A “DOG”GED DETERMINED SPRING TURKEY HUNT
The morning of April 19th started early for me I left my driveway at 3:39AM to pick up hunting assistant Mike Miller. We were headed for Panorama Farm in Earlysville Virginia. This
would be my 5th annual attempt trying to bag a Spring turkey; something I have never accomplished.
We arrived at 5;17AM and were met by Guidus Supremous Bill Puso. Bill had guided all my previous attempts. Here's the breakdown:
April 17, 2010: Lots of gobbler action with one v-e-r-y close in the brush, but no sighting...no shot for me. One of the VAWS hunters fails to show so an unused volunteer assistant
fills that blind. He scores and his gobbler has a nice beard. It definitely pays to show up!
April 2011: Bad in the field. Not as many gobblers seem to want to talk this year. No gobblers taken this day, but we enjoyed it.
April 2012: This is the only Spring hunt without Mike Miller present. Due to illness, he is hospitalized out of state so my son-in-law Richard Mast will accompany me. It’s his first
turkey hunt. Although we hear gobblers, we see none ourselves that day. Another VAWS hunter does bag one gobbler.
April 2013: A ton of gobbler action with FIVE gobblers suddenly appearing through a channel to my left approximately 46 yards away. Bill suggested I attempt the shot. This would
be 6 yards beyond my patterning but it was now or maybe never. I fired, the bird fanned his wings and then all 5 gobblers calmly walked away into the brush, sounding as they
went. I couldn't get a second shot. Man, it was soooo close. I don’t recall if a bird was gotten by anyone else.
April 19, 2014: We are set up by 5;55AM. I had obtained a newer choke, but I had not yet patterned it (although I will say it did have the same diameter as the old one...) and we
were decoy-less that morning. The shot could be anywhere from a few feet to 90 yards or so. I am still using a 2 3/4 receiver with a 20 inch barrel (the same shotgun/barrel
combination I always use for deer or turkey). All I know is that 40 yards WAS my limit. Is it now? That's the penalty for not patterning. I don't think Bill was very impressed. Would any
Bill is able to get some gobblers talking right away, but nothing is coming to us. At approximately 750AM. I spot a gobbler on my left in the forward area. He is moving behind a bush
and heading for my right. I have my shotgun set as Bill and Mile track it through the bush. Bill and Mike can see it now but I have a blind spot until I cautiously lean to the right.
There he is, and he is about to start walking again.
He starts walking towards the right side tree line. He definitely has an interest there. Bill attempts to give him his best “c’mere big boy” hen call but that gobbler only looks at us
once and continues his beeline for the woods. Perhaps he has the “real thing” in there waiting for him.
Bill and Mike both say it’s time to shoot. Like last year, I know this one is really “out there” for my capabilities. That lack of patterning haunts me. I decide to go for it and release the
load of #5’s his way.
With the kick of the shotgun I do not see what happened in the moment the load reaches the gobbler, but Bill and Mike said the bird’s head hit the ground. Both are saying “you hit
it”. Wow…it this true?
The bird gets back up and finally hits the air but only makes a very short hop before it goes down to the ground in the tree line and thus into thicker brush. We could see it moving
in the brush and then it disappears. It’s definitely hit, but now it has gone into what Bill is calling a “no man’s land”; a truly tough area to have to walk into to find anything. That bird
could hide almost anywhere if it has not been able to fly afterwards. Realizing that Bill knows this area better than anyone, Based on his terrain description I am not that confident
we will find the gobbler. Have I doomed myself with my bad planning?
Bill goes into the woods at 815AM in an attempt to find the gobbler. He returns stating that he did see one flying away later and it looked OK to him, but there is no way to be
certain what is what. He went to the area the bird was hit but could find no feathers. My rangefinder says 50-52 yards. This is definitely not my optimal range.
He has a plan to release Mike Brewbaker’s “Nika” (a black Labrador who is a real “turkey finder”) into those woods to see if she can locate the gobbler. I now feel a glimmer of
hope. We spent the next hours continuing to hunt but to no real available. Although we manage a few gobble returns, no bird appears. It’s time to call it a day at 11AM.
Bill, Mike, and team members Mike Brewbaker (with trusty "turkey dog” Nika), Bill Patrick, and Clint (Robin, I do not know Clint’s last name. Neither did Bill Puso) all assemble for
lunch. This was graciously provided by NWTF Virginia Wheelin’ Sportsmen chapter treasurer Sherry Engle. The other hunter (Robin, I don’t know his name or his assistant’s either)
took lunch with them and ate in the vehicle as this was far easier for the hunter. We enjoyed good natured banter and of course I kept reasoning in my head that if I had hit the bird
hard enough to keep it on the ground, maybe the dog could find it, but for some reason my old “doom and gloom” set in. I was rethinking loads, chokes, barrels, etc.
At 12::20 lunch is over and we say goodbye to the team. They are heading back to the "no man's land" with Nika to try and locate the bird (if, indeed, it’s still there). I tell them I will
definitely come back immediately if they locate the turkey. Bill says they will give it their best attempt. There are four people assisting Nika. This ought to be interesting.
Mike and I stop to get some fuel at 12:36 and then continue heading home. We are just north of Ruckersville when I receive a call at 12:54 from Bill Puso. He asks me if I am in
"drive". I say "yes". He tells me to put it in "reverse". They have the bird. This is a very happy U-turn.
By 1:20 I am looking at the bird. As I understand it, Nika found him about 100 yards from where I shot him. Apparently the bird couldn't take flight anymore so the dog got in a
ground-scrap with the tom. I understand from the witnesses that it was quite a fight to behold. Tail feathers apparently did fly one more time as Nika finally got a good grip on the
bird's tail and held on with "dog"ged determination as the bird tried to head downhill....hound in tow!
After a bit of running, the bird, with Nika still firmly attached, was finally grabbed by one of the hunt assistants and given a coup d'grace. This hunt was over.
After a photo opportunity and congratulations all around, we depart Panorama Farms for home with gobbler in tow. By the way…10.5 inch beard and 1 inch spurs, with a weight of
19 pounds, 9 ounces. Tail feathers? What tail feathers???
It has taken me 5 years to realize this goal and despite my inadequacies, the entire team helping me at Panorama Farm made it happen. I could tell that they were determined to
continue trying if I would also. I guess in that regard, Nika and I share that “dog”gedness.
Thank you, Lord, for this awesome world we share as I appreciate everything that has been done over the years by Bill Puso and the entire NWTFVAWS and Panorama family to
make this desire a reality, and also thank Steve Murray and the Murray family for graciously offering their land for the activities.
Thanks to my son-in-law Richard for filling in when Mike Miller was too ill to do so, and thanks Mike for sticking with me before and after your illness. Now we have to get your bird.
These folks are going out of their way to give us an opportunity that may not exist otherwise. If they are willing to do this, then we owe it to them to show up and give it our all if we
are able to. Plan well (unlike me…) and enjoy the moment. If you don’t bag a bird, look forward to trying again. Like a good road trip, a lot of the fun is getting there, not just the
Hey, I still haven’t gotten that decent buck and bass yet, but those are other adventures! Stay tuned…
that’s a composite of where I hunted. The bird was in that bigger green bush to left of center (at the yellow dot).
volunteer guide Bill Puso, Nika the dog, the old guy, and Mike "Moose" Miller
The one that FINALLY didn’t get away Nika, bird, and the old guy again