Longbeard the King!

Nothing fires up an old gobbler like an interloper invading his territory. Make the trespasser a juvenile tom, or a jake, and he just can’t stand it. Want him to completely blow his top? Add a cougar hen to the scenario, and you’ll hear whistles of steam scream from his ears and nose.

Avian-X’s new LCD Half-Strut Jake and Laydown Hen are two of the most effective turkey fakes I’ve had the opportunity to use. Near photorealism matched with evocative body positioning creates a scenario that consistently flips a longbeard’s switch from cool to red hot.

Here’s a real-life experience where this matched pair did its job and then some.

Hunting in north Mississippi on private land surrounded by Holly Spring National Forest, we set up on a point of trees that extended into a large field of clover and wheat. This was an evening hunt after our morning was a bust on the national forest. Getting in early, friend Kevin Howard, a local hunter and our chaperone Lawrence and I watched as upwards of 20 birds filtered into the field over the course of the next couple of hours.

We watched intently as two longbeards, several hens and a dozen jakes worked their way from one end of the field to the other with little interest in our calling. Occasionally, they’d stick their heads up to look in our direction, but with 20 mph winds, their interest was not enough to draw them to our side. Just before dark, however, a lone tom paraded onto the field with the sole intention of establishing his dominance. The twin gobblers discretely left, but the boss tom took on the entire gang of jakes and singly ran each one off the field.

He, too, glanced toward us in response to our calls, but he eventually went back the way he came as he headed toward roost.

In the pitch black of morning, we carefully picked a spot for a blind on the same side of the field where all of the action happened the night before, and we set out decoys 20 yards in front. As the sky brightened, gobbling across the field gave us hope that at least one of the longbeards would venture out and see our realistic fakes. As the sun rose, the gobbles faded, and we settled in for what we assumed was a standoff.

Boisterous gobbling through the short pines behind us shook Lawrence and me from our daze, and the calling contest began. The bird gobbled at every crow, goose, truck or plane that interrupted the silence. He answered every call as he strutted on a planted road about 100 yards through the pines. Back and forth he walked — we assume strutted — and gobbled at least 100 times over the next 20 minutes.

Two hens popped out onto the field from the planted road to my left, and I positioned to take the gobbler as he followed. It was a short shot of 30 yards to the mouth of the road, and my safety was off and finger lingered above the trigger awaiting his appearance. Then he went quiet. Contrary to the path I assumed he’d take, he circled back and entered the field 80 yards to our right. I repositioned inside the blind as he strutted, walked and strutted some more. He folded his wings and made a beeline to our decoys. At 35 yards, I shot just as he dipped his head with a step and the gobbler jumped, ran 10 or 15 feet and stopped to see what caused the commotion. My second shot did not miss.

What riled this bird so? It was a setup a dominant tom couldn’t refuse. Twenty yards in front of the blind on short ridge in the field, we positioned the Avian-X Half Strut Jake 5 feet behind a provocative Laydown Hen. The old longbeard would not tolerate this unknown whippersnapper getting lucky in his territory. No way, no how.

Walking out of the field with a north Mississippi Eastern gobbler was a satisfying conclusion of a carefully laid plan actually coming together. Using a convincing decoy spread in a manner that took advantage of this gobbler’s territorial behavior worked perfectly, and now another tom will have a chance to wear the crown as king of the field.

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