Fred Eichler's Tale of Two Toms

It was my last week of guiding for turkeys in Nebraska. The birds were going nuts, and I had two more hunters to take. One client was from Illinois. He's hunted antelope with me for years and wanted to harvest his first bird with a bow. Chris hunts with a recurve he made himself, and he's a great shot.

The first morning, it was raining. Not a hard rain, but enough that I was happy to be sitting in a blind. We set up close to some roosted birds, but I was concerned the weather would keep them from responding normally. The morning sky lightened slowly due to the dark storm clouds.

A bird finally gobbled in the distance causing a ripple effect of gobbles from different birds including the two roosted near our setup. By about 8 a.m., our two birds had gobbled occasionally, but wouldn't come down from their roosts. I called sparingly and the birds responded, still on roost. Finally, just when I was about to give up, we heard the birds pitch out. Although we couldn’t see them, we could hear they were working away from us. I called again and got no response.

It was wet and cold for spring, and I was about to suggest packing up when a lone gobble sounded off close by. I responded with a few soft yelps and shut up. It was obvious this bird was coming back for us.

Chris and I sat silently in the blind, our eyes glued to the Montana Decoy and the small clearing in front of us. The only sound was the muffled taps of the rain hitting the material above our heads. The bird never made another sound. We were both shrugging our shoulders, when I spotted wet feathers through the brush. The bird was in strut, but with his wet fan he looked a little rough. I had just whispered to Chris to get ready when a bowstring slapped a limb next to me. I jumped involuntarily and looked out the blind in time to see the bird stagger a few steps and collapse.

Next, we met my other client, Allen, who is from Indiana. He harvested a bird on the first day too, so we were done and I still had a few days to kill. The guys weren’t in a rush to leave, so I asked Allen if he would video me hunting that evening. He agreed, and I gave him a crash course on running my video camera.

Chris decided to go with us and hunt so he purchased a second tag. His dad was along for the trip, and he decided to sit in the blind with Chris. The plan was for Allen and I to set up in one blind with two decoys spread out in front of us. Chris and his father would set up about forty yards away with some decoys in front of them. We figured if a bird or birds showed up one of us should get a shot.

I had no idea that soon I would experience my first of two incredibly lucky hunts.

We set out decoys, popped up the blinds and crawled in. I had been calling softly about every thirty minutes when Allen spotted a group of birds heading our way. He turned on the camera, and I cut at the birds with my slate call trying to sound like a hen ready to breed. One tom broke off from the group and headed in. I whispered for Allen to make sure he was recording while I quietly nocked an arrow. The strutting tom walked right up to my decoy only fifteen to eighteen yards away. The bird had no clue what hit him and he dropped right next to the decoy. Allen and I were excitedly congratulating each other when another gobble sounded off close by. Then two more gobblers ran up and began to spur and peck my dead bird.

In Nebraska you can harvest two birds in the spring with a bow. So I nocked another arrow and picked a spot on the closest broadside bird. My carbon shaft went through the center of his chest and he only made it about fifteen yards before piling up as well. I couldn’t believe it. One turkey with a bow is a trophy. Two birds with a bow on video was just unbelievable. I thanked Allen for capturing my lucky hunt on film for me. The guys all congratulated me, and we snapped some pictures to help preserve the day.

A few weeks after my lucky double in Nebraska, I was back in Colorado guiding turkey hunting close to where I live. All of our hunters had come and gone and the birds were really slowing down. I asked friend and guide Shane Frasier if he minded videoing for me the next day. He was game so we headed out early the next morning.

We set up two blinds in a mountain meadow: One for Shane to film and one for me. At first light, a lone bird gobbled from his roost. I called to let him know we were there and shut up. We listened as the bird pitched out and continued to call as he headed over the ridge away from us. I snuck over to Shane’s blind only ten yards away and told him I thought the bird was with some hens. Although it may take awhile, I wanted to sit tight and see if he would come back to check us out. Shane’s pretty hardcore and a good sport, so he agreed to man the camera and see what transpired.

I snuck back into my blind and waited. Every 30 to 45 minutes I would call just a few soft yelps. Time dragged on without a sound besides my occasional calling. By ten in the morning, the sun was high enough that it hit the blind. The last thing I remember was calling at a little after 11. The warm blind and short night was getting the best of me and I nodded off into a deep sleep. I awoke with a small jump. My chin was on my chest, and I heard something that sounded like someone crumpling paper. I lifted my head and almost fell over. Two gobblers were circling the decoy fifteen yards in front of me.

The noise I heard was their feathers brushing up against my decoy. My heart was pounding. I reached to grab my bow. I couldn’t believe the birds were right in front of me. At my shot, feathers flew and I watched my shaft pass through the closest bird.

All hell broke loose as the birds scattered. I should have given the bird some time, but I threw the blind over my head and sprinted after my mortally hit bird. After recovering him, I came back toward the blind and laughingly admitted to Shane that I had been sleeping. He not so politely responded that if he took the time to video, I could at least stay awake while hunting.

Shane had watched the birds come in silently all the way across the meadow and up to my decoy. He said he kept expecting me to shoot but, after five minutes passed, he knew I must be asleep. He said he couldn’t believe the birds stayed as long as they did. He was hoping they would leave before I woke up, so he could walk over and show me the video. What a friend …

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