by Gary Gilchrist
It was pitch black and foggy. Mark and I were headed up Bayou Sorrel to hunt the Board Road Hunting Club. It was 5 am and I was freezing riding in Mark’s open 17 ft boat. Mark was driving, flashing his seal beam from bank to bank. It was a 30 minute ride to the Board Road and even though I was cold I was happy. You see the club did not have any members that turkey hunted, but they had been seeing lots of birds during the deer season. I had traded them some beagles for permission to hunt. They were happy, but I was tickled pink. Man, a virgin place to hunt. These birds had never heard a turkey call. I could just see big gobblers coming in from every direction and you know, for once I was right.
Mark pulled up to the upper end of the hunting lease and shut the boat down. Man, it felt like someone turned a heater on as it warmed up considerably without the wind from the open boat. We sat there sipping black, bitter coffee and drifting in the current parallel to the Board Road. Mark, who can hear better than me, whispered excitedly “There they are.” I cupped my ear and sure enough they were hammering back and forth at each other.
Mark cranked the Yamaha and eased down stream about 800 yards. We sat there and tried to pinpoint their location. There they were about 500 yards due south of us. They were talking back and forth, must have been a dozen of them. We eased over to the bank and I took the bow line and secured the boat to a handy tree. Mark handed me my gear, grabbed his and we headed towards the gobbling. We were using a tiny light to see with. After all this is south Louisiana and we have our fair share of snakes. I know it is a cool morning and they might not be out but I don’t take any chances after some of the encounters we’ve had. We were walking in Yellow tops chest high and thick as shuck grass, so that little light was not doing a whole lot of good.
We had made our way about 300 yards, so we started looking around for a set up spot. Well, everywhere we looked there were nothing but Yellow tops. The birds were hammering all the more now that a little day light was breaking. If we set up here we would not be able to get the gun barrel between us and the bird when he got to where we could see him. We started moving parallel to the roost very quietly. We did not want to mess this up.
After moving about 100 yards we came up on this small hill. This would have to do as it was starting to break big daylight. The hill was about fifty foot long and thirty foot wide and did not have one Yellow top. We set up on the end closest to the roost. Mark and I were about fifteen feet apart facing the roost with a decoy set up between us. We were sitting above the Yellow tops and could see them moving if anything was coming through them. I was really amazed at having found such a great set up in the dark without prior scouting of the area. He gave me the ready nod and it was game on. Mark gave a few soft clucks with his slate. We just thought they were gobbling before. The gobbling was loud and continuous.
They were on the ground now. I say “they” because to this day I don’t know how many birds were in this roost. I answered Mark with a cut and they were getting close! Mark was sitting a little higher than me. I had a perfect view; He had a blind spot directly to his front. A big bird was moving through the Yellow tops and I was tracking his progress by them waving. Mark could see the tops moving and was ready with his gun up on his knee and his head down. Big Boy popped out of the tops not 10 feet from Mark. We had not been set up ten minutes. He stuck his head straight up in the air and was staring at Mark. From my position he looked six feet tall! I looked at Mark out of the corner of my eye. He was looking at the bird with his finger on the trigger. The bird looked at him, He looked at the bird. I don’t know how long this went on. I don’t think I took a breath for ten minutes. What was he waiting for? He could kill him with a stick! BOOM!!!! Mark had finally shot and the big bird was flopping on the ground. Feathers were floating all around me. I gave Mark a questioning look.
“I couldn’t see his beard,” He whispered. I nodded back at him.
“Your turn.” He whispered. I nodded again.
The only effect that Mark’s shot had, was to fire them up even more if that was possible. We called and one popped out on the hill behind us. I heard him clucking to that decoy. I tried to ease around to get a shot but he left like he was shot out of a cannon. Well that’s that I thought. WAIT!!! The Yellow tops were waving at me again. He moved in and stuck his head into the clearing. The Bennelli did its job again. We gathered up our birds and headed for the boat. It truly was a memorable hunt.