This is Whitetail 365, so let me say first that when I barged into the wooded creek bottom, I sent a doe and fawn careening through the skunk cabbages. There. The sun was up. The tom wouldn’t stay on the roost for long. So I shot down the slope, hopped the creeklet, scrambled up the far side, and called. Too late. He barked at eighty yards and incoming.


I plopped down, got the gun up, and this goofy bird, all alone and answering every call, wouldn’t even lean in my direction while carving a line to the field corner, where I wanted to be. He passed at 50 yards. I thought about. I took the safety off. But his head never stopped bobbing across the lines of my reticle.

I backed off, ran to my truck, and drove to where I thought he might cross the road. Nothing. Swinging around for another pass, eyeing the wet green field on the opposite side, I saw a dark, wavy line threading through the silver coating of dew. Two hundred yards ahead, up from the bristles of shin-high winter rye, popped the head of my gobbler.

Across the hedgerow lining the south side of the rye field is a pastured knoll of short grass and thornapples where I’ve glassed strutters from the road. I drove two fields over, parked, ran to the knoll, set up two decoys, sat down, and was pulling on my facemask when the tom popped out on my side of the hedgerow, oblivious. I clucked once. He spotted the dekes and walked straight for the jake. I put the crosshairs on this waddles and…click.

Now admit it: Somewhere along the line, probably at the end of a hunt, you’ve discovered that you never loaded your gun. I’ve done that, too. But this is the first time I found out by pulling the trigger. You?