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Breaking Clays and Busting Chops

There’s not much better than clay-busting therapy time spent with a shotgun. Case in point, our annual “family and friends” skeet shoot this past Labour Day long weekend.

Yes, I know I’m using the Canadian spelling for Labour Day. No I’m not changing it, despite the pleadings of Microsoft’s spellchecking software.  You’ll also need to be aware that it isn’t a “skeet-shoot” in the Olympic sense of the term…but more on that later.

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This event has had ebbs and flows over the years, sometimes drawing dozens of shooters and other times just a meager crowd of relations and close friends.  Past champions, myself included, gloat over former glories and lament their inability to repeat those triumphs.  Egos are boosted on the back of a streak of good shooting form, and hopes for victory can shatter like the targets thrown against the sky.

Enough flowery metaphors though.  It is ideally a chance to make the scatterguns go boom, tenderize shoulders in advance of a fast-approaching waterfowl season, laugh and reminisce with pals, and air out petty personal grievances in the form of not-so-subtle trash-talk.

The 2015 iteration of this event took place just this past Saturday, or September 5th for those of you without a calendar.  While there was some buzz about it, we found a slightly smaller group lined up in the back hollow.  Some regular attendees were indisposed at a camping trip, while I’m sure others were discouraged by the sweltering temperatures and blazing UV index.  It was well over 30 degrees Celsius when we started the event but the eight of us in attendance were all game to compete, and as we uncased shotguns and peeled open shell boxes the sense of anticipation was obvious.

For a time we milled around, no one really wanting to be the first to lead things off, but eventually one of us crossed onto the shooting line and began thumbing shells into the breech.  As the first clays broke, earplugs were inserted and everyone’s confidence grew and before long everyone was lining up for their turn, shooting long flyers and low crossers while we crudely critiqued each other’s shooting prowess with colourful language and witty rejoinders.  We set up a line of two or three guns and tested each other’s speed and accuracy, even managing to dust the broken flyers of split clays a couple of times.

There were also tragic misses and hilarious reminiscences told.

In time, and in a way that was mostly informal, we came to the competition round.  I had won this single-elimination competition in 2012 by heating up at just the right time and going on a 9-for-9 streak, after a preliminary warmup that exposed just miserable shooting on my part.  To say many ‘superior’ wingshots were rightly embarrassed that day is an understatement.

The elimination round allows a shooter three shots in a round with the intent being to break single clays thrown more or less similarly.  This year, our designated thrower decided that one of the clays would be randomly selected to be a fast, low, left to right crossing shot, which is arguably one of the harder shots to make in my opinion.  After my cousin Luke had run a perfect 3-for-3 in his opening round, and my brother followed up with a 3-for-3 of his own, I stepped up and broke the first two clays (and I looked damn stylish doing it too, but that’s for a future post) before our thrower whipped the third clay, which was the low crosser.  I snapped the 870 to my shoulder and fired in one smooth motion, powdering the target and drawing cheers of surprise from the small gallery of other shooters.  I snapped the pump action on the 870 one last time and confidently headed back behind the firing line, content in my glory.  My friend Jason, who was firing a side by side shotgun of reasonable vintage, also managed a 3-for-3 so a quartet of shooters headed to round two.

I powdered two more clays in the next round, including another low crosser before tasting defeat on a clean miss at the third target.  My brother also bowed out in the second round, while Luke and Jason had perfect second rounds to advance to the final.  In the final round, Luke missed one clay, which was enough of a window for Jason to run another perfect round, finishing 9-for9 and taking this year’s honours as the champion.

We celebrated by shooting more clays, telling dirty jokes, and critiquing my wardrobe.  We put the guns away and attempted to catch thrown clays in our bare hands.  My brother and I each managed to make some catches, showing that soft hands are for more than smoothly swinging a shotgun.  Eventually the hour came to clean the field and with the guns stowed we had some cold beers, piled up the empty shells, and retrieved any unbroken clays before sitting on truck tailgates and laughing some more.

As I sat there in the sun, shoulder tingling from the pounding of countless rounds, laughing with good friends and enjoying the last weekend of the summer, the sense of fellowship and freedom hung heavy in the humid late-afternoon air.  A family and friends barbecue was going to start in a couple of hours and it required me to shower and change my clothes…not for my own pride but out of a sense of politeness to the other guests.  We posed for the annual photo shoot and made plans for the upcoming weekends of goose and duck hunting, and then we headed back from the hollow down to the farm house.

