Sunday, February 19, 2006

Close Encounters

© By Othmar Vohringer

On a glorious May morning my hunting partner and I went turkey hunting in a northern Illinois state park. This was my partner’s first turkey hunt and I wanted it to be a memorable experience for him. Little did we know that this would become the most memorable day in our lives. The predawn found us in a prime spot that I had scouted out the previous week just for this occasion. I chose an ambush site on the edge of a woodlot and just below a ridge top. After flying down from the roost the turkeys would walk along the ridge top that gently sloped down to an open field.

The set up was perfect. Any tom that would come in to investigate my calling would have to walk within shooting distance before he could see where the calls came from. On public land this is my favourite set up. Lets face it. Public land turkeys are smart and hunter-wise; they know instantly that something is wrong when they can hear a hen call but from a distance can’t see another turkey where they expect it to be. Setting up in such a way that a gobbler has to walk within shooting distance to be able to see will greatly improve your odds of shooting a tom on public land.

I was sitting comfortably and well camouflaged in my ASAT 3-D suit at the bottom of an old oak located about 30 yards inside the woodlot. My hunting partner was located about 40 yards to my left and forward from my location at the edge of the woodlot at the bottom of an old pine tree that gave him good cover. As soon as my partner gave me the signal that he was ready I began to produce soft yelps and purrs with a few gentle clucks mixed in for good measure on a slate call.

It didn’t take long until my calling was answered with thunderous gobbles. Judging by the sound it had to be at least three toms answering my imitation of a lovesick hen. I could tell from the sound that one of the birds had come closer to our set up and signalled to my partner to get his gun ready. If the longbeard kept coming from that direction he would walk right past my partner. Should he change direction and come to the right of my partner I would get a shot at him. Either way that tom was as a good as ours provided he kept coming. More soft hen talk produced no more answers from the gobbler, which is not uncommon for public land turkeys and meant that he could be very close or that he had lost interest. I kept looking intently to my right side, carefully scanning the area for every little movement with my shotgun at the ready to send a swarm of angry # 4 pellets the gobbler’s way the moment he should pop his head up from anywhere inside 40 yards. My partner did the same; covering his shooting lanes to the left side. I could feel the tension and excitement oozing from both of us.

I must have been preoccupied like that for, oh I don't know, maybe 15 or 20 minutes when I felt something tugging on my ASAT 3-D camouflage pants. Should I turn around and see what it was or keep looking out for that big old tom that might at any second walk right in front of my Winchester's 12 gauge barrel? Eventually the tugging got more persistent to the point where I had the distinct feeling something was nibbling on my leg. Finally I had enough of that interruption of my concentration. Slowly I began to turn my head in minute increments because turkeys have exceptional eyesight and can spot you blinking an eye from 100 yards away, so slow motion movement in an absolute must.

I turned my head just enough to see from the corner of my eyes what the cause of the distraction was. “What the heck!” I shouted as I jumped up. My heart was racing at such speeds that I feared I might become the victim of a heart attack while at the same time trying to stop my bladder from emptying itself into my pants. I was literally face to face with a big whitetail buck trying to eat my leafy camo pants. My hunting partner turned around to see what the commotion was all about and became my crown witness for something that nobody would believe if I told them without his back up. Seconds after my initial shout of surprise the buck snorted, did an about-face, and crashed through the woods like a runaway train almost knocking my hunting partner over. He probably was more scared than I was. The buck was no stranger to me, only a button buck at this time of year, I recognized his gnarly old face and slight limb as the big 8 point with heavy mass antlers that I hunted hard in the past season.

What really puzzled me about this encounter was how close this buck came to me. I mean he nibbled on my camo pants! And since I was turkey hunting I never bothered to make sure I was wearing freshly laundered clothing or go to any length whatsoever to control human scent. When turkey hunting there is no need for such measures since turkeys can’t smell.

That he could be fooled by my ASAT camouflage, which blends in so well that a hunter becomes part of the surrounding vegetation even at very close range, did not surprise me. In the past I had animals and hunters completely overlook me dressed in ASAT camo. But that the deer chose to investigate something he could smell even though he could not see it (me) is still miraculous to me and so was that once in a lifetime experience where I was actually so close to a deer that I could have grabbed it by the antlers and felt his breath in my face.

About 15 years ago I conducted my own extensive camouflage effectiveness test. This was a test in which I tested four different camouflage patterns under the conditions deer and other game see it. When the test results came back ASAT was the clear winner leaving all other camouflage patterns literally in the dark. ASAT’s unique pattern mimics the light and shadows that are everywhere in nature; be that in a forest, dessert, mountains or in the marsh. ASAT works equally well in all seasons as it does in all terrains. It is this light shadow mimicry that does the best job of breaking the human outline completely up and lets a hunter vanish in plain sight of game and other hunters. Because of the results of this test my camouflage of choice is ASAT. Oh sure, I have seen deer and turkeys before while wearing other camouflage, but with ASAT I see more game because animals can’t see me. Ever wondered why that deer or turkey hangs up and keeps staring in your direction? Wear ASAT and that won’t happen again.

Incidentally, the following fall I scouted this buck’s hideout and knew that when the hunters came onto the land he would seek refuge on a neighbouring farm which was off-limits for hunters. But as it happened I knew the farmer very well and when I told him about the buck and that he blew my chances on a big old tom in the spring he gave me permission to hunt on his property. In the late winter season on a bitter cold January morning it all came together and I ran an arrow through that buck as he stepped right under my treestand.

To learn more about my choice of camouflage visit the ASAT website.

To learn more about Wild Turkeys and turkey hunting visit my blog Wild Turkey Fever.

To keep up to date about deer hunting visit my blog Whitetail Deer Passion

(Top image courtesy of Artemis Graphics and Design. Camouflage image used in this article courtesy of ASAT Outdoors, LLC.)

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Moose said...

Wow that is wild. Do you think some states would consider ASAT camo as bait? :D

Othmar Vohringer said...

Never thought of it that way Moose, but will look into the hunting regulations for you. Lol.

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