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April 17: Sergeant First Class Rick Rice

MISSION: "Run and Gun" to harvest the weary Fort Knox Gobbler

I have always been a run and gunner and have never taken a bird with a bow, but the Sergeant Major "gently" persuaded me to try, and so I did. The first weekend was unsuccessful although we heard some gobbling, and we had a tom sneak by quietly. The rest of the weekend was unproductive. It seemed that every weekend that it was my turn to hunt I was unsuccessful, and my patience was wearing very thin. So after talking to the Sergeant Major and "gently convincing" him to just let me run and gun, it was then that things took a turn for the better.

It was 0545 on 18 April when Sergeant Major Simpson and I made link-up for what would turn out to be a trying but successful morning. The previous day we drew hunting area 18, an area that I have hunted several times in the past for deer and turkey. After the Sergeant Major and I did our PCC’s (pre combat checks), we set out to the top of a hill next to an old cemetery and waited and watched the sky start to turn red orange. It was about a ten minute wait and he did it; the bird gobbled one time and that was enough for us to make our move and occupy our battle position.

Once set in place, we had a total of four birds sounding off around us. Now it was just a matter of who wanted it the most. I started with a few soft cuts and yelps just to get the birds' attention, and a few minutes later I followed it all up with a fly down series. The birds responded, and we knew it was game on. As I was cutting and yelping one of the gobblers began the foot march in our direction and let us know how excited he was with every yelp. As he closed the distance, he started to make his way behind me, and all of a sudden, as if the lords of the great hunting grounds were playing an awful joke, a coyote came sneaking in and pitched the weary gobbler into a tree about 40 yards behind me. The spooked gobbler sat there for what seemed to be an eternity and took notice of the decoys and went to full strut on the limb; however, he flew down and walked away. Well, it’s called running and gunning, so we picked up and moved to another battle position, trying to catch any birds that wanted to play dodge the boom stick with us.

The birds must have not have read the script as none gave away their position. Dejected, we then proceeded to return back toward the old cemetery when we saw single hens running out of the tall grass, and then it happened! A gobbler gave us a fix on his position, and said he was willing to play.

Gobbling only once, we made our move about 300 yards across the open ground towards the timber. Once there, we decided to set up on top of an old tank trail, but as we made our way up, the tom sounded off at a mere 50 yards. We backed down, set camera and decoys, and a few soft yelps later, he tried to play dodge the boom stick and lost. It was a trying day, but was well worth it.

Mission Complete....until next time....waiting for extraction and follow on orders.