But, whoa. Just what are we talking about here? Well, that's an excellent question, and while I may have the answer to that particular quandary, Mister Drury, when I was able to pin him down between shows, the National Wild Turkey Federation annual convention, and hours upon hours spent with his brother, Terry, in the video editing suite, had answers aplenty on the rest.
So, just what are we talking about when we're talking about close? Well, it all has to do with how close - See? - one gets to a roosted gobbler first thing in the morning. Time was when the school of thought said to stay a safe and respectable distance away from the Old Boy while he was still on the limb. 'Get close enough so that you'll be that very first hen he hears in the morning,' we were told. 'But not so close that you're gonna spook 'im.' So, with that advice in mind, we listened as the seminar speakers and the books told us - STOP! - at right around 100 yards distance from a roosted tom. Give or take a couple steps, depending on the terrain. Why'd we stop at 100 yards? One, the books and 'experts' told us to. And, two, we, myself included, were flat a'scared. We were afraid of ending the contest before it ever began. Afraid of bumping that old longbeard off his perch while the hoot owls were still hooting and the lightning bugs where still flashing. So we stopped at 100 yards, and often got to hear - or worse, got to watch - as our gobbler walked off with the morning's harem.
But Drury, aggressive turkey hunter that he is, started to get the reputation for doing things a little - well - differently. He began to change the definition of the word close as it pertained to the distance between a hunter and his first-light, still on the limb gobbler; HOWEVER, he didn't do it in a 'well...I'll blunder in here and see what happens' kind of fashion. No, sir. Drury's plan was to sneak his way into that old gobbler's bedroom without being seen and without being heard. Hell, he wanted to sit on the turkey's bedside table and look him square in the beak the very minute the alarm went off. But as you might have guessed, all this stealth didn't come without ample planning and preparation.
"Typically," says Drury, "this is going to be a bird I've dealt with on more than one occasion during the season. If I just can't get on him and can't get on him after fly-down...well, that's when I'm looking to get right in on him."
"Roosting this bird the night before," he continues, "plays a key role. Knowing exactly where he is, is of the utmost importance. Sure, that's hard to do on a piece of property you're hunting for the first time, or a piece that you're not all that familiar with. No, this is a piece of ground that you know intimately. You know where he is, AND you know how to get there."
Timing, and taking your time, both, says Drury, also are key elements in this close-quarters game.
"You're not going to get up close when it's breaking day. If it's a full moon or it's a bright clear night, again, you might have a problem getting within 40 or 50 yards. I'm looking for a cloudy morning, one where I can use darkness on top of darkness to cover up my movements," he said.
"And you have to take your time. You simply cannot be in a hurry. It might take me 20 minutes to cover the first 150 yards to this bird, and then another 20 minutes to go the next 150 feet," Drury continued.
And let me add here, if I might, that having hunted with Mark in Missouri during the '02 season, I can tell you that any fumbling around he's going to do is done at the truck or within the first 100 yards on his way to this 'up close and personal' bird. Fifty yards from a roosted bird that in all likelihood can see you is no time to be screwing around searching for headnets, shotshells, strikers, or whatever. Which brings me to something else that Drury mentioned - movement.
"Don't kid yourself. Unless it's late in the season and the foliage is providing cover for you, there's a really good chance that that turkey can see you. Here, I'm talking about using a diaphragm call; if, that is, you're going to call at all. Inside of 50 yards and you using a friction call of some type? Chances are he's going to see that movement," said Drury.
Movement. That implies a visual confirmation. Which brings us to an obvious - decoys.
"Always," says Drury. "I'll always use decoys in this type of situation. As I said, at the types of distances we're talking about here, if I'm concerned that he can see me, I'm very sure he can see a decoy. And if I can let a decoy do all my 'calling' for me, I'm perfectly fine with that."
Here's a tactic, one that I've come both to rely on and believe in over the past few seasons. If you're going to get in tight as Drury suggests, you might want to give some serious thought to preparing your decoy and your stake away from your intended set-up location. In other words - in advance. This way, once you pussyfoot into that magical 50 yards, you're not causing a ruckus trying to locate and then assemble plastic hens and folding stakes. You walk in, stick the decoy in the ground, step back, and sit down. True, you might want to carry the decoy close to your body so as not to create a turkey-shaped silhouette. Or better yet, cover it with a small, very lightweight piece of camo netting...anything to hide it.
What about calling in these types of situations? Does Drury subscribe to an aggressive calling style, one that might seem a fitting partner to his aggressive set-up tactics? Or does he wait to see what happens first before deciding what - if anything - he's going to say?
"I always let the bird make the first move. Always. After that, if I think it's necessary, I'll give him a fly-down with my hand or my hat. Or I'll give him a couple soft yelps. Very seldom, though, will I get aggressive with my calling first off. Now, if that bird hits the ground and starts to walk away, then I'll hit him with some aggressive calling," he says.
And finally, let's just say for the sake of conversation that your biggest fears become real, and as you're silently creeping your way toward the roost tree, you booger him. Scare him off. What then? Weep? A tantrum?
"No, it's not necessarily over if you bump a bird in the dark," says Drury. "In fact, if you bump all his hens, that might be the best thing you could have done. Separating that gobbler from his hens. Try him later that morning. Or maybe leave him alone and try him that afternoon, if you can hunt all day. Or try him again in the same place in the morning."
Notice the common denominator there? T-R-Y.