The turnout had been on the small side, the shooting had at times been atrocious, and the sun had been a bit hard on us all.  Still, traditions are made to be maintained, and blazing away at our annual farm skeet shoot is one tradition I’m happy to honour.

Gear Review: RNT Short Barrel Duck Call

The first duck call I ever ran was a wooden single reed Olt that my Dad gave me when I was eight.  I finished second in a youth calling contest with it in 1990, but then drifted away from duck calling and into other things during my juvenile and adolescent years.  When I dove headlong into waterfowl it was goose hunting that I fell in love with and while most of my disposable income has been funneling its way into goose calls (see the post previous to this for more on that), I’ve long been considering a solid, high quality single reed duck call for my lanyard.

The colours on this call are just gorgeous.
The colours on this call are just gorgeous.

For the last decade or so various average double reed polycarbonate duck calls have worked serviceably on my lanyard and names like Buck Gardner, Knight & Hale, Zink, and Haydel’s have had their chance.  They’ve been passable but not without limitations, and this week it was time to move into high-performance territory.

Now this is not to say the above brands were not good calls, and I’ve been particularly fond of my Red Leg mallard from Haydel’s and will likely keep it on my string, but after testing countless calls, I made the move to RNT, and specifically to a single reed Short Barrel in bocote wood.  The call is, in a word, impressive.  I tried other single reed calls in the RNT line in the lead up to this purchase and two weeks ago I found myself holding an acrylic Daisy Cutter and the bocote Short Barrel in my left and right hands respectively.  I was filling the local BassPro store with racket as I sawed away hail calls, single quacks, and feed calls on each one.  I ultimately settled on the Short Barrel for reasons I will explain below.  As always these are my personal findings and preferences and I’d encourage anyone to do what I did and try out as many calls from as many manufacturers until you find what sounds and works best for your style of calling.

As I said, RNT won the day on this one, and I’ll start by saying that their ‘brand’ definitely had a hand in this decision.  Located in the heart of (and some would the epicenter of) southern USA duck country, RNT operates out of Stuttgart, Arkansas which happens to be where the World Duck Calling Championships are held annually (in case you’ve been living under a rock for a while).  But more than their location, I’ve always respected their no-nonsense, non-gimmicky approach to waterfowling.  These guys just make duck calls and hunt ducks in a straightforward, no BS kind of way and that is appealing to me.

It doesn’t hurt that they churn out some of the purest-sounding duck calls on the market either, and the Short Barrel is no exception.

On first run, it was obvious that this was the call I had to have on my lanyard come this fall.  I have a lot of ‘loud’ duck calls so windy day range or aggressive hail calling was not something I was worried about; instead I wanted something a little more true sounding for close-in work and finesse, and that is something the Short Barrel has in spades.  The compact size and mellow sound of the wood puts a smooth edge on the mid-range and soft quacks, while feed calls roll out of this little call with ease.  It can still get loud, but not in that ringing, nasty-edged way that an acrylic call would be apt to.  The risk here is that when blown too hard, this call does seem to squeak and lock up.  In short it requires a lighter touch than I may be used to, so of course practice has been the key for the last few weeks.

The call is new but even now it is surprisingly responsive, so I’m chomping at the bit to hear how it sounds once I’ve broken bit in somewhat.  As it stands currently, this call descends down a five note scale cleanly, and changes speeds with only the most subtle variations in air pressure.  Speaking of pressure, absolutely no back pressure is required to run this call through all the sounds a hunter would require; the mellow tone of the bocote softens the feed calls and quacks nicely.  I have found that applying back pressure only muffles the resonance that the Short Barrel has naturally built into it.

The bottom-end sounds are mellow from the bocote wood, but the call can be charged up for aggressive calling as well.
The bottom-end sounds are mellow from the bocote wood, but the call can be charged up for aggressive calling as well.

Now of course, the sound is the key here, but it should be noted that the Short Barrel in bocote looks damn sexy as well.  The wood has a dark chocolate grain that runs through a caramel-colored body and the call is completed with a low-gloss band.  I have also always loved the smell of wooden duck calls and this one is no different; something about the smell of wood call takes me back to my childhood of learning to call ducks on Dad’s classic Olt call.

