• Steve Rocco

His Last Strut

Updated: Jun 3

If you look hard enough, theres still some positive things floating around social media. Like anything hunting/fishing related or the video of the dog that speaks fluid Spanish. Sorting through the political posts and conspiracy mumbo jumbo I found a light at the end of the tunnel. A new place to turkey hunt in Ohio! Ohio Land and Cattle Outfitting to be exact. I was lucky enough to join Carmen Everett on the tail end of the opening week this year. My wife Becca and our then 2 month old daughter Stevie headed to Cadiz towing our new house on wheels, our 34 foot palomino travel trailer. Since I started this new adventure with Phillip Vanderpool last October my idea was to purchase a camper to pull so I can keep the family with me traveling from state to state, spring and fall. The maiden voyage was a success! Besides not putting my tag on a Ohio tom. A lack of turkeys was not the reason for me being unsuccessful. Fluctuation in temperature had put the birds in strange patterns, flocked up like it was February. "Thats my excuse and i'm sticking to it". I don't know about you but its hard to hunt a turkey if he doesn't gobble. My 3 day trip quickly came to a close as I headed back to PA to prepare for my home state kickoff.

Carmen reached back out to me a few weeks later, " The birds are on fire, you need to get back out here". I'll be there in 2 days! I responded as I licked my wounds from that days hunt. Joining me this time was my buddy and cameraman on this trip CJ. " We are in route to Cadiz and its all business! " As mother nature greeted us with a steady rain fall for morning one, CJ and I struck up a game plan in the blind. "I Wonder if theres a good breakfast joint around here?" we joked. After 9am the Skys cleared and we switched gears to run and gun. We headed to main property on the ranch to kickoff our hunt. As we crept up the main driveway I parked the tundra by a chicken barn Carmen had told me she was seeing a few birds behind the week prior. The Red Ninja Glass call from Woodhaven was the first pitch I decided to throw. The crisp yelps filled the hollow as the sun burnt the remaining fog off the landscape." GOBBLE". "There he is." He cut me off and he was close, I said. We're in business! The only problem is we know we can't park on this road because they are moving cattle down to the main barn this morning. No big deal we just have to park below the barn and walk back up here. After we parked and got all of our gear, we decided to take a lower gate below the chicken barn to gain access to the pasture we think our love struck buddy is in. But first I'm checking him, I whispered. A calling sequence that would make Scott Ellis proud left us with no response. "What the hell?" I mumbled as CJ and I looked at each other. No sooner did I get those words out of my mouth, I caught his tail fan strutting 20 yards from where we parked just 10 minutes earlier. " on the main driveway." He slowly went out of strut and followed a lone hen back into the timber. CJ and I decided to relocate and work the opposite side of the property the remainder of the morning and early afternoon before heading to a different part of the farm to hunt a flock of birds I was after the first trip.

As day 1 came to a close we headed back to the lodge reminiscing of how close we were to sealing the deal earlier that morning. My phone lit up with a notification from Carmen and it read " I watched him roost in the tree behind the barn, I think its the same bird from this morning. And He's got a buddy with him!" We met back at camp and constructed a plan. I think we need to go in there tonight and put a blind up after dinner Carmen said. We then decided she would join us for the morning hunt in hopes of a double. After our meal CJ volunteered to join Carmen in the mid night excursion. I wasn't going to argue with getting five hours of sleep as we eased up on the third week of spring turkey season and I had been running hard. My alarm woke me at four am, As I suited up with my Game Hide, I was greeted with CJ " Buddy we had a heck of a time last night! The blind broke, we had to tape it with medical tape. Once we got it fixed there was about 30 cows in the field that wouldn't leave us alone. So we moved them into another pasture" he said. Speechless by the dedication of them to get everything set up, but in the back of my mind I remember thinking I hope those turkeys are still there after all of that. We made our way to the blind as the moon lit our path. We approached and began to set up the DSD decoys, I asked CJ, "Where is he roosted at?" In that big oak right there as he pointed to the treeline less than 60 yards away from where we stand. "Oh My" I whispered. " That would be like sleeping through the indy 500, or a playoff hockey game I thought. We no sooner got all of our camera equipment set and were greeted by a Gobble that sounded like he was sitting right beside us in the blind. followed by his buddy gobbling beside him. As the sun began to rise, we spotted him roosted on a limb of the big oak CJ mentioned earlier. Full strut and his head as red as a firetruck.

We are in the game! But we aren't alone. A lone hen began her tree cadence. She was roosted down in the hollow below him. My next step was to mimic her, cut her off and make her angry. I knew the chips were not in our favor as I figured she was his main squeeze. As predicted, he followed her into the depths of the hollow as she left her perch. CRAP! I followed up with a fly down scenario joined by a series of excited yelps. " GOBBLE " well he knows we are still here. "Anything can happen now." I told myself as I looked into our decoy setup of a breeder hen and lookout. A few moments passed before our turkeys revealed themselves on a nearby pond breast. The 2 gobblers began chasing each other around attempting to determine dominance. As the boys sorted out there differences, our once enemy " the lone hen" emerged from the under brush and headed towards our setup. She to was making herself known as the Boss lady in the area and I stuck to my guns interrupting her and calling her everything in the book. She was buying into the bickering, with her two boy toys in tow. She locked eyes with our DSD lookout hen and was on a war path. "Could it be our once enemy is now our ally?" She closed the gap fast, walking close enough to the blind I could see her eyes blink. As she met up with the decoys, 1 of the 2 gobblers was also in hot pursuit. But amidst the 3 appealing ladies that stand infront of him, I do give him credit he was very cautious. Full strut he used the landscape to skirt our setup and enter it from the back side. I have some had news for him, I'm not holding a slingshot in my hand I have my daddy's Winchester 1300 I shot my first turkey with and a 3 inch apex round in the pipe ready to knock his socks off.

The lone hen cleaned herself as she got in her comfort zone with the DSD's. At that moment I realized that it was the same gobbler as yesterday. His distinct tail fan gave away his identity. His paint brush drag the ground as he closed the gap. I could see the frost on it from dragging on is way in. He took his final steps and we let him get his thirty seconds of fame before I let the Apex out of the cage. The shotgun blast catching our new friend " lone hen" off guard as her boy toy lay motionless in the frost covered grass. A rush of emotion, and the ice breaker of what had been a hard fought season thus far. Even with the odds stacked against us, I realized if you got them close anything can happen! Sometimes all it takes is to get aggressive and hope they read the script! I can't thank Carmen and everyone at Ohio Land and Cattle enough for the opportunity to join them this spring. I will always have them marked on my calendar for turkey season!

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