Last fall I rekindled an affair with a Sweet Sixteen. This 16 gauge Model 12 got little use last fall but the few birds that fell in front of the muzzle cemented the relationship. Early this spring I sent the barrel to Briley's for a set of thin wall, flush fit choke tubes, one of which was to be made Extra Full as this 16 was to become a generalist. I explained to the tech this particular choke would be used with either # 6 or # 5 coppered or nickeled lead shot. A week before our general Turkey season was to open the barrel and chokes arrived. I headed straight to the range to pattern some loads hoping that at least one would throw enough pellets into a Turkey head silhouette at 35 yards to deliver a decisive blow when the time came. The first rounds I tried were Fiocchi, Golden Pheasant, 1-1/8 oz, nickeled # 5's with a velocity of 1300 fps. I shot three rounds at three silhouettes and averaged 11 pellets in the neck and head. The pattern was centered perfectly, I never tested another load. Note to self: place Briley on the Christmas card list.
The first day my daughter and I hiked into an area we have hunted for the past three years. Where we planned to start found us in competition with another hunter that had stumbled onto the property in the dark. Undeterred we moved on and hunted until eleven before circling back to the truck. We had covered roughly 4 miles both gaining and losing some credible elevation. Lexi suffered through the last 1/2 mile with blisters but never complained. That morning she had heard four toms that I never managed to hear and soon after sunrise she said they all went silent. We have become quite a team.
The following weekend I rose at 4am and tried to pry my daughter out of bed. After three attempts I gave up, shut out the lights and stepped into the mild predawn darkness, it was slightly overcast and humid. This morning I was traveling light. Three shells, a small folding knife, one old Lynch box call I have had since I was a teenager, and a diaphragm call that somehow still sounds seductive. As I stepped from the truck robins had already begun to stir and soon Nighthawks rose at my feet as I hurried up the old two track. I had less than a half an hour before the show I hoped to see would begin. As I neared my objective I paused for a moment to catch my breath and slid three rounds into the Model 12. As I wiped the sweat from my brow I heard the unmistakable sound of a turkey leaving the roost and seconds later a bird sailed 100 yards over my head on a glide path that would take her hundreds of yards down the draw. Moments later another bird yelped softly in a tree to my left and then pitched into space and followed her sister. I hurried the last 50 yards to the edge of a small clearing that lay at the base of two hollows. I had learned over the last three years this one area was the preferred roost for many of the birds on this property. When they left the roost they went one of two ways. Landing either in or close to this clearing or dropping almost horizontally into the ridge and heading straight uphill. If they went uphill I was in for quite a walk to try set up in front of them. At this location I have never called one downhill.