Dave's Place: Murphy Meets Tom

So much more can go wrong with a turkey hunt than can go right.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Laws, as in laws of nature and physics, have to be proved with empirical evidence. And just as Newton's laws of gravity owe something to the apple, Murphy's Law owes a good deal to turkey hunters. Sure, there are other folks out there helping to prove its truth with some regularity, but honestly, who works harder at it than us? Just yesterday, for example, my brother-in-law Geoff and I spent the entire opening morning solidifying Murphy.

We split up for first light. While Geoff was hunting the upper end of the property, I was in the hollow, looking across a small field at the silhouette of the bird that had just answered my owl-hooter from his roost. Not wanting to get too close, I put my decoy in the middle of an old logging road just inside the open woods, where it could be clearly seen from the field. I sat down and called once, and the gobbler stepped off his branch and sailed toward me across the open meadow, landing about 80 yards away at the edge of the field. When I called again, he gobbled, glanced toward my decoy, and started walking up the logging road.

With the bird about 70 yards out, I got my gun up. At about 60 yards, I clicked off the safety. At about 50 yards, I was peering just over my sights at the gobbler, wondering whether I should deep-fry or roast him, when four hens suddenly crashed down from the treetops behind me, sailed directly over my head, and landed in a near perfect circle surrounding my tom.

It was about the only thing that could have gone wrong. And sure enough, it did. The hens led my bird back into the field. I tried to circle around and call, but to no avail.

At breakfast, Geoff and I decided to hunt together for the rest of the morning, and a little after 9 A.M. we were back in the woods, walking down a tractor path at the edge of an overgrown pasture. Our first call was instantly interrupted by a gobble so close that our only option was to sit down against the two closest trees we could find, which were no more than 10 yards away. We only needed to step over one small clump of brush. But as we stepped, a nesting hen exploded from beneath our feet, _putt_ing a loud alarm as she got airborne.

Again, it was about the only thing that could have gone wrong. And sure enough, we tried calling to the gobbler a second time, but he was long gone.

With the morning winding down, we reached the wooded edge of an open power line. When we called, an immediate gobble rose up from the grassy bowl below us, and so we set up at the edge of the woods and called again. This time, we heard not one but three gobbles-and getting closer. The birds took their time coming in, stopping here and there to strut in circles, but before long they reached the edge of the woods, no more than 25 yards away.

Nothing, we figured, could go wrong this time. Just aim true, and squeeze the trigger...the shot echoed against the nearby trees and faded into the open bowl beneath the electrical wires.

And sure enough: We watched as two jakes and a gobbler flew unfazed across the power lines and safely into the woods on the far side-proving yet again, and beyond the shadow of any doubt, that whatever can go wrong, will.