Two years ago Mr. Bruce Puett took me on my first turkey hunt. On that hunt he told me that the key to turkey hunting was patience. He said ?Patience kills turkeys, not calling, not decoys, but patience? and just like clockwork he harvested a nice long-beard on that same hunt.
I?ve been hunting several times with Mr. Puett since then and every time we go I learn something new and usually see some kind of wildlife. I guess by now Mr. Puett knows that when turkey season comes rolling around so will a phone call from me! I reached out to Mr. Puett and lined up a hunt with him for this past Saturday. I was to meet him at the gate at 5:45am.
The next morning I woke up at 6:15 to realize that my alarm clock didn?t go off. I woke up in a panic with my heart beating 100 miles an hour. I was freaking out and was very upset with myself. I can?t stand when someone says they?re going to do something or be somewhere and then doesn?t fulfill their word. I had broken my own rule. I peeked out the window and saw light breaking through the trees and knew I was going to be mad at myself for some time to come. I called Mr. Puett?s cell phone and got no answer. In my mind I imagined him seeing my late call and not answering because he had turkeys gobbling at him and I should have been by his side. I came back to the room and sat down hanging my head in shame for breaking my word. Then my phone rang. It was Mr. Puett. I answered (trying to talk quietly) apologizing with every other word. Mr. Puett said ?Come on out here, this place is better later on in the day anyways.? A small glimmer of hope shined into my self-shame.
I got dressed, grabbed the camera, and ran out of the house as fast and quietly as I could. It was way colder that morning than in previous mornings. It was 38 degrees outside and I wore my thick layered camo clothing. It didn?t take me long to get out to the hunting club either. I parked and speed-walked to where Mr. Puett said he had the ground blind. I arrived to a gas-line. I turned left and saw 2 turkeys and instantly froze at the sight of 2 turkeys. By now it was light outside and easy to see. Then I heard a shrieking crow call and I realized that those 2 turkeys were Mr. Puett?s decoys and he was calling a crow call to indicate his location. I continued speed-walking until I finally reached the blind. When I saw Mr. Puett I was overly apologizing for being late and Mr. Puett was laughing at me and said it was ok. He was just glad I wasn?t in a wreck.
As I got situated in the ground-blind Mr. Puett was calling out and gobblers were hammering from out in front of the blind. The long-beards were very vocal and every few minutes we heard a gobble from the left, right, and middle. Every gobble seemed distant, but eventually they sounded as though they were getting a little bit closer.
Mr. Puett said he had to leave by 11:30 and it was getting close to 9 o?clock. We had time and were hopeful that we?d have a good chance at a gobbler. Mr. Puett had a thermos of coffee so he was all set. We continued calling and along about 9:45 we had a big turkey come out way down the gas line to our right. About 450 yards out a big-bodied bird was feeding momentarily in the clear lane of the gas line. I zoomed the camera in as far as I could and could barely hold the camera still enough to video this bird. It didn?t stay out in the clear long either. After a few seconds in the gas line, the turkey vanished back into the woods. Mr. Puett made some clucks and purrs in the direction of the bird, but it didn?t seem interested.
The clock got close to 10 and we had another turkey come out way down the gas line on the opposite end. It was a hen, but initially we couldn?t tell. Though, one thing was for sure?it was heading our way. I videoed this turkey the best I could. Due to our positioning in the ground-blind I took the camera out of the tripod and only used it on a monopod. This meant that the video didn?t come out as smooth as I would have liked and is a bit shaky. This hen continued to draw near to us, but it faded into the woods about 65 yards away from us.
It was a little frustrating that we had all these turkeys gobbling around us, but we couldn?t get any of them to come out near us. It was 10:30 and Mr. Puett said he needed to give his wife a call to check in with her. He had a quick conversation from the ground blind and no more than 30 seconds after he got off the phone we saw the biggest hen I?ve ever seen before just about 30 yards to our right. The hen had returned and was staring dead at us and was frozen. As soon as I saw it I started tapping Mr. Puett?s knee really fast and I signaled to him that we should be quiet. He knew there was a turkey really close, but he couldn?t see it just yet. We both sat frozen while I tried to steady the camera.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Puett saw the hen (at first we thought it was a jake) in my video camera. He began purring on his slate call because we still had turkeys gobbling around us near and far. I continued videoing the extremely large hen and about 20 seconds later Mr. Puett began tapping my knee extremely fast. I kept videoing, but turned and looked at him. He was grabbing his gun and I knew what that meant. As he stuck the barrel of the gun out of the front window of the blind I whipped the camera around and tried to get a kill shot on video. I was unable to get the turkey in focus but got it just after the shot.
What I didn?t see was what Mr. Puett told me after the shot. A big ?ol tom came out directly in front of our blind and he spurred the ?Thunder Chicken? decoy Mr. Puett had set out just in front of the blind. The turkey spurred the decoy then backed off and puffed up as if it was going back for more when Mr. Puett dropped the hammer on him. After the shot, the hen stuck around momentarily and I filmed her for a few minutes then she got out of there. I couldn?t believe that both of those turkeys came in so close right after Mr. Puett had made a phone call. The showdown happened around 10:45 and this proved Mr. Puett?s earlier phone call me with accurate. He knew the turkeys wouldn?t get fired up until a little later in the day and his intuition was right on?again.
Another unique thing about this turkey was that his beard was short. When we got close up to it we noticed where it had been eaten and then was regrowing. Mr. Puett said that "beard mites" had gotten into the turkey's beard and that's what caused it to be so short. I'd never seen or heard of anything like that before, but is was definitely the case.
What started out as a panicked morning where I was mad at myself for waking up late turned into another very memorable turkey hunt with Mr. Puett. I was glad that my lateness didn?t spoil our hunt and couldn?t believe how close we were to that turkey. It was another memorable outing just a few miles across the Pee Dee.
Some hunters just have a way of being in tune with nature and Mr. Puett is this kind of hunter. His knack for being in the right place at the right time, listening to, and reading nature?s signs always impresses me. I hope to be able to join him and learn more on future hunts.