Since it is the off-season right now, the one part missing from this review is field performance, but that just means in a month or so I get to write about this call again, so that’s a plus.  In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting in the basement, practicing and rasping away on this new toy of mine and waiting for the October morning when I get to slide on my waders, find an out of the way spot in the long grass, and wait for the whistling of mallard wings.

When it happens, I think the Short Barrel will be ready for the spotlight.

On the Lanyard: Goose Call Edition

In the years since I became an “independent” (read: unaccompanied adult) hunter, I have accumulated goose calls at a near staggering rate.  I’m not on the level of calling myself a collector yet, only because I define a collector as someone who owns more of something than they could conceivable utilize.

I’ve conversed with goose call manufacturers and collectors, as well as men and women with dozens and dozens (and in a few cases, over a hundred) of goose calls, and even they admit that there is no way they could possibly hunt with them all.  Some are showpiece or limited edition calls, others just calls that look nice on a mantle, while others still are ‘working calls’ that sound exceptional and see their share of time in the blinds, fields, pits, and swamps that we waterfowlers frequently skulk about in.

To date, all my calls have been ‘working’ calls, and both through the expansion of my goose calling abilities, as well as through necessities of space and finances, I’ve been turning my inventory of calls over these past twenty years by selling or trading older calls for either newer calls themselves or more frequently, for the capital required to purchase more goose calls.  I’ve owned several styles, tried dozens more, and from my Dad’s wooden Olt call, through to my current tools I could tell stories and share tidbits about them all; many of the older calls that I have not traded or sold sit in my gun cabinets and ammo lockers, or hang dusty on lanyards in my closet.  With all that said, this piece is going to focus on the three calls that will be residing on my lanyard this coming September.  All opinions here are my own, and the companies listed below have not had any contact with me regarding their products with respect to these reviews.

 

Super Mag

The first truly ‘custom’ short reed goose call I ever owned was my Super Mag.  It has been the last thing a lot of geese have heard since I started using it in 2005.  For years before I made the plunge into the custom acrylic short-reed market, I had been honing my skills on a variety of goose calls, from polycarbonate short reeds bought for $25 at the local hardware store to more elaborate flute-style calls bought online.  Those calls were important in learning how to run a goose call and to make the requisite sounds needed for hunting, but they all lacked ‘something’.  Some did not have enough high-note snap to be effective on windy days, while others lacked precision and realistic tone on the low moans and lay-down calls needed to finish geese close in.

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The second I took the Super Mag out of its package, I could tell it had three things going for it.  First, it was sexy looking, with a polished silver band wrapped around amber acrylic that shared its colour with a well-aged bourbon.  Second, I could tell that it was solidly made by someone who hunted geese; simple minimalist lines fit comfortably in the hand and it was well-balanced.  Third, and most important, it sounded like a real goose.  For the first time I had a call that could flat out scream on a windy day, but was subtle enough to work low end moans and growls for when the birds were just about to commit.

It took a lot of practice to re-learn how to blow a short-reed goose call, but luckily it also came with a cassette tape (it was 2005 after all) with instructions from Tim Grounds and his son, Hunter.  If it had a downfall, my only complaint about the Super Mag was that it took (and still does take) a lot of air to get it running correctly.  The reed is set up quite stiff, and while this does make for absolutely realistic low end calling and crisp, snappy honks and clucks, you need to work hard if you need to run it consistently for a long time. That said, Tim & Hunter Grounds will custom tune any call you send them, and I won’t ever forget the day I came home from work and found a message from Tim himself on my home answering machine.  I had sent my call to them because I had managed to crack the reed near the end of the 2010 hunting season. That evening I was like a star-eyed fanboy when I called him back and we talked for ten minutes about the call and how I wanted it tuned with the new reed.  The call has been money ever since, and I’m now obsessive about my reeds and ensuring they are taken of.

On a personal note, this call is still my go-to, both because you never forget your first and because it is just a blue-collar workaholic call.  I have had bloody hands on it, it has been scratched and worn, I’ve used it on freezing winter mornings, and I even slammed it in a car door once.  It has character and it still sounds great.

Tim Grounds Championship Calls

PO Box 359, 14331 Prosperity Road

Johnson City, Illinois

62951

Phone:  (618) 983-5649

 

The Goose Noose

During the 2014 off-season, I resolved to get my hands on a nice wooden short reed goose call, primarily because we had taken to hunting water now and then and I felt that the acrylic Super Mag created an unwanted echo.  I tried calls from Zink, Buck Gardner, and RNT before I found this hidden gem at my local (and newly-opened) Cabela’s store.

