I am still looking to bag my first Merriams gobbler here in Arizona. I had a tag in two previous seasons and had a great time hunting them, but truth be told, I’m still learning so much every time I get into the woods after these birds. This season proved to be the most action packed couple of days in the field, but one of the most disappointing and unfulfilling hunts that I have ever had.
I drew a tag with my hunting buddy, Austin and we set out after work on a Friday. We drove the five hours to camp and set up camp in the dark. After only a couple hours of sleep, we donned our camouflage and heated water for instant coffee before bumping down the road in the darkness to see if we could find some roosted birds. After a couple of stops to crow call, we were able to elicit a shock gobble from the darkness only a couple hundred yards from the truck. We had about an hour before daylight, so we sat in the truck sipping coffee while waiting for the sun to lighten the sky. Nature called and we both got out of the truck and went our separate ways to take care of our morning business. The sky began to show signs of lightening so we quietly grabbed our gear and made our way into the woods.
We set up on a large pine tree with a decent view of the ridge in front of us. I was covering the right while Austin covered left. As the light came up, we began to call and as neither of us had ever seen before, two hens and two gobblers made a beeline for us. The one gobbler moved in quickly on Austin’s side and he waited as long as he could before taking his shot. The morning exploded with a boom as his turkey went down with a thump.
After congratulations and a couple quick pictures, we could still hear gobbles from in front of us. So, we set up quickly about 25 yards ahead and started calling again. Within minutes another gobbler and hen moved in on our decoy, but were always just out of range or behind heavy brush. They circled to our right and I figured that they would be making a loop back around to check out our setup. No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, a loud gunshot echoed to our right, not more than 70 yards away.
We could not believe it. Another hunter had set up just on the other side of us and shot a bird no more than 50 yards away from where we were. We walked over to speak with the hunter and see the bird he had shot. His story was, they had seen our truck parked that morning, seen that the radio was on inside the truck, as we were out with the call of nature, and instead of moving on, decided to set up a hundred yards down the road. They had seen and heard us shoot the first bird, and instead of then identifying that they were there with us, remained where they were and shot in our general direction at a bird that we called in. Here’s the kicker – one of the hunters was an Arizona Game and Fish Employee.
Not wanting to escalate the situation and realizing that nothing good was going to come of standing there and talking about it, we opted to head back to camp and make a game plan for the afternoon. The wind picked up the rest of the day and made it difficult to locate any turkeys. As the sun went down and turkeys started to get back on the roost, we did a bit more calling and found two birds off of the one ride. We marked the spot for the following morning.
Morning came early, and anticipation was high. The first bird was unresponsive, and after an hour or so of calling, we bailed on him to go and try the other bird that we had located the night before. We walked about a mile down a small two track, and sure enough, two gobblers sounded off at our hen calls. We made a quick set up about 50 yards of the track and started calling. As if on a string, the gobbler came closer and soon enough I saw a red head moving up the small ravine in front of us. Through the brush, I could see him in full strut at about 50 yards in front of me. He was moving through some trees and I needed him to walk about ten more yards for a clear shot. As that thought went through my mind, I heard the sound of a truck bouncing down the two track and my heart sank. The turkey turned to look at the road and then moved off into the trees, taking my chance at a gobbler with him.
The truck continued towards us and stopped parallel with where we had set up. A hunter clambered out of the truck in full camo and started to cluck on his call. We made our position known to him and he hopped back into his truck and continued down the road. Seriously, who is driving around at 7:15 am hunting turkey from a truck? We called for another 10 minutes and decided to throw in the towel.
I truly do not know if I have ever been so disappointed on a hunting trip. Even as I write this, I can feel my blood start to boil. We made our way back to town and I knew that with the craziness of work and life, that I would not be able to make it back up to fill my tag. Every minute in the woods is a learning experience and I was grateful to have been able to be there. Here’s hoping that next year will have some different results.