Double Beard with a Double Barrel
by William E. Allendorf
I was feeling a might heavy when I went out this morning. The birds have
just not been cooperating lately. It's coming to the end of the first week.
I'd stayed home Monday and Tuesday due to rain. Wednesday the wind had gotten
outrageous, and it was promising to blow big time again. The kids were coming
for the weekend. Once they arrived, I'd be devoting my energies to calling in
birds for them.
Besides, the crunch is on. I'm a Pro-Staffer now. I have the reputations of a
magazine and a call company to hold up. Try telling that to the birds.
I debated long and hard about where to go this morning. There's close to half
the farm that I'm shying away from, because I don't want to queer it for #2 son.
It's his first year on his own, and I don't want him hunting my sloppy seconds.
There are a bunch of places I've hit so far this year that were unsuccessful; I
could keep going there and hope my luck improved. There were a couple of places
left to hit for the first time, but I hadn't heard any action over that way.
I try to live my life based on the teachings of Mae West: When faced with a
choice between two evils, I always pick the one I haven't tried before. That
meant a new hide I'd constructed overlooking the entrance to the family's
campground area. It has a food plot on its back door, a nice pasture for
sunning on the front door and its in a fence line. I have another hide close by
in the same fenceline, but it covers a slightly different area. It's built up
against a big old oak with rotten boards from some ancient treestand still
nailed to it. The barbed wire runs through the middle of its massive diameter.
I lay cedar boughs across it on the front and pulled a few cedar saplings down
on the sides. It is cover enough for one with the possibility of having a kid
next to me if necessary. As I was stacking stuff up this Spring, I had a gobbler
go off less than 50 yards away.
I'm just going to say this for the benefit of new turkey hunters: Listen to the
Ol' Shaman, turkeys are a lot like women. There is nothing like a little
cooperation on their part. This idea of hiding in the bushes and . . .
. . . let me try that again. There is no replacement for having the birds
cooperate. This was one of those mornings. I have not seen one of these
mornings in several seasons hear at the farms. A good part of it is the timing
of the season and when I took my vacations to hunt. A lot of it has had to do
with crummy weather. Today the temperatures were due to hit the 80's. Last
night I had the windows open for the first time. You'll hear a lot of guys on
this forum and elsewhere talk like they are expert turkey hunters. Really and
truly a lot of that expertise is knowing when to go out when the birds are fired
up. Yesterday I threw everything but the kitchen sink at birds and they would
not even honor my calls. I went back on them this morning, and it was like I
was that special cousin they can't forget.
After I got to where I wanted, the woods were still pretty dead. All I'd heard
were gobblers way off-- nothing on my ridge. I'd though about going all the way
to the end of the field and setting up. That would have been a huge mistake.
There were a bunch of gobblers ringing that field, and I would have stumbled
into them. I finally decided to be lazy and just stay put. I sat down, pulled
out a Zane Grey novel and started reading. I wasn't through with the first
page before all hell broke loose.
The hens did a good part of the work. I had one hen just down the hill from my
front cranking out hot runs of cutting and excited yelping. There were others
out there too. I established myself as a neighbor, worked my way into the
calling pattern and when the hot hen hopped down and stopped being so raucous, I
stepped up my calling a little, and let it trail off as well. At first, I
thought I had done something wrong. I let off some cutts that I tried to match
with the excited hen's. It was like telling a dead baby joke. Dang! Silence.
Dead silence. Okay. I'll switch calls, switch strikers, wait a while and then
It took a while for the taint of that shanked run of cutts to blow over. I had
been using my shamanic special slate over glass with an acrylic peg-- both home
brew. Normally they get a good response. My next choice was the Heirloom
Double Barrel Slate/Glass with a purple heart striker. The striker is mine,
the call came from Heirloom for a field trial. It's a gorgeous piece of turkey
art; and I had almost kept from putting it in the bag. However, after a dismal
first weekend, I did a complete replacement of my calls. I started out with
just a few clucks and purrs on the slate side of the call, and then gradually
worked in some yelps. The nice thing about Brian Warner's design of the Double
Barrel is it has holes in the side that do a lot to change the volume and the
quality of the call. Once you get the hang of how to change your hold, it will
go soft to loud ; from mellow to cranky. I have the glass side sanded in
different spots with 80-grit , 200 grit, and some ultra-fine diamond. The
result is I can get all levels of raspiness out of the call. I practiced a lot
with it over the Winter. It is just awesome for dialing in a gobbler.
At one point, I think I must of had 6 gobblers honoring my call. Some were
familiar to me-- there is one gob that has a sound like somebody stepped on his
throat. He was out harassing me the week before season started while I was on
the back of the house. There was another deep-voiced gobbler that I had heard
back that way in March as I was preparing the blind. In the end, one gobbler in
particular seemed to have popped down into the far food plot and was coming my
way. There were deer feeding out in the field. I could see them, and they
could see the gobbler. He'd sound off, and they'd poke their heads up and watch
DANG! I'd been paying so much attention to the food plots out my back door I'd
ceased to worry about my front door. The blind looks out over the narrow end of
a pasture. It falls away on one side fairly steeply. I have only about twenty
yards before a gobbler is hidden. This is a great feature: gobblers coming up
this way are in shooting range as soon as they can see me. This guy had
acquired my beam and was coming straight in. I'd pulled an exceptionally dense
cedar bough over this spot, so I had trouble picking him up. When I got the
scope on him, he was less than 10 yards out and the first thing I picked up was
the thick double beard. If he'd kept on that bearing, he could have walked up
and pecked at my boots and I still would not have been able to get a shot. I had
not put a mouth call in, so I just clucked with my voice. He turned and
maneuvered to peer past the foliage. His head and neck appeared in an opening.
BLAM. I'm using #4 Federals with that Flite-Control wad thingy. I have never
seen a turkey go down so succinctly-- no flopping around, just bang-flop dead.
There must have been disruption in the pattern due to the cedar branches. The
near-side wing and leg were both snapped. There were a bunch of pellets in the
head and neck, and a couple pellet holes in the heart. The breast was
undamaged-- all this at a distance of 8 paces. I bet when I go back, there is
going to be some shredded cedar brush right where I shot through.
Meanwhile the rest of the suitors were still coming in on me. I broke cover,
grabbed the gob and hauled him back into the bushes. Then I packed up and
high-tailed it out and around a kink in the fence line before finally loading up
for the trip out. It worked. The rest of the gobblers, unshaken by the shot,
were still coming as I left. There were a few hens cranking up as well. That
back part of the farm was going to be busy in a little while, and I wanted to
keep it unmolested any further until I can get in with Angus and see what we can
do tomorrow morning.