It was over a decade ago. I was riding shotgun while my friend, Bill Fordon, drove down a local Geneva, NY road that we knew well. He pulled to the shoulder and motioned toward the far reaches of the edge of the woods. "That's where he is." It was private property, so I never gave much thought to hunting it. There, in the middle of the chewed up ground, was the largest tom turkey I'd ever seen, prancing around in full strut. The turkey had to be 400 yards away, but we knew it was a turkey. Far be it from a couple of farm boys who hunted not to have binoculars with them, we lifted the glass and took a look. This tom was incredible! Right then, Bill and I knew we would hunt hard for this tom. We just had to come up with a strategy.
Our dilemma was that this particular tom was strutting on private property. The owner allowed no hunting. Fortunately for us, Bill's family owned the adjacent property and we could hunt the fringe. We began planning and once turkey season opened, we hit the woods. Bill hunted. I hunted. We each had heard him, but he wouldn't get close. We knew he was there, so over the next couple weeks we hunted separately and we would see him frolicking in the open field and that frustrated the heck out of us.
I knew I had to change tactics. As per the usual script, I was up long before dawn, hiked the half mile to the edge of the woods and set up. As the sun came up, the turkeys came alive. . . along with the mosquitoes. They soon found their way through the thin fabric of my gloves and the assault was too much for me. I needed to get up and move. Plus, the tom was in the open field across the field I was on the edge of. I could hear him gobbling away from me. I needed to move.
Earlier in the week, I had found out that the edge of the property I had permission to hunt bordered the private property across the way. In fact, it was split right in the middle of wide cut of hardwoods. I didn't know it well in the dark, but now that it was light enough, I made my way across. If the tom wouldn't come to me, I'd head to him and draw him back.
For three hours I called. For three hours he answered back and didn't leave the hens that were in the field. I prayed asking God to let him get withing shooting range. I was so frustrated. Turkey hunting can do that to you. He was less than 200 yards in the field, some swail protected my location, and if I just had permission to hunt the private property I could put a sneak on him! But the landowner had been very clear when she said that I could not hunt her property.
The tom wasn't going to move and I had to get back to town. I packed up and made the long trek back to my car. It gave me plenty of time to think and feel even more irritated by the time my rear fell into the driver seat. By the time I got back to my car it had taken me about a half hour. So, I loaded my gear into the car and started to drive back home.
I shook my head as I slowly drove by the open field and came to a stop. The tom was out of sight. I glassed and glassed and saw nothing. Seeing as this was my last day I would be able to hunt turkey, I had hoped to see him one last time. As I put the car in drive and began to move, I glanced over to my left and couldn't believe my eyes. I made a U-turn and came to a stop. Not twenty yards away from me was the tom and a hen in an alfalfa field! I got out of the car and walk to the edge of the road. He was in full strut and walking toward me!! I hustled back to the car to grab a call. I let out a couple of clucks and purrs with a diaphragm call and he went nuts. It was the coolest sight! Now, here is where most people tell me I should have shot the tom. For one, he was right next to the road (no shooting zone), he was on a different tract of private land and to me it wasn't hunting. I bantered back and forth with him for ten minutes and admired his strutting and gobbling. He absolutely refused to leave this particular hen. I waited for a while and they wouldn't move. Then, as if a switch had been flipped, his tail feathers came down and they headed for a far wooded lot.
When I finally opened my car door and sat down, I simply smiled. I had just witnessed the most colorful, insanely large tom turkey I had ever seen strut right in front of me. In a way, God had answered my prayer. I had prayed asking him to allow that turkey to get within shooting range. He did just that. I should have prayed asking him to allow me to kill the bird! He had strutted to within 20 yards of me, pranced around for a long time, and I was able to witness it all. I still revel in that moment. It was a day I will never forget.