I have chased birds from Alabama to Texas and barely heard a gobble the whole time. In fact, I saw one hen, heard a handful of gobbles, and struggled to find fresh tracks and/or poop. I thought for sure I’d be eating tag soup for my 2019 turkey season, until my sweet friend invited me down to Mellon Creek Outfitters in Refugio, Texas to chase gobblers one last time. I didn’t hesitate for a second to jump on the road, making the 3.5 hour drive to some of the best hunting country I’ve ever seen - 110,000 acres of free range bliss.
My 4:30am alarm came fast and we got settled into some thick brush with ample time to spare. We knew exactly where they were roosting and all felt confident they’d fly into our decoys (or extremely close to them). They lit up around 6:20am, consistently gobbling at any truck or coyote they heard in the distance, as well as Pat Harney’s calls, one of the newer guides here at Mellon Creek Outfitters. Fast forward to 7am when two toms came running into the decoys at full speed, and let me just tell you - they were plum pissed (another way of saying “not happy” in the South); they began to attack the jake decoy and I let them put on a show before pulling the trigger, which brings me to the real reason I’m writing about this experience.
Sometimes hunts unfold so beautifully, where the animals “read the script” and it goes as smooth as you’d hoped and dreamed. However, it only takes one mishap, only a few seconds to mess it all up. A friend of mine who happens to be an incredible hunter always says, “you have to be 110% right and the animal has to be at least 10% wrong” for it to work out. I love this because it’s so true. I pulled through my trigger with full confidence, only to hear an awful sound: “click.” My gun didn’t cycle and the birds ran off.
I immediately got angry. I was certain I put 3 shells in my gun because Pat held the light for me to do it before we walked in to set up. He watched me quietly insert them in an effort to not startle the birds. Through my frustration, I pulled the bolt back to confirm my thoughts and let it go without a care in the world, and that’s what made the difference when I got my second chance. The bolt wasn’t pushed forward all the way the first time around. By the way, I apologize ahead of time for the lack of filtering in our language - I was able to bleep out the choice words to make the video a little cleaner.
A few minutes later, after trying to figure out Plan B, Pat got our attention and excitedly said, “They’re right there! They’re hung up less than 50 yards fanning in the road!” My spirits lifted a bit. Within 20 minutes, he was able to call the hens into the decoys and the toms followed, almost flawlessly. They had knocked the jake off the stake the first time as they were beating it up, and decided to take a very wide loop around it before coming in the second time. It was certainly a patience game for me, as I was so eager for my redemption. I prayed hard: not that I’d get a bird, but that my gun would fire this time around. I knew I could get the job done if my gun would work.
There was a hen that had us pegged and was waiting for us to make a move so she could blow our cover, so the moment I had the tom within range I pulled the trigger. I didn’t even wait for him to lift his head, which is why I blew his feathers off pretty bad. I didn’t care though, I had just punched one of my 2019 turkey tags and that’s more than I could ask for! These are the kind of hunts that we grow the most, and I hope someone else can learn from my mistakes.
Kelsie Joe from Athens, TX joined us on the last two days of my hunt and she was able to connect with her very first turkey, but not without a similar experience! She decided to use Pat’s gun because she didn’t have a full choke for hers. When her tom came running in hot, she attempted to quickly take the gun off safety with no luck. It’s already tough to remember that the safety is located on top rather than on the side, but pair that with a sticky safety and some trembling hands from the adrenaline pumping inside - you guys get the picture. We learned that it’s a common thing among Mossbergs to have a stiffer safety, which neither of us realized because I shoot a Benelli and Kelsie shoots a CZ. She eventually got it to turn over, which spooked the bird when it clicked, and she capitalized on the opportunity before it was too late. Another bird down! It never fails that the outdoors teaches me something new each and every day. Even the smallest bit of knowledge is worth getting excited about; after all, it could make the difference in whether you fill a tag. This entire hunt has been a wonderful example of the camaraderie that hunting offers and why I continue to crave more each day.