2nd Jersey Tom – Loaded for Patience & Safety
I took my second NJ gobbler this Saturday on some state lands. But in doing so I am betting I did something none of you have ever done.
I wanted to go to a state spot my buddy had shown me and very near where we had seen some gobblers fighting last weekend. Which, by the way, we saw the MOST INCREDIBLE gobbler brawl last week. These two birds had their necks twisted around one
another and where biting each others necks, heads and snoods and just dragged, pushed and shoved one another all over the place. They fought for 10 full minutes and never knew we were there. We drove up within 40-50 yds and they were completely oblivious to us. We could have easily crawled up and had a double were it legal where they were but they were not in a legal hunting area so we just watched with awe & envy.
Anyway, I went back there Friday eve and saw another gobbler and 4 other birds I couldn’t identify which slipped in the woods. I got there Sat morning and there was already a car parked so I went and hunted the place Nelson and I lease for the early morning and heard no gobbling. Had some hens fly down very close and mill around and then moved to the opposite woods on the same farm and fired up some jakes which I called in to about 30 yds and then passed on (3 jakes with ~5″ beards and 2 with ~3″ beards). I then explored another state spot but did not have any action.
Around 11:00 I got back to that state spot I had wanted to hunt first thing. I walked in about 100 yds and called and immediately got a gobble. Sat at the first tree I could find and called some more. He gobbled 3-4 more times every few minutes. The last gobble was right out in front of me so I did some light clucks and purrs on my slate. Pretty soon I saw him coming and he stepped out with a perfect unobstructed shot between me and him. I estimated ~40 yds and he was standing tall with his head up and beard hangin’. Couldn’t have been any better. But before I get to the end I have to ask a question.
Have you ever waited to load your gun until a nice mature gobbler was staring at you?
Well I have.
Foolishness, stupidity, forgetfulness, excitement of getting into the woods, so many reasons. Mostly foolishness.
Let me elaborate.
So there he is in all his grandeur. The sun is beaming through the trees glistening off his beautifully iridescent feathers, his head is red white and blue and beard is drooping. I have called him in and he’s standing there with his head up and barrel chest out. Perfect. Only one thing to do – pull the trigger. And so I did. Nothing happened. “Shit! Must not have clicked the safety off!” I think to myself. He’s still standing there. I go for the safety but it’s already off. Pull the trigger again. Nothin’. “Oh no” I think. I glance down at the bolt and it is all the way back. I never loaded the gun ! “Damn it, damn it, damn it !!!” I berate myself. He’s still standing there. Only one choice now. Try to load the gun. So I slowly reach my right hand down, keeping it close to my gun and body and to my pocket. Can’t find the top of the pocket. Fumble, fumble, fumble. There it is. Open it, now fumble for a shell – got one ! He’s still standing there. Slowly raise the hand back up and put the shell in the chamber. Put the safety back on, try to release the bolt. It doesn’t move. The tongue is up and needs to be down for the bolt to release. He’s still standing there. Try to get my index finger in and push the tongue down. Can’t do it with my gloved hand (mosquitoes were swarming so needed gloves). Mosquitoes are viciously eating my head, ears and neck through my face mask. He’s still standing there. More fumbling with the tongue, can’t get it. Now he sees me move. He gets nervous and crosses the path and behind a tree. I flip the gun over, pull the tongue down, shell slides out of the chamber, rechamber it, close the bolt. The bird is now ready to leave town but he decides to come back across the path and head back the way he came. Big mistake. When he hit the opening he hesitated a moment for one last look, I shot and down he went ! Got him !
19 pounder, 9 inch beard, 13/16″ spurs, 11:30am.
Possibly the most exciting turkey hunt I’ve ever had. Certainly the most interesting. Unquestionably the luckiest.
I have proven I am a safe, law abiding hunter and never leave my gun loaded in a vehicle. HOWEVER, I do suggest you load your gun once you DO actually get into the woods. But, if you’re up for a REAL challenge wait until the bird is already in front of you and then load it. It can be done. At least once anyway…..
P.S. I must admit I was a bit disappointed with my distance estimate. I paced it out at 52 yards. I wouldn’t have shot had I thought it was that far. But this has made me a believer in 3 1/2″ hevi-shot out of my Browning Gold with Rhino tube choke. That bird went down hard. I still don’t recommend shots over 50 yards.