by Bad Fenson
Once you try fanning turkeys, the addiction for close encounters becomes overwhelming, leaving you craving more of the adrenaline rush, like a kid with a candy habit looking for chocolate. I took my wife Stefanie on her first turkey hunt this spring, and while hunting with our friend, Chad Yost, we almost got more than we bargained for.
We had patterned a group of jakes and long-beards that fed along a pasture, where they worked down a steep hill toward a creek late in the afternoon. We carefully tip-toed down a shelterbelt, densely overgrown with cedar, in order to check the field.
Our birds were right on time and just 250 yards into the pasture. Chad worked his way to the edge of the trees and popped up our Turkey Fan, which opens like an umbrella with the image of a mature gobbler on the canopy. You use the handle to hold the turkey image out in front of you to fan other red-headed birds into range. You can pop the canopy back and forth on the handle to produce a drumming sound for more realism.
Unfortunately, when getting in place one of the birds saw us move before we got behind the fan and our group of gobblers headed away like road runners with Wile E. Coyote after them.
Feeling a little dejected, we moved to the end of the treeline and set up to see if we could entice one of the birds to come back. Chad used the fanning decoy and I used my Maestro box call to sound like a companion-seeking hen. I must have hit the right love-struck notes, because a gobbler lit up behind us.
We had no idea there were turkeys behind us as well, and I switched to my H.S. Limb Shaker glass call and clucked and purred a few times. When the gobbler thundered again he was much closer, and Stef and Chad scrambled to turn 180 degrees and hopefully face off with the turkey.
I was standing back in the cedars and saw three red heads racing out of adjacent grass and clover and into our line of trees. The birds darted past me, and the next thing I knew Stef was lifting her shotgun. The Mossberg 20-gauge Turkey Thug boomed, creating a scurry of excitement from the extra birds trying to escape.
Stef had made a great shot at just 7 yards on a turkey running directly at them. It was almost as though she had to shoot the bird in self defense. It was a very difficult shot to make because the shot pattern is extremely tight at that range and the bird's head was moving with each running step.
We had played around with some of the new Federal 3rd Degree turkey loads and knew they provided a huge advantage at close range. There are three layers of shot, starting with Heavyweight No. 7, followed by lead No. 5 and then FlightStopper lead No. 6. The layers of shot provide a fast-spreading dense pattern at close range, performance for mid-range targets, and finally the HeavyWeights for birds stretching the shooting opportunities out to 50 yards.
It was Stef's first turkey, and the close encounter already has her asking where we are planning to hunt turkey again next spring.