From the second I started blaring on it in the aisles at the store, I noticed that it had a dimension that my Super Mag did not have.  It was mellow, smooth, a little bit understated but truly goosey, especially on the moans and low end calls.  It still could run at some pretty high volumes, but while the Super Mag could plead and scream with ease and only worked the nice low end calls with some serious back-pressure, this call moaned and barked with less air and less back pressure, and even though the spit-notes and hail calls came out with a more mellow tone, it took a fraction of the air that my Tim Grounds call used.

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I had not heard of Lynch Mob Calls before that day, so I went home and did a bit of research.  Satisfied with what I found, the next day I was back buying the call, and I began obsessively practicing on it.  I found YouTube clips, I looked for articles, and I ran it nightly.  Lynch Mob Calls has since replaced this model with one they call the Game Over, so in a way I guess I do have a bit of a collector’s item on my hands.

What can I say about this call?  It has great mid-to-low end tone and on calm days or over water it is deadly.  After huffing for nearly a decade on my Super Mag it took some practice to scale back the airflow so that I did not overblow it on honk, clucks, or comeback calls, but once that was mastered this call runs slick, deep sounds that are ‘big goose’ all the way.  I had more success with it in the later October and early November hunts, but even in the early September season it fooled resident Canada geese often.

Lynch Mob Calls

9032 Bay Creek Road

Erie, Michigan

48133

Phone: (734) 848-2501

www.lynchmobcalls.com

 

Shorty Express SS (Signature Series)

I spend a lot of time in the local BassPro Shops store, and for a long time I had coveted this call.  It has clean, sharp lines, the polished band glows, and I flat out love the colour.  I did not love that it was priced in excess of $180, and I tried it over and over again on multiple trips to the store in attempts to convince my fiscally-responsible side to make the impulse purchase.  Every time I had to put it back. Then in 2014, I stopped in to BassPro on my way up to the early November deer hunt to pick up some scent eliminator for one of the guys in camp.  On a whim I cruised by the duck and goose showcase, and I was taken aback.

The call was marked down to $45.99.  I was sure it was a mistake.  I located the floor staff and asked them to take a look in their inventory system.  The price was correct, and they had one left.  So I bought it.  I was more or less done with waterfowl for the year and I was focusing on deer hunting from then out, but I noodled with it for the evenings in deer camp and then even more during the long cold lonely winter up here in Ontario.  It fell out of use for the bulk of turkey season, but I picked it up again recently and have actually been so focused on it that I have not even picked up and practiced my other two goose calls.

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The Shorty SS is a dark “mallard” acrylic and it just looks downright sexy.  It has nice lines with a curvy, rounded barrel.  The insert is a little narrow in the hand for my liking but it is not uncomfortable.  In terms of its sound it falls in between the Super Mag and the Goose Noose for volume and tone.  It makes solid goose-talk from top end to bottom end requiring just slightly more air than the Goose Noose, but almost any sound can be made using less back-pressure and expenditure than with my Super Mag.  Being an acrylic call, I find that it has a tendency to slide into the ‘high’ end easily, so in the same fashion as the Goose Noose I have to use caution not to over blow it and cause it to ‘squeal’, but it barks and double-clucks like nobody’s business.  I am very much looking forward to running this call on some of the resident Bruce County geese in six weeks.

Sean Mann Outdoors

555 Marlan Drive

Trappe, Maryland

21673

Phone: 1-800-345-4539

www.seanmann.com

It Continues in the Morning

My alarm barked out and it felt like just moments earlier I had laid my head on the pillow.  I groaned and rolled over to silence it, then dangled my legs over the edge of the bed and slid on some socks.

4:20AM. Why did it have to be 4:20AM?

I checked the temperature outside and slipped into my turkey hunting uniform.  Warm socks, light shirt, camo pants.  The stairs groaned the way they always do in the old farm house, almost as if they were likewise complaining at being called into action at an hour so ungodly, but as my head cleared I became sharply focused on the task at hand.

There were turkeys in the trees behind the farm, and I intended to coax one into shotgun range.

