BY DAN GEDDINGS
Shannon called me the other day, and we were talking about some issues on the club when he casually remarked that he had cut the grass at the block house. Then he added, “There is a cow there.”
His statement caught me somewhat by surprise, as our hunt club land there doesn’t join a farm with cows. There are some cattle ranches in the general area but not particularly close. The rogue cow would have had to break out of its pasture, alone, and wander a good distance, traversing some woodlands to get to the property. Even though I was a little surprised, I have seen it happen before.
Years ago, my duck hunting buddies and I leased a duck pond near the lake. There was a prominent farmer nearby that had a big herd of cattle. One year a big black cow showed up at our pond near the end of the duck season. We figured that it came from that local herd. Our small pond was a shallow water impoundment that was drawn down in late winter, then planted in the spring. The cow was a concern, because we didn’t want it in our field. We let the farmer know, but apparently the cow was too wild for him to catch.
The cow wandered over a large area and didn’t really cause any damage to our crop, so we pretty much forgot about it. Until turkey season. The landowner allowed me to hunt the turkeys there, and on an afternoon hunt, I brought along my brother, Matt. We parked near the duck pond and walked an old timber road through some piney woods and an old stand of hardwoods that bordered the lake. We stopped occasionally to call and listen, then worked our way on down the road to an old field. We stopped just short of the top of the field and called, and a turkey gobbled near the far end of the field.
Now, we were in business. We hunched over and approached the edge of the field, just off the road. We didn’t see any turkeys, but we did see the big black cow out in the field grazing. There were no big trees at the edge to sit down beside and lean against, so we just laid down in the brush where we could see most of the field. The cow was unaware of our presence.
I took my box call out and made a yelp. The turkey gobbled again and walked out into the lower end of the field, in full strut. The gobbler would strut a few steps, then slicken up and walk a few more steps. When I called, he would stop and gobble, then strut a few more steps. He was slowly moving along the far edge of the field toward the top end, but he made no attempt to head across the field toward us. The grass at our side of the field was tall enough to hide us lying on the ground, but we could peer through it well enough to follow his progress.
I had a collapsible hen decoy in my vest but couldn’t go out into the field to put it up where it could be seen without being busted by the gobbler, or the cow. The ground seemed to get harder and harder the longer we laid there, and the old longbeard was in no hurry. The wind must have been right because the cow never showed any awareness of our presence, just kept its head down eating grass and paid no attention to our calling or the turkey’s gobbles.
The cow was out in the field a little ways and had only moved a few steps. The turkey was slowly moving along the far edge of the field. Suddenly I realized that the turkey’s line of travel would eventually take him past the cow, and when he walked behind the cow, his view toward us would be blocked. I pulled out my decoy, got it on a stake and waited.
The cow had not looked up since we had been there, and I was confident it wouldn’t see me crawl out into the field. So, when the gobbler walked behind the cow, I crawled out into the field and stuck the decoy up, then crawled backward into the brush beside Matt, just as the gobbler cleared the cow. I took out my call and made a pretty loud yelp. Loud enough to cause the gobbler to stop and look in our direction. He saw the hen decoy and started across the field in our direction!
The old turkey strutted all the way across the field, stopping occasionally to spit and drum. I never called again, and he never gobbled again. At 40 yards, Matt couldn’t take it anymore, and I said, “Don’t you miss.” He didn’t. The cow lunged and ran from the field at the shot. When we got up to go to the gobbler, I told Matt, “Now that’s how you use a cow.”
Email Dan Geddings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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