The four Jake’s came from a long way. They were not on a string, but it was evident they were slowly but surely working their way towards the vocal lonesome hen, somewhere behind the ancient stone wall.
For the first time we had a Jake decoy out with the hen. When setting up, we only knew we received a hot response from multiple birds perhaps 200 yards away. We were hoping for Tom’s but as the short 3day hunt was winding down, I was contemplating perhaps taking a Jake if it offered up some nice video performing for the camera. I had passed already on 4 separate other Jakes earlier in the hunt, and I knew what might happen if I decided to get too cute with these clever birds.
As they strained to stretch their long neck another inch or so, they all peered over the old turn of the century stone wall. They were calm and relaxed as evidenced by their blue/white heads they all displayed.
Seeing that big Jake decoy they changed their attitude. They became nervous and unsure. You could almost read their mind, as if to say, I’m not sure if that hen is worth a battle. After 5 minutes of indecision, they opted to drift away from the pair of decoys.
That was day one of employing the Jake decoy. While exciting and enjoyable, it didn’t put a bird in the cooler.
The next (and last) morning the Jake was used again. This time however, the field we went to, Chip had watched 4 big Tom’s head to roost the evening before, while I was hunting elsewhere. As owner of Northeast Wilderness Outfitters, he watches birds all year long and gets to hunt or guide throughout most of Maine’s spring season. As a result, he is very good at reading birds.
Chip suggested he accompany me and we hit the field together the next morning. When Chip offers to come and help, a wise hunter would jump at that offer. He’s a great caller. Sound wise and simply knowing when to call and when not to.
My yearly hunts with him are often semi guided, after nearly 20 years, sometimes we only hunt a few hours together in the morning and then we split up and go our separate ways. I must confess, I always do better when I’m with him. He’s the teacher and I’m the student.
On this morning, he also suggested we mount the Jake on the hen. The rationale being that those big gobblers would not tolerate a mere Jake breeding one of their hens. I’ve seen it work a few times over the years and its always exciting to witness them boss birds moving in to kick some Jake butt.
In the pre-dawn the birds were vocal in the tree. There were gobblers and plenty of them around us. They gobbled continuously for a half hour before they flew down. When they hit the ground, they grew a bit quieter, but we saw two nice Toms out in the field. They were farther away then we had hoped and were waling the other way despite Chip’s solid calling.
When they were 400 yards out, they were joined by 3 hens. Chip’s calling had some effect on them but even he couldn’t pull them in. At one point I figured they were going to work their way out of the field, thereby dashing my hopes of tagging one.
With the knowledge there were other gobblers around, we stayed put and decided to just see what would happen. It was a beautiful clear blue morning and I was happy to sit back and watch the field come to life. We watched 3 does gingerly pick their way passed us and into the safety of the woods for the coming day. Woodchucks were feeding on the green grass. Birds were singing. Gobblers were sounding off. Turkey hens were yelping. It was an active field. A field worth waiting on.
At some point the distant gobblers began working their way back along the massive field. Chip said they may go right back into the woods the exact spot they came out. Once the birds disappeared down below a dip in the field we grabbed the decoys and ran to where they flew down an hour or so earlier.
Again, the Jake was set out as if it was mounting the hen.
The birds were becoming silent but occasionally, they would gobble back at us. Perhaps another 30 minutes had elapsed with no sign of them and they had gone quiet. Once again, we were beginning to think they had given us the slip and the shot opportunity might not happen. However, as in most hunting situations, a wise hunter never gives up. We hunters are an optimistic bunch. We acted as if they were just over the little rise in the field. No talking. No moving. Think positive for positive results…all that stuff!
Eventually I was rewarded with just the head of a Tom peeking over the brow of the rise. A minute later and there were two heads. Both nice Tom’s.
They saw that little Jake decoy on the hen and would not stand for it. They completely changed. Although cautious as always. It was clear they were on a mission and were approaching the young whipper snapper of a Jake with the intention of teaching him some manners and would let him know how things went in this field with respect to pecking order.
As it was my last morning, and I had two tags, I held off hoping they would get super tight and I might get a twofer with one shot.
I was following the bigger of the two with the bead on the waddles waiting for that instant the two heads crossed.
Suddenly it hit me that I was just about out of swing range with the shotgun while sitting down. There was a brief second where I thought I had waited too long and I wouldn’t get either bird. Just as I had that nagging thought, they stopped, with one dead to rights in line with the ol’ Remington’s bead nestled nicely on those waddles.
As I touched off the round, the Tom flopped. I pumped the gun’s action and was secretly hoping (as they sometimes do) the other would hang around for a second or two. No such luck in this instance…the second Tom was air born at the 12’s boom.
Walking out to collect and admire the bird I couldn’t help but thank my lucky stars. For good friends. For turkey hunting. For turkey hunting with good friends. For being able to provide a great meal (or two counting the turkey soup) for my family back home. My cup runnith over……