I had a piece of toast and then re-inventoried my equipment.  License & tag? Check.  Shotgun shells? Check.  Various and sundry turkey-noise-making instruments? Check.  I was ready to go.  Walking out the door I wished my friend Lucas a good hunt with my uncle.  They were after a very mature bird in a spot that my uncle had permission on, and rather than crowd the joint I had the previous evening resolved to put a hunt on the birds on the farm property.

My other uncle had indicated that they had gone into the hardwoods adjacent to what we call ‘the hollow’ the previous evening, and I had a good idea of the lay of the land in there from a lifetime of experiences on the farm as well as from recent deer hunts in that exact area.  I trudged slowly and quietly throw a planted field, and reached a point of forest that forms the western treeline of the hollow.  I owl-called and not hearing a response from the immediate area, I moved quietly down a skidder trail into the enveloping darkness of the hardwoods.  It was 4:55AM and just the tiniest slivers of predawn light were filtering their way over the eastern horizon.  I placed one hen decoy on the skidder trail and moved about twenty yards away from it onto a ridge.  I found a great spot against a broad rock on the ridge and to my surprise it was a very comfortable seat.

I looked at my watch and it read 5:02AM.

For the next fifteen minutes I was absorbed into the dusky wilderness.  The soft titterings of songbirds rose around me, and a light breeze tickled my ear, but the overall silence was king.  It was not an oppressive, heavy silence but rather a calm edged with anticipation.  I closed my eyes for a few moments and when I opened them again the bleary nighttime had taken on cleaner resolution.  I thought about the morning to come and, like most turkey hunters, I imagined the various ways that the hunt might go down.  The contrast between the darkness in the hardwoods and the apparent increase in daylight on the adjacent field made me second guess my setup momentarily.  Then my doubts were erased as raspy gobble thundered from a treetop to the south of my position.

Just over a hundred yards south was a green cedar stand and it appeared that the gobbler was roosted in the hardwood surrounding those cedars.  He gobbled again, and I checked my watch.  It was just about 5:25 in the morning.  Initially, nothing answered his gobbles and a part of me hoped that he was a bachelor that particular day.  If I can help it, I’d rather not compete with hens for a tom’s attention.  Unfortunately after his third or fourth gobble from the roost, I heard a hen fire up.  Softly at first, but soon she was rasping away as well, bringing more distinct hen voices from their slumber as well.  I reached into my pocket and pulled out three shotgun shells, placing them in my lap.

I also slid the newest addition to my turkey calling arsenal from my vest.  The Woodhaven Cherry Classic crystal call took a resting spot beside my left leg, and after retrieving a striker I made a soft tree call.  The gobbler cut me off immediately and a hen yelped loudly over top of my calls.  Thinking that picking a scrap with the loud hen might be a good strategy I yelped and cutt and when the gobbler thundered she again called loudly over top of my series.  I waited for her to call again and this time I cut her off with a string of raspy, aggressive yelps and clucks.  She cutt hard and shouted me down once more, and the longbeard double-gobbled.  I set my call down, confident that both gobbler and hen knew exactly where I was.

The only conundrum now facing me was that I had to load my gun.  At the allotted hour I softly slid open the 870 action and with a delicateness of hand reserved for handling fine chinaware and newborn infants I placed a shell in and slid the action closed with a firm but quiet ‘snick!’’ Two more shells went into the gun smoothly and a few moments later I heard the birds fly down.

As soon as the birds touched ground, a hen riot the likes of which I’ve never heard erupted.  There was yelping and cutting and purring and flapping and more yelping.  Some sort of battle royale was going on a few ridges over from me and over it all the longbeard gobbled lustily.  I turned my left shoulder towards the racket and brought the gun to ‘ready’ position, fingers poised over the safety.  My pulse was pounding and my head was whirring with imagined visuals, such is the effect these birds have on my frail constitution.

A few moments later I heard running in the leaves and hen yelps growing near.  One hen, followed by a straggler went through an opening and made their way down a slight hill towards my decoy on the skidder trail.  The trotted up to the impostor hen and began yelping and purring, all the while circling and staring at the fake.  A couple of more hens fed slowly down that way as well and before long there were five or six hens on the ridge side and trail, all within thirty yards of me.  Then I saw the gobbler.

