Monarchs Can Be Had!

The night sky was giving way to the morning gray light as I climbed the hill for the 5th straight day. A number of different birds had been gobbling each morning from the roost and I expected that they would oblige me once again today. There was one bird in particular that had been giving me fits. He would answer now and then but never come in for a look as his education was extensive and in his opinion, good hens go to the gobbler. He had circled me several mornings, playing tag so to speak and I was about to give him a name if I couldn't get him fooled. Once named, he would be a thorn in my side, usually until he dies of old age. I was hunting Warriner's side hill and had been after this bird for a couple of years.

There it was, the first gobble of the morning and it was him, another and yet another from three different birds. Hunting had been tough on this side hill the past week! The hens would all bail out of the tree to a 50-acre cow pasture and the gobblers would follow. Some would fly down to the field and others would walk, but they all ended up in that field. No amount of calling would delay the gobs from getting to the hens for long. Sometimes they would answer and other times it was hard to tell as there was such a commotion going on in the early morning light.

For the last few mornings I had been attempting to get in the way of the boss gobbler, who would rather walk than fly, and I was having little success. I would sometimes see him but always out of range of my 2-3/4" Winchester 1400 three shot automatic which was equipped with a RHINO 660 choke, loaded with #2 shot and a magnum powder charge. Once in the field he would stay there picking at cow paddies and bugs for most of the day with his girlfriends.

The evacuation of the roost went down as normal and within 15 minutes the hill was void of turkeys or at least those that were in a talking mood. As the sun came over the adjacent hill I began to hear random gobbling and hen chatter from the pasture without a word from the hill. It had been a cool start to the day and the sun felt good on my body. The winter had been long and the sun in my eyes was welcome. As the sun rose in the sky, I began to do some random calling from a place where a stray gobbler might be wondering through. I had been playing tag with that educated bird the last few days and again this morning, he was not responding favorably, I decided it was a good time to catch up on some missing sleep so I hunkered down and let my mind drift. The gobblers in the field kept me aware of why I was there and some warm sun and shut-eye sure seemed in order. I nodded off and on for about an hour, filling in some lost time that the alarm clock had cut short over the last few weeks. Feeling refreshed and energized, it was time to make a move.

I worked my way over around the side of the hill where my early morning calling would not have. I let out some wondering hen sounds without a response. I began to climb the hill, calling about every 50 yards, to no avail. I decided to go over the hill and call a secluded hollow. As I approached the top of the hill I made some whiney yelps to check for occupancy and again my calls went unanswered. I crossed back over to the area where I spent the first part of the morning. I was alone on top of a 650-ft. high hill. I sat down and rolled the options over in my head as to my next move. It wasn't long before my mind wondered to a turkey call that I needed to get in the mail. It was 9:30 am when I decided I would make my way to the truck and eventually to the US Post Office.

As I descended the hill, I approached the edge of the ridge top, which fell off pretty quick to open hard woods below. As always before entering a secluded area, I stopped and made a couple of quick calls before walking over the edge. As with all of my previous efforts these calls were unanswered too. I proceeded over the edge and on my fifth step seven or eight turkeys flushed that had been basking in the midmorning sun, ignoring all attempts at communications. They scattered in several directions with out the customary alarm putts and as a fall turkey hunter, I knew that these birds would soon try to get back together. I made my way to a blind 150 yards below where I had effected a near perfect break on the now scattered birds. I did not see any gobblers lift off in the flock's frenzy to escape but I knew the turkey sounds that would be heard in the woods soon, might fire one up.

I sat in the blind waiting for the first sound, but after and hour I had heard none. It was now 10:30 and things were going to have to get started if they were going to start at all. I made a low volume, lost hen call with no response. I got a little more aggressive but the woods remained still except for a few woodpeckers calling back and forth. I was very surprised to receive no response and decided to head for the Post Office. I packed up my calls and started back down the hill, but as I approached the thicket where I had napped earlier in the morning, I heard a young hen kee-kee. I quickly answered with a kee-kee of my own and received an immediate response from her. I headed for a spot in the thicket where I had called turkeys in the fall. I would not shoot a hen, but my confidence needed a boost and calling in a turkey of either sex after the week I'd had wouldn't hurt.

