"You know what's going to happen," I pronounced, perhaps a little too matter-of-factly, while sliding out of my turkey vest.
"Whaddya mean?" replied Robert.
"Murphy's Law being what it is ..."
"Don't say it," he muttered, waving his hand to stop the foolish flow of words that might plant the notion in the mischievous minds of the turkey gods.
Robert Seidler and I had known each other for less than 48 hours, yet in that short day and a half, we'd become close. Whenever two men pool their resources to outwit a bird with a brain the size of a walnut, they had better think alike. And Robert knew exactly what I was thinking.
We'd been given the run of a tiny corner of a vast Macon County, Ala., plantation during opening weekend. The ruler of that roost was Carl, a cunning gobbler that had survived four or five springs by just saying no to some of the best callers and hunters on the planet.
Even after nearly a year to forget what hunters had taught him the previous spring, Carl was still in top form. We could make him gobble. We could call his girlfriends away from him. But we couldn't bring him to the gun, regardless of how liberal or conservative our calling.
After a close encounter with one of Carl's sons on our last morning, Robert and I headed for the truck. As we neared Carl's territory about 11:00, I pulled out my box call and cackled. An all-too-familiar, throaty gobble rang out of the hardwood draw to our right, no more than 150 yards from the dirt road we were traveling.
Seconds later, Robert and I were nestled against an oak and I was purring and clucking. When my sweet serenade elicited the desired response, I laid the slate on the ground beside my knee and waited hopefully. Twenty minutes later, I was still watching the grass grow, and we hadn't heard a peep from Carl.
The next soft note that I struck drew a gobble on the other side of the road. In true Carl fashion, he'd gone well out of his way to skirt us, cross the road, and head to the same strut zone where we'd lost him the previous morning.
"It's Carl, alright," Robert groaned, disgust showing in his eyes.
That led to my plan.
"Robert, I'm going to leave all my calls here in the road," I announced, shedding the vest. "Give me at least 10 minutes, and then you go in and call like a crazy man."
Acting on the theory that Carl would walk away from the call, I was going to the little green field behind him - the same field where he'd gone the first time we'd worked him in that patch of woods. When Robert started calling aggressively, the wary bird would surely walk straight into my lap.
Robert, who wasn't carrying a gun, thought it was a wonderful idea.
"But, you know," I foolishly stated before taking off, "this will be the one time that he comes straight to you."
"I told you NOT to say it," he protested. "Take off ... I'll give you 10 minutes."
By the time I reached the field's edge, Carl was gobbling like a scratched CD - he AND a buddy. Robert had followed a secondary woods road into the bottom, sat with his back against a tree, and emptied his pockets and pouches of every caller he owned. He spread them out before him and took turns, offering up a cornucopia of yelps, clucks, purrs, cackles and even squeaks.
"I must have done at least 140 fly-down cackles," he told me later.
The gobblers loved it, and so did I. Since they were so busy answering Robert's calls, I was able to sneak within 50 or 60 yards of them. Just when I thought I would finally get a glimpse of the birds, however, everything got eerily quiet. Thirty minutes later, I rose and began walking back to Robert.
The look on his face told me everything, but I had to hear it.
"When I figured I'd done everything I could do, I gathered up my calls and stood," he said. "When I took two steps, I looked straight into the eyes of both gobblers: Carl and Carl Jr. They couldn't have been any farther than 20 yards!"
Although he had no shotgun, Robert "shot the birds."
LESSON: When all else fails, the wise turkey hunter will embrace his inner maniac.
— By Mike Handley / Artwork by www.mikehandleyart.com