It was 10 minutes after 11 when the gobbling woke me up. The last hour-and-a-half I had spent sleeping and soaking up the late April sunshine.
It was warmer now, and the bugs had begun to move around. My nap had freshened me and I was ready to do battle with the black-feathered monarch of the Central Illinois woods.
I first spoke with this big tom at about 9 a.m. I had already managed to mess up one gobbler right at daylight. An untimely movement on my part sent the first bird of the day to another county, or maybe even another state.
But I learn quickly and I would not make the same mistake twice in the same morning.
I knew my gobbler was with the hens when he answered my first call at about 8:50. I made loud, excited cutting calls into his valley and he responded immediately. I also heard one or more hens call from his exact location.
Patience was the key for this bird. I made a series of yelps, which he answered, and then I shut up and took my nap.
Many years chasing these big birds has taught me a lot about patience. Gobblers do not mind taking their time to do most anything they do. The only time they hurry is when they are leaving.
I knew this old boy would service and then slowly lose his hens. I also knew he would come back looking for the one he never saw. He would come back looking for me.
As is their usual practice, he came back to the exact spot where we began our conversation several hours earlier. As he reached this point he began to gobble to reinstate the contact with the hen he heard that morning.
As he woke me with this racket, he was about 80 yards away.
I took my time to set up. I got comfortable. I adjusted my head net, and readied my calls. I was prepared to take great care and great time if need be, to harvest this old bird.
My first call was just a couple of clucks and a purr. I figured this round could take quite a while.
His gobble was so close and caught me so far off-guard that the hair on the back of my neck stood up so fast it almost knocked my cap off.