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Author Topic: The Fiddler  (Read 25398 times)

Offline PA-strutter

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The Fiddler
« on: July 27, 2019, 10:09:09 PM »
The 2019 Pennsylvania Turkey Season was upon us and it isn't without some wise old characters in the woods. It's for those wise old characters that know all of the tricks, the escape routes, the talk of the other characters, and woodsmanship second to no one that makes chasing the wild turkey in Pennsylvania what it is. What better for a turkey hunter be to challenged beyond belief, for the only chance at what others would consider success, for me would be to "learn something new every trip into the turkey woods".

Going back to Saturday, just 5 days ago, my good hunting buddy and myself had the perfect plan to harvest a gobbler opening morning. We were prepared for just about everything and had a bunch of scouting time in. We knew where we were going to be sitting come day break and had a solid game plan, or so we thought. Early before light we are sitting by our assigned trees, waiting for the light to break, when a couple of birds start gobbling on the flat in front of us. Little did I know at the time that I would come to learn the one distinct gobble of a bird of so well over the next several days. It wasn't short of haunting. Anyways, birds were going crazy and I had little luck getting one to come in to our first set. Go figure, we moved down the flat about 80 yards and set back up and thats when it happened. A few call series in and he's strutting about 80 yards in front of me, just for a moment, just for a glimpse. A big mature Tom with a piercing red head who was all too smart to walk up that flat into range. I gave him credit at the time thinking he hung up and wasn't willing to risk his life to take the high ground in hopes of finding his new girlfriend. While sitting there my hunting buddy did see two other birds but no shot was to be had.

We decided to move down to the last place I seen him and set back up. We make it about 20 yards before I seen him. Walking broad side about 60 yards out, walking right into the pines on the bottom of the flat, was the monster Tom in all of his glory. Too smart to let us walk up on him. Almost like we were getting played. We dropped to the ground and got against the closest tree. I started calling to him again and we waited for about 30 minutes but he never came in. Slipped away once more.

Years of experience tell me that I don't know where he is going, which I didn't, at the time, to go call at the last place he was as I felt trying to get in front of him from our position was a bad idea at the time. That was exactly what we did and it paid off, kinda. We set up against a huge oak, one of us on each side, my buddy facing the hill and pines. I pulled out an Enticer box call because he didn't get too excited about the mouth calls I was running. Three series of calls at this location and the bird came up over the hill running towards my buddies side of the tree. The bird, coming right at him, he did what I always preach, to only raise the gun when the bird is behind a tree. Well thats what he did and the bird never came out from the other side of the tree. He got Houdini'd by the bird. That's when the name of the character was born, he said "He played me like a fiddle". THE FIDDLER!!! If your not sure what a Houdini is in the turkey woods then keep raising the gun when the birds head is being a tree. The rest of the morning was just enjoyed making turkey noises with no excitement.

Fast forward to 5:15 Monday morning and we are in the same set ups we were opening morning and like nothing has changed besides some heavy fog, the Fiddler started hammering from his tree. I left him gobble for about 45 minutes, gobbling every minute or two, before I made my first call. It was foggy so he wasn't leaving the tree and I knew that. My dad told me the day before to fire him up to no end then just shut up. With three series of calls I had this roosted bird double and triple gobbling at me from his branch going absolutely crazy. I shut right up and just waited. He didn't fly down until close to 7:00 and hes probably gobbled over 100 times already. After he flew down he made a bead line right for me, gobbling his head off and I was ready, I knew what was coming, The Fiddler, and I knew he was skilled, but I wasn't ready for what happened next.

Now I am sitting in open hardwoods against an oak at the very peak of the highest point on the property. This gobbling hammer comes to the left at about 15 yards gobbling like someones paying him. All I seen of the bird was his now white cue ball of a head bounce twice as he was going behind the one and only piece of brush on the entire hillside, only 10 yards seperates us. For the next hour he gobbles every 20-30 seconds from behind that single piece of brush, never giving me a moment of relaxation from holding the gun up across my body with my head turned to the extreme left. It felt like days, days, every second felt like a day. Part of me just was to say forget it and drop the gun to my lap, but I knew if I did it was all over. After the longest hour ever the bird finally walks out about 20 yards behind me walking in the opposite direction of me. (Here's how good The Fiddler is) As he's walking away I move my head to the buttstock of the shotgun, I'm talking I'm still looking down the barrel just drop by cheek really, he catches me while looking in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION and takes off over the hill before I could touch the trigger. I knew at that point that I may have met my match, could I actually harvest this bird? I wasn't sure at the time.

We hunted The Fiddler for the next several hours through the woods, we returned to the same spot as the morning and got set back up. My buddy set up watching where we expected him to come from. On my first set of calls he gobbles behind my buddy 60 yards away. This low shreek of a gobble that already haunted my nightmares too much. It was near 11:00 and I have a mindset that any bird that gobbles after 10:00am is in seriously danger. Well guess what? We got fiddled as the bird never came in or made another sound for the last hour of the morning we sat there.

