"Just" A Jake
In three hours of hunting in three different spots, I had seen two hens and one jake. Both hens had come to within 20 yards, but the jake paid me no attention. Otherwise, not a single turkey had gobbled that morning.
At 10 a.m., a shotgun report roared across the pasture field to the south. Only one other hunter had permission to hunt turkey on this farm, and I had passed his pickup parked along the dirt lane when I arrived. Having never met the hunter, I decided this would be a good opportunity to make his acquaintance and see how he had done.
Cresting a wooded hill, I spied two hunters in full camouflage, a hundred yards away beside a line of cattle feeders. I called out and walked toward them.
"I heard a shot. Did one of you guys bag a bird?" I asked as I extended a friendly greeting.
The younger of the two hunters, the one with permission to hunt on the farm, smiled.
"I killed a jake on the back ridge," he said. "Not much of a bird. He was with a hen. I gave one call, and he came walking right in to 15 steps."
"All right!" I exclaimed. "Where is it?"
"I laid him in one of those cattle feeders." With hardly a pause he added, "Did you hear that tom gobble to the north just moments ago? I'm hoping to call in a tom for my friend."
"No," I responded, surprised at his lack of interest in the bird he had just shot.
"I'm going to finish my hunt on the south side of the farm," I said. "Good luck on the rest of your hunt. And congratulations on your bird."
The two hunters walked toward where they thought they had heard a turkey gobble. I looked for the jake as I passed the cattle feeders, and I found him in the last one. It was a small bird. A thin beard-maybe three inches-protruded from its chest, and it had buttons for spurs. It was also untagged. As I walked to where I planned to continue my hunt, I wondered whether the young hunter had simply forgotten to tag the bird, or whether he planned to leave the bird untagged so he could continue to hunt for a mature gobbler. The more I thought about it, the more I suspected that something illegal