He was out of range and following the hens.  This time he wasn’t gobbling.  He was drumming and it was the clearest and most audible that I’d ever heard.  He dropped behind a bit of a ridge and my hope was that he would cross the same opening I had first seen the hens through.  A few moments later I saw the top of his tail fan over a ridge top immediately left of where the required opening was.  I estimated him to be about thirty-five or forty yards away, and he was strutting and spinning on the spot.  Most importantly, he was not offering me the slightest of shot opportunities.  This went on for what felt like a half-hour but was more realistically ten minutes.  My arms were comfortable and my left elbow rested on my left knee, but my breathing betrayed my motionless.  I was nearly panting with excitement and adrenaline pounded in my brain.  I needed him to take just a handful of steps to my right and he would be wide open and in range.

In the meantime, while I was pleading a psychic message to this gobbler, the hens had grown weary of bullying my decoy and when I cut my eyes right I could see that they were starting to move away.  To my dismay their movement was not past me to the fields as I had hoped, but along their backtrail deeper into the hardwoods.  About this time I saw the gobbler’s tail fan disappear, and knowing he had dropped strut and was likely leaving the hens, I had a moment of panic.  I clucked hard on my mouth call, but nothing happened.  I cackled loudly and he gave me a full periscope shot, but all I could see was his head, neck and a thin line of black feathers above the hilltop.  I had one blaring, conscious thought in my head at that moment.

“DO. NOT. SHOOT. THE. HILLSIDE!”

Instinctively obeying that monologue command, I raised the bead ever so slightly so that it was in line with the point that his jaw met his neck.  I squeezed the trigger and what sounded like cannon-fire echoed in the still morning air.

The bird jumped and started running, and the hens putted and sprinted off.  I leapt down the ridge side in a bound and ran twenty yards up the trail, passing my decoy before running back up to the spot where he had been standing.  I saw the faintest outline of a gang of wild turkeys necking their way through the hardwoods and disappearing from view.   My watch read 6:25AM.

I said some bad words.

Looking down I saw the leaves that the rapidly departing gobbler had kicked up and on close inspection of the area I didn’t find one speck of blood or a solitary black neck feather.  It became immediately apparent that for the second time in my turkey hunting career, I had blazed a round of copper-plated lead clean over the head of a gobbler.

I said some more bad words.

First I cursed out that lousy, hung-up gobbler, then the skittish, ornery hens and finally, and perhaps most accurately, about the gaping failures I exhibited myself.

Every move and decision I had made that morning put me in a position to succeed, until the ultimate action was upon me and then I had cocked it up.  It had been a picture perfect hunt and I failed in giving it the ending it so rightly deserved.  I was pissed off, utterly.

I knew that my Dad was across the county road and that he’d have heard my shot.  I knew that he’d want an explanation.  I knew my buddies were going to ride me mercilessly over this one.  I was right on all three accounts.  Worse than the ribbing of family and friends (which I have been taking all my life with grace and aplomb) was that although part of me knew I could not have played it differently, the self-loathing inherent in turkey hunting told me I should have waited longer and he would have crossed into a full opening, or that I should have let them walk and tried to circle them, or that all my poor decision-making had done was educate a gobbler and a bunch of hens, making them supernaturally more difficult to kill.  At the time it was hard for me to see it any other way than in the negative.

For their part, no one else had succeeded either (although none of them had thrown a few ounces of lead shot aimlessly into the forest either) and when I got back to the farm and had cooled down, we decided to head for breakfast.  My cousin Dane and his brother-in-law were out on a run-and-gun for a bird, but my brother, my uncle, my friend Lucas, and my friend Brian had all come up short on tagging a morning bird.  We headed to the diner for a bite to eat and as I stepped into the diner parking lot I looked down to see my cellphone ringing.  It was Dane.

In a flash hunt, he and his brother-in-law Chris had struck a longbeard and Chris had drilled the gobbler as it snuck in to investigate Dane’s calling.  So at least the morning wasn’t a total bust.  It was a nice hefty bird, maybe three-years old, with a solid beard and nice sharp spurs.

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A very nice Bruce Peninsula gobbler. Photo Credit: Lucas Hunter

We had some coffee, toast, bacon, and eggs and I was forced to re-live my failure of mere hours prior.  We also all took in the tale of Chris’s bird and we laughed at the inimitable embellishments and narration that only Dane can provide.

With bellies full we headed back to the farm for photos and to clean the bird.  A short rest later we planned the setups for the rest of the day.

The afternoon seemed primed for redemption.