just what to do to get those birds fired up. Not bad for the first morning!