Cash-ing In On A Tom
March 3, 2016
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Cash-ing In On A Tom

It had to have been one of my most memorable hunts to date. In my opinion, nothing beats spring turkey season. Calling in and outsmarting one of the toughest animals in North America, and getting it within shotgun range is truly something else.  I didn’t use bait, as their minds this time of year are not on feeding. It’s just you and a bird that has amazing eyesight and hearing. A bird can notice the slightest changes made to the landscape as the once brush pile has transformed into a ground blind. A bird can catch that slight off-tone cluck the one time you mess up when you move that box call. There are so many ways the hunt can end. The gobbler can clam up and go the other way. When you do call one in right out of the open by simulating a hen that is ready, it is truly an accomplishment. I once read if you can hunt the wild turkey successfully, you can hunt any animal in North America successfully. I have so much respect for the wild turkey, and it’s my favorite animal to hunt. *** This all started a year ago. I had recently sold our family ranch and had already gone a season without having a place to hunt. It was tough on our active hunting family who were used to being at the ranch on the weekends. The whole family primarily bow hunts, from my wife Kerri, to our 15-year-old son, Case Jr., 13-year-old daughter, Field, and our latest to the sport, 6-year-old Cash, who had just begun. I began the search for a lease and was introduced to Mike Buie, owner of Real Outfitters. I was going to 13,000 acres of low-fenced pastures to hunt from Eden to Ft. McKavett, and it was quite a transition. On the way to look at the place, I had told Mike about the rules on a lease I was contemplating in Cotulla where I grew up hunting as a boy, and still have many great memories of the area. The place was top-notch, but had rules a mile long. Mike said that this place we were visiting was just the opposite. The “trophy,” regardless of score, age, etc., is in the eye of the hunter. That was refreshing. We got on the lease in spring 2014 and soon realized Mike was all about family and so were the rest of the hunters on the lease. As I said, I have grown up hunting in South Texas, but a big part of the hunt had been lost for me over the years. I realized that raising my older kids in a high-fenced atmosphere in which they were allowed to only hunt culls and pass on anything of value was kind of backwards. I had a son who could sit within bow range of a 200-inch deer and not get excited because he knew it was off limits. However, when that cull stepped out, his heart was pumping. It felt a bit backwards, but that is how it goes when you run a high-fenced ranch. It becomes a business. I was looking forward to getting back to fair-chase, free-range hunting. Throughout our first deer season on the lease, my wife Kerri was able to take a doe with her bow; my daughter Field got her first deer with a bow, a spike; and my oldest son had taken a nice buck for the area with his bow after a TON of patience throughout the entire season. I was very proud of them. Then my youngest took his first deer on the lease with a crossbow at age 5, and from there was consumed with hunting. He had been going to the blind with me since he was 2, but he finally got to see first-hand what it was all about by taking his first deer. *** The turkey population in this area is incredible, so I could not wait for spring turkey. My goal was to get Cash his first turkey with a shotgun. When youth weekend rolled around we were ready to go! What I was not prepared for was the abundance of hens in the area. Many gobblers had already paired-up, and made calling tough. The first morning we called, some hens came in and they started calling for us, but no gobblers. About 9 a.m. I asked Cash if he was ready to move to another spot because the hens had left and all action had died down. Gobblers were answering all morning but weren’t coming our way—or so I thought. I went to get the truck and told Cash to stay put in the blind. As I rounded the corner to pick him up from the blind I saw two turkeys running. Then, I looked towards the blind and saw Cash holding his hand up telling me to stop. The damage was done. I asked if they were gobblers and he replied, “They were doing the dance.” He meant strutting. If I had only stayed put for another 10 minutes, they would have been coming to me, just not answering me. Oh well, we went off to another spot to call. I called in a gobbler just out of shotgun range, but the hen he was with led him away. He did put on a nice show. As I stood up from that encounter I saw four red heads in the brush right behind us coming in stealth mode—no gobbles—and we tried to make a stalk but had no luck. Cash was a trooper that morning. I was SO impressed by a 6-year-old with that much patience going through such a long morning hunt. We had had no breakfast, and usually eat when we get back to the cabin, but that was not until noon that day. On top of that the oak pollen hit him. My little guy has asthma, and with the pollen count off the charts it really started getting to him. We didn’t have his medication at the lease or his nebulizer. His breathing got worse that evening, so we had to skip that evening hunt and by that night I realized we had to cut our hunt short. We were hoping, however, to be back for opening weekend. *** Once Case Jr. had finished his track meet, we did hit the road and opening day found us all in blinds and ready to try our best to outsmart an old tom. Once again I heard gobbles all around as they came off distant roosts. Many gobblers were answering me throughout the morning, just not coming in. About 9 a.m. I began to call aggressively because I figured I had nothing to lose. And to my surprise, I heard a loud gobble off to my left. He was close. I told Cash to get ready. I could see the tom coming through the brush. He was hot and then I noticed by judging from Cash’s eyes lighting up and getting bigger, he, too, could see the bird coming. He was in range but quickly realizing something was not quite right. I hit the call once more and he gobbled. I said to Cash, “Take ’im!” His 20-gauge youth 1187 with full choke sounded off and the gobbler was on the ground. To see the expression on his face was priceless. We were both so excited. I have been so blessed over the years to share my hunting passion with my family. My wife has taken many animals in the field and is evolving into a bow hunter. My daughter has developed a true passion for hunting, too, and I’ve watched my oldest son mature into an accomplished archer. And now my youngest has become hooked on the sport. For me those times in the field are what life is all about. Cash and I quickly went over to the bird, gave thanks, a few more high fives, and headed over to pick up his big brother. As I relived the moment with Mike, he said, “Case, that’s why I do this. It just melts you to see those kids get into the sport.” He is SO right. I would rather be a part of that. I have been there and done that as a hunter, and I know the feeling. To see and experience it again through your wife’s and kids’ eyes is indescribable.

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