Sportsman's Corner

Decision at Dawn


Wednesday, May 1, was the fourth day of this year’s gobbler season.

I had accompanied my son, Bob, on the windy opening morning and had helped turn around a 21-pound gobbler with a 10-inch beard that he shot.

On Tuesday morning, I had been bested by a couple of gobblers that wouldn’t cross a deep hollow to investigate my calling. However, I figured I’d set up across the hollow on Wednesday, coming in to it from a different direction.

I’d risen long before dawn and had hiked to the spot in the dark. I had just settled in under a large tree when the flapping of wings and the cackling of turkeys from the trees above told me I had just spooked four turkeys from their roosts. I tried to tell myself that things might be all right. A few years ago my headlamp had spooked a number of turkeys from their roosts as Bob and I were hiking to a spot on opening day, and Bob later called in a gobbler that had not flown away with the others.

As darkness gave way to dawn, I noticed a small turkey sitting in a tree about 20 yards in front of me and slightly to my left. A little later I spotted a second turkey in a tree about 30 yards to my right and in front of me. As the sky lightened, both began to cluck.

Not long after their first clucks, I saw a third turkey pirouetting on a limb directly in front of me, only 25 yards away. I also noticed a brush beard jutting from his breast – a young gobbler. I raised my gun and covered him. “Bang,” I whispered.

But, since it is not ethical to shoot a gobbler out of a tree – and is probably illegal, too – I didn’t shoot. As a fly-fisherman who also likes to hunt turkeys, shooting this young gobbler would have made it easier for me to get in my fishing time. But, I’m constantly preaching ethics and wouldn’t have felt good about it.

These turkeys and several others, including a gobbler that had hollered from off to my left, sailed off to the other side of the hollow when they flew down. They would not respond to my calling.

Disappointed with my lack of success that morning, I thought about the decision I had made at dawn. Later, when I told Bob about it, he remarked, “You either do things the right way or you don’t, Dad. You did the right thing today.”


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