When I started writing this column in the fall of 2018, I wrote a brief introduction/backstory about myself to explain myself to you (the readers) to help you get to know me and to convince you that I know what I’m talking about. In that blurb, I mentioned that I was lucky to have some great male role models that helped me when I started hunting after my father passed away from cancer in 2003. One group of these mentors were still boys back then, but I learned a lot from them.
In 2005, I shot my first turkey on the Youth Turkey Weekend on the Kautz family farm. Todd Kautz was a classmate of mine whom I had played soccer with when we were in elementary school. In the summer of 2014, I ran into Todd in the fishing aisle of Wal-Mart and got talking because he didn’t know that I fished. A few days later, he called my house and asked if I wanted to go fishing for bass at the ponds on their farm. A few hours later, his mom picked me up on her way back from Sam’s Club and we fished two ponds for the afternoon. From then on, I practically became a family member and would go there to fish with the boys (Todd has 3 brothers and a sister).
In the fall, Todd stopped at my house and asked if I wanted to go raccoon hunting with him and his brothers that night as his older brother had a coonhound. That night, we came back with two raccoons that the dog had treed. When spring came around, Todd called and asked if I wanted to turkey hunt on the Youth Weekend and that one of his older brothers would take me if so. I asked my mom and got the okay. After going out to dinner (my birthday was that week), my mom brought me to Todd’s house so I could stay the night.
The next morning, we all woke up and got ready to go out in the woods. Tucker, Todd’s brother, had a game plan to start out behind the barn and make our way around the farm in a big circle until we got into birds. Off the roost we didn’t hear any gobbles, so we started our circle. Tucker would stop and call every so often to try to get a bird to respond.
As we walked into a field, we saw a tom in the corner of the field at about the same time that he saw us. Tucker called to him and he gobbled once as he walked away. We waited a little bit then tried to circle around in the direction that he walked. He never made another sound. Now it was mid-morning and we had walked about half of the 100-acre farm. As we made it back to the road not far from the house, Tucker asked if I wanted to keep going or to call it a morning. I said let’s keep going.
We walked up the road farther and cut up into a field. As we got to the back end of the field Tucker called and there was no response. Tucker stopped to explain that he had hunted a bird in that field for a week before harvesting him a year or two before.
We continued walking and came to a small pond. Tucker yelped with his mouth call, nothing. Then he cackled on the mouth call and a bird gobbled that sounded close! I turned around to see Tucker in a full sprint to get into the woods. I take off to catch up to him and once we are in the woods, he walks me up a tractor path then cuts to the right. He tells me to sit at the base of a tree and then he backed up about 30 yards to call. As he starts to call, the bird gobbles. The bird continues to gobble at almost every call Tucker makes and the gobbles are getting closer and closer.
I start to think that I should be able to see the bird coming in soon when I hear some leaves rustling in front of me. Once I can pinpoint where the noise is coming from, I see a black body walking my direction at about 70 yards. As the bird gets closer, I can see his bright red head. As he gets closer, he walks behind a down tree, so I shoulder my shotgun and turn the safety off. When he emerges on the other side of the tree, I put the bead on the base of his neck and squeeze the trigger.
I see the bird drop in a heap and I stand up and start yelling. Tucker comes up and asks where the bird is because he never got his eyes on it. I point in a direction and he goes that way. He can’t find the bird and I start to doubt myself. I try to find the tree he was near when I shot but standing up has changed my perspective so I can’t tell. Finally, a few seconds later Tucker says he found it and I am relieved. The bird had gone into a depression in the ground, so it was hard to see and hadn’t flopped at all. The bird ended up being a jake that sported a beard that was around 4-inches long.