Tuesday I got a late start and got on the property by 8:00am and did my normal routine but decided to talk on the other side of the property. I knew The Fiddler would be on the same hillside but I wanted to call from a different direction and switch it up. I called up a hen, that was about it. 11:30 I was in my last set and I drew a single gobble from who I know was The Fiddler by is very low tone shreek of a gobble. I knew he wasn't coming and so did he. The only purpose of that gobble was to stick it to me. By the way, we was about 125 yards above me on top of the hill, exactly where I expected him to be. He won again and at this point I went back to my father looking to relay another day of turkey hunting and seek his advice. I knew this bird was going to challenge me, it was his land, his woods, and he knew the game well. Public land birds in my area don't get this big on smaller properties without being veryyyyy cunning.

Wednesday I spent the day with my lady. We went out for a nice lunch, saw the new Avengers movie, then picked the little guy up from school to go home and cook dinner together, It was perfect.

Thursday morning came, which is this morning as I'm writing this. I had to drop the little guy off at school as I promised. I dropped him off at 7:30 and headed straight to the woods. I already had a game plan to fiddle The Fiddler. Yup or so I thought. Getting out of the truck in the parking lot, I closed the door as quietly as possible. At the click of the latch grabbing the inside of the door The Fiddler gobbled about 60 yards up the hill right where I was going. Unbelievable, like he was saying " let the games begin".

I moved 5 yards into the woods and sat down, got ready and started to call. By this time he's gobbled probably a dozen times. He shuts up for a solid half hour. Nothing to my calling like he didn't even care. Then I heard a gobble out down the ridge about 150 yards or so and thought that he moved further out away from me but I wasn't sure. I moved up to the top of the hill in straight-ninja-mode, not making a single audible noise, I got set up on the logging road at the very peak, and before I could make a call there was a gobble 75 yards in front of me. Instantly The Fiddler lets out his signature gobble right where I just walked up from not 50 yards from me!

I get my gun up and get ready to get busted by The Fiddler again, and starting calling lightly. The gobbler straight down the road kept getting closer and closer with his gobbles until I seen him, he popped right into the road giving me a clean shot at his head, and I take it, and the bird just jumps. I had no idea what happened. I missed. I get 2 more shots off at the bird as he makes his escape, which was slightly less horrible of an escape than me missing 2 more times. Lets leave it at he ran apast me and I could have literally reached out and grabbed him without issue. At that point I was sickly and unsure of what just went wrong. How'd I botch that? ( this was a different bird, prob a 10 inch or so beard, and mature, I wasn't passing even if The Fiddler was within 50 yards of me gobbling)

I followed the bird down the hill and couldn't find any sign of him for about 45 minutes of searching. I was confident at the time that I just did a terrible job of closing the deal there, but he wasn't The Fiddler, who was still hanging around somewhere. I called for about an hour with nothing happening and decided to go back up the hill to figure out what happened and build a ground blind for tomorrow morning. I went back up the hill and found my 3 empties and the shotcups, also found out why my first shot on a standing bird missed. Even though I was on the bird I shot a branch about 2 feet in front of me that was on plane with the muzzle. As I am picking up my empties and realizing what happened, The Fiddler lets out a gobble just at the bottom of the hill I'm on top of. I get back to where I was originally sitting and I had my back to where he was gobbling from. It was the only place to sit right there and I felt like I'd have to move too far out away from The Fiddler to make it worth the move.

I got my stuff ready real quick and called to him. He immediately answered and I hit him with another 2 calls sending him into overdrive. With my back to him at the edge of the hill maybe 5 feet behind me I can hear something walking in the leaves. Sitting like a stone I dare to move and out of the corner of my eye he appears. The Fiddler. He walks right apast me, eyeing me the whole time, and has 3 choices(1 walk down the logging road off the hill with no shot for me, 2 walk into the woods with no shot for me, or 3 walk straight down the logging road in front of me). Now he's only 4 feet from me, looking magnificent in the mid morning sun. He chose option 3, and when he got about 15 yards in front of me walking away with his back to me, I raised the gun the last inch and dropped my eyes down the barrel, he turned his head a little to look back and he known he had made a grave mistake, maybe even got fiddled. I let the shot off and it found it's mark.

The emotions of that moment were like a rollercoaster. Knowing my accomplishment, not just harvesting a tough and wise bird, but harvesting the Fiddler and knowing how much the meaning of that truly is to me, and my father. I was beyond happy and excited. I was also sad. He won't be there tomorrow for me to hunt. Sitting here now I wish he was because he has taught me so many things and has made me a better turkey hunter than any other bird I faced. We played chess for 5 days, well no, for 5 days he put on a clinic on how a mature bird should act. I can assure you that there are not many birds as wise, tough, cunning, with the same level of woodsmanship, and the shear ability to stay alive as this bird. I say that very confidently and humbly.

Maybe the best part of the day was sending my dad the photos over messenger for him to tell me he would be at the farm to see my bird in 10 minutes. He was literally there in 3 minutes. He told me he was proud of me. That meant really more than anything. Long live The Fiddler in all his glory.


Offline PA-strutter

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Re: The Fiddler
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2019, 10:38:20 PM »
I’m having trouble uploading the photos to the site here. The photos can be seen in the thread at the link below.