I could tell the lost hen was making progress toward me and her pleading kee-kees and yelps were answered by several others young, feathered girls in the thorns above me. I guess all that hen noise was more than the resident Monarch could stand and he let out a booming gobble from down the hill. He was about 250 yards away as the kee-keeing hens got together just above me. The next gobble came from the lower thorns, now only 150 yards away. The hens were making their way down to me still making plenty of noise, which kept the gobbler fired up.

In moments I had a young hen within pecking distance of my boots and the big boy was only 40 yards behind her knocking the bark off. I closed my eyes so the hen would not see me blink and she started moving to my right looking for the lost hen my box had created. As I opened my eyes slightly, I could see the other three hens staying back 20 yards but they were also moving off to my right with her. With the hens moving on I could concentrate on the gobbler with the Ph.D. who answered every call the nearby hens made. He was there but hadn't showed himself. I knew, at this point that the bird was about 30 yards away but his gobble sounded more like he was a hundred. He had toned it down, a favorite trick of old gobblers who have been pursued by the camouflage legion. The hens had gone and I knew he would follow, so I made one last kee-kee-kee-yuk-yuk, which he answered in the middle of the second kee. I knew that he would have to take a look and that would be my only chance. He did just that, but from behind a brush pile. He peeked over the bank, went into a half strut and promptly vanished.

He had shown himself to me, saying with body language "here I am and you had better come with me now," but true to form of most adult gobs he wasn't letting the other hens get away. In minutes he had covered 100 yards of the hill up and away from me. From past experience, I knew it was over for this setup and probably the rest of the day, so I packed up again and started for the truck. It was now 11:10 and my opportunity had slipped away behind a brush pile only 22 yards away.

As I started for the trail that led out, I heard that gobbler still going but not moving. He was really getting riled up so I decided to give him one more set of yelps, this time it was adult hen talk as I knew all the hens I saw earlier were juveniles and this hot bird was looking for the mother. He cut my call and ten seconds later his next gobble was half the distance. I set up at the base of a good tree and hit the call once again with a three-note sequence of yelps. He answered; I put the call down, took the safe off and got ready. It wasn't 5 seconds later that he appeared up the hill from me on a death march. As he came into the opening 25 yards away I squeezed the trigger and the Monarch of Warriner's hill lay still in the leaves. He was not a weighty bird but the inch and a quarter plus leg gear told the caliber of the bird.

This was a four or five year old bird that had seen dozens of hunters and heard many more calls. He had eluded a legion of hunters through the years and he was now mine. As I think of how it went down I realized that the kee-kee run had done this bird in. He heard my calls throughout the morning and for whatever the reason would not answer. When he heard those lost hens get frantic he could not resist coming to their assistance.

I will put this morning's goings on in "the book" for future mornings when the "Black Monarchs" are quiet. There were several things that contributed to this successful hunt, least of all was not luck. As I see them there are as follows:

Key Ingredients:

1. I got to the woods without disturbing the turkeys.
2. I did not over call an area.
3. I was patient and made movements in away as not to disrupt what was naturally going on in the turkey woods.
4. I was lucky to brake up that flock of hens who did not alarm putt.
5. I patiently wait for things to settle down before doing any calling to scattered turkeys.
6. I got to a spot where I had heard birds get together before when I heard the lost calls.
7. I kept calling to a minimum and let the real hens do it for me.
8. I didn't take a risky shot that would have ended the hunt in a disaster.
9. I recognized that the gobbler was looking for and adult hen and got myself to a second spot where he would not have to cover the same ground again.
10. I kept my head during the moment of truth and made a good shot on the bird.

by: Craig S.
King of Widow Maker Calls, Canisteo, New York

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