Jerry Antley can’t count the times he’s been turkey hunting nor the number of turkeys he’s taken in the past 40 to 50 years.
But he remembers the most exciting turkey hunt he was ever on like it was yesterday.
“My favorite hunt ever was when I was after a wily old bird that nobody could even get a look at,” Antley said. “He was huge. He had 1½-inch spurs and an 11-inch beard.
“Yes, I got him finally, but it was a marathon.”
The challenge was the longbeard’s refusal to give away its location at first light.
“The thing about this old bird was he did not gobble when he got out of the tree in the morning. That’s highly unusual,” Antley said. “The morning I killed him, I didn’t go out at daylight as usual. I didn’t go out until 8 a.m.
The hunter got into position, and heard the bird gobble after about 30 minutes.
“I hit the hen call and waited,” Antley explained. “He didn’t gobble back until about 20 minutes later, but he was within 40 yards of me. He could see my decoy, but I couldn’t see him.”
But the hunt was far from over.
“He would go from that spot off to the left about 30 yards and gobble again, then come back closer to me and gobble,” Antley said. “But he never came where I could see him. But he would gobble every 15 minutes.
“Back and forth he strutted. I tried everything I knew. He wouldn’t come closer.”
It was apparently extreme measures would have to be undertaken.
“Finally, I couldn’t stand it,” Antley said. “There was a big old, 30-inch diameter oak tree that was about 25 yards from the closest spot he would come. I put my head down got on my belly and crawled through the knee-high grass.
“And crawled and crawled. I was afraid I had gone to far. I thought I had gone 100 yards.”
The hunter carefully took a peak around him.
“I stopped to rest and looked right beside me,” Antley said. “There was my decoy: I had only gone 20 yards. I made up the other 20, and slowly eased up the backside of that tree.
“About that time he gobbled. He was right there.”
The adrenaline surging through Antley’s veins was intoxicating.
“This whole time my heart was pounding,” he said. “I eased my face around the tree and saw him step behind another big tree.
“I raised my gun, and when he stepped out, I shot him.”
The bird died at 12:30 p.m.
“Four hours we had been talking back and forth and hiding from each other,” Antley said. “It was a marathon.”