Like Son, Like Father

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2003

spit and drum less than 15 yards away. The gobbler strutted then turned and spotted Andy's jake decoy. He immediately slipped under the fence and took about three steps onto our place to show the jake who was boss.

Andy swallowed his heart and fired.

I looked at the 26-pound gobbler. It was several pounds larger than the biggest I've ever killed and probably bigger than any one I've ever seen. I've always told Andy, "Don't do as I do, do as say!' This time it paid off. If it hadn't been mixed with my desire to clobber him, the pride I felt for my son would have been overwhelming.

Andy had done what I should have done--spent time in the woods after the magic hour of sunrise, waited out the gobblers, preying on their throbbing desires that, later in the day, go unrequited because the hens have gone to nest. W

"I'm through for the week," he said. "You should hunt our place." I bristled at his fatherly tone. If he had patted me on the back I would have decked him.

I pouted a little, like a little boy who has been told that he can't have his Flexible Flyer sled for Christmas, but it took only a moment for that fleeting nasty emotion to jab me like a wild rose thorn and then the pride returned. I have loved this child since he was born, and he has been my hunting buddy since he was old enough to appreciate gunfire and wild creatures.

He is my tomorrow, and I still have tomorrow to get my bird!

The next morning I rose at 5 a.m. and stumbled through the woods of our property in the dim grayness of pre-dawn. I was able to see the big trees, but the invisible sprouts whipped me like old-time grade school teachers with their rulers. Finally I topped out on the ridge and looked for a place to set up.

There is a fringe of woods inside our place. I put the decoys close to a fence and backed off five yards to a comfortable redcedar tree. It was comfortable enough that I immediately dozed off.

I was startled awake by a whomping gobble not that far off. My gluey eyes struggled open and I sucked spit off the caller. The mating yelp I emitted didn't sound bad at all, considering it came from a mouth that tasted like a sump pit. The gobbler instantly answered.

We engaged in pillow talk for about a half-hour, then I heard a gobble that obviously was closer than the roost. The bird was coming.

I shut up, mainly because my caller was stuck to the roof of my dry mouth. I tucked my knees under my chin and propped the old Model 12 on my knee. I was ready.

I heard a gobble so close that the ground shook. The gobbler's white head snaked up from a slight declivity, no more than 20 yards away, across the fence. He was on parade, like a Coldstream Guard honoring the Queen. I silently urged him to spot the decoys, cross the fence and become mine for all time.

Instead, he wandered mindlessly away, the way gobblers do. They have the attention span of a fourth grader.

I had nothing to lose. I remembered a lesson learned from my calling mentor, Lincoln County's own calling champion, Leroy Braungardt. He named it the Tantalizer, and it's as far from traditional turkey calling as manic hysteria is from a satisfied chuckle.

It's a wild assortment of yelps and cackles that sounds like a hen caught in a corn sheller. I yelped frantically and double-cackled and yelped again.

The gobbler charged over the rise like John Wayne in a WWII movie. I fired, almost in self-defense, when he was about 12 steps away.

The bird weighed 23 pounds, three less than Andy's bird, but he had two beards, one more than Andy's. According to my figuring, we were even: father and son, son and father.

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