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A Buckeye Bird With a Bonus

WernerBy Alan Werner

-- Thursday, April 26, 2007, was a day I had been looking forward to with mixed emotions. I was leaving for a four-day turkey hunting trip to southern Ohio but it also would have been the 21st birthday of my daughter Emilee. She was taken from us much too early, a little over three years ago.

I worked extra on Wednesday and some on Thursday morning but finished early and was on the road around 12:30 p.m. I know Emilee was with me as I reminisced about the fun times we had together.

Amid thunderstorms and tornado warnings, I pulled into my friend Ted "Tick" Sivert's driveway at 8:45 p.m. I think I was fortunate enough to skirt the east side of the worst of it. Ohio's turkey season was only four days old so our anticipation for success was high.

On the road at 5 a.m., we rolled to a stop at the top of the field at 6:05 and hurried to get in place as the day began to wake up. The songs of the whippoorwills and the cardinals voices welcomed a new morning.

We hunted for six hours and never saw or heard a turkey. We flushed two deer out of a blowdown and put up with a flock of rabid crows but that was all. Last November during Ohio's gun season, we saw hoards of turkeys in this same area, go figure.

On the way back to Ted's, we called his nephew Josh, who is attending college at Rio Grand University in Gallia county about 1 hour and 45 minutes southeast, to take him up on his offer to hunt 4,000 acres of private land. We packed the truck and were on the road about 8 p.m., just slightly before dark.

After arriving, Josh's friend Jamie took us out to show us where we would be hunting and gave us a key to the gate, and then it was back to Josh's apartment to get some sleep.

We awoke to cloudy skies and a lot of wind, not what you would wish for while turkey hunting. We did hear one bird early and saw an owl, plus several deer. Finally at 11:55 a.m. we had a hen fly up above our setup from just over the ridge, however, she was alone and hunting ends at noon in Ohio, so we slowly backed out of there.

Later that evening, we went back out to attempt to roost a couple of birds, but a thunderstorm just before dark put the kibosh on that plan, so we went and got a bite to eat before turning in for the evening.

Sunday morning seemed a little more promising with slightly cooler temperatures but not as much wind. An hour or so after sunrise, we heard three distinctly different birds in separate directions. Josh took off after one and Ted and I teamed up and went after another. Twenty to 30 minutes of intermittent gobbling led us on a long walk. Then suddenly, all three birds just shut up. We saw several more deer, an absolutely massive beaver dam and our friendly owl but by 9:30, we were all back at the truck, hot and tired.

We took a drink of water and grabbed a chew as we discussed our next move. We decided to set up in a large ground blind on a power line on the other side of the property to spend our last hour and a half. We followed the logging road around until we reached the power line and piled out of the truck. We gathered our gear and were ready to leave when Josh realized he had forgotten something and tried to open the door of the locked truck. You guessed it, the alarm went off. After that, we figured we were finished for sure as the sound echoed down the cutover and through the hills.

Since we were already there, we walked on down to the blind and put out the decoys and set up our chairs. It was 10:30.

I started with some aggressive calling due to the gusty wind and got a response several hundred yards in front of us. A couple of minutes later, I called again and had a bird behind us 250 to 300 yards answer. The tom continued gobbling on his own, and it seemed he was getting a little closer. Ted and I decided to close the distance, while Josh stayed behind in case the other bird came our way.

Ted and I walked down the power line until we saw a four-wheeler trail going into the woods. We followed the trail 50 to 60 yards through the woods until it opened up onto another power line. We stopped here and I called. Again, the bird answered, and it was definitely closer. We stayed on the trail as it crossed the power line and entered some more woods. Less than 10 yards in, we could tell there was an open meadow. As I looked around, I saw two deer feeding unaware of our intrusion. I struck the lil' deuce glass call by H.S. Struts again and the deer looked at us while the turkey gobbled. It was very close.

We took one step and the deer bolted for cover. That's when we discovered there were actually three deer; one was bedded. Quickly we found a place to set up. I told Ted to be the shooter, but he insisted I be the hunter, so I handed him the call and got set up in front of a tree covered in vines.

Ted was sitting on a large chunk of concrete directly over my right shoulder -- I am a lefty. He was probably 16 to 18 inches higher than I was, so when the turkey entered the meadow I could not see him as Ted urged me to shoot. There was a small diameter tree about 5 yards in front of me, obscuring my view as well. Finally at 15 yards, crossing from right to left, I saw that bright blue and white head peak around the tree. I put the center of my turkey scope at the base of the head and fired. The turkey did a back flip, flopped a couple times and fell still.

We jumped up and hustled over to get a good look at our tom, and as I grabbed his legs to flip him over he had a little residual flop left and he was done. I picked him up and realized he was banded, but not just on one leg he was banded on both legs. To top it off, one of the bands was a $100 reward band.

We worked exceptionally hard for three days for this turkey, but it was worth every mile, briar and tick. There is no one I would rather have shared this hunt with; it is a memory we can share for years.

On Monday we went back to Highland County and heard a gobbler at Lefty and Peg's place early and saw 5 or 6 deer but that was all.

I called the toll-free number on the tag and found out that my turkey was 3 years old and was captured 15 months earlier about 12 miles from the place I shot him. He was part of a study conducted by Penn State University.

Next time it is your turn partna'!

Alan Werner
Monroe, NC

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