Patience Wears Down Mental Sharpness

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This mid-morning gobbler is one that fell to a patient hunter.

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

Four hours passed. The gobbler was just over the edge, within 30 yards. If I called, he answered. If I shut up, he shut up. He wasn’t going to budge, and I was already so close I had nowhere to go. It was a stand-off.

I usually don’t let a stalemate go longer than 20 minutes, 30 tops. Why? A real gobbler and a real hen don’t lock themselves in place and call back and forth. They have legs, and they use them. If a hunt turns into a 20-minute impasse, I start thinking about a change. Seasoned turkey hunters will tell you patience kills more gobblers than anything, and they’re right. But isn’t four hours enough patience?

In most cases, patience means just wait the gobbler out. On another hunt a hen flew down at daybreak, 20 yards away, and raced across a field to meet up with a gobbler that sounded like he was choking to death. It made no sense to go over there myself because I’d just be dealing with a henned-up gobbler. But if I stayed put, and called every 10 or 15 minutes, he might eventually come my way. It might take an hour, maybe two, but his walnut-size brain would remember the pretty hen sounds I was making. Shortly after 8:30, he strolled across the field and I killed him. That’s usually what we mean by patience in the turkey woods.

But four hours? I could have watched “Dances with Wolves” — something else I don’t ever want to do again.

I should have killed that four-hour gobbler, but I didn’t. Here’s the rest of that story.

The sun was getting high in the sky and Post Meridian minutes were about to arrive. Every muscle was sore from not moving. Suddenly, another gobbler sounded off. He was also down over the hill, but in the opposite direction. I turned my head to look back, over my right shoulder. He was about 140 yards away on the bench below, headed my direction.

It was decision time. Should I keep working the gobbler in front of me, the bird almost in hand, just out of sight, a few yards below the crest of the hill? Or should I move and work the newcomer I could see down on the bench?

I made the wrong decision. I decided to move to the opposite side of the tree, and call to the new gobbler. He was on his way toward me. All I’d need to do was keep him coming. So I got to the knees I could barely straighten, put my seat pad on the other side of the tree, and with something resembling an old wrestling move called “the sit-out,” I switched to the other side of the tree.

My move was half made when I heard, “Putt, putt!” I turned my head in time to see those big wings lift him. He sailed down into the valley. I turned back to see the newcomer running away.

I had all the patience in the world, but I forgot one thing. When a gobbler has competition, he might decide to beat that competition to the hen. When I made my move, that gobbler made his move. Another 15 seconds and he’d have been floppin’ instead of flappin’.

It wasn’t a lack of patience that ruined my hunt. My failure was in forgetting that when two lovebirds are playing hard to get, a third makes it a love triangle. The dynamics totally change, and I should have played that change to my advantage. I could have turned my head and called to the second gobbler, directing the sound away to make it first gobbler think I was leaving for a new Romeo. But no, my mental acuity was even less nimble than my stiff knees.

I let my patience wear down my mental sharpness, and that’s why I went home with an unfilled tag that day.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He is a field contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.