To quote the infamous Yogi Berra, it was “like Deja-Vu all over again.”
The last time that Larry Keith, of Eau Claire, and I hunted turkeys together was three years ago. It was a good day for both of us.
We were hunting Crawford County, about a mile east of the Mississippi River, in the beautiful Driftless Area of Southwest Wisconsin. Larry set up his camouflage tent blind on the west edge of a woods, with a prairie behind him. I headed down into a deep valley to the west of his location.
There was nothing doing down in the valley, but around mid-morning I heard one shot and knew that Larry had a bird. I came up to find that he had a good sized gobbler. We took photos and felt good about the start of the day. I then decided to head down to the south end of the woods that Larry had been on the edge of and hunt there for the rest of the morning.
There was nothing doing, until shortly before noon I heard a lone gobble to the south of me. I yelped on my box call and immediately had a response. I yelped again but had no response. It became quiet and I was convinced that the bird I heard stayed where it had been until I suddenly heard the unmistakable low drumming sound of a gobbler.
The sound was coming from my left and I was on a hillside so I immediately had my gun up, with my elbows resting on my knees knowing a bird was somewhere downhill from me. Soon I saw the brilliant red and white head of a gobbler coming up from my left and about to cross in front of me. It would be in the clear between several trees within a matter of seconds, and as it made its way past the first tree I shot the bird at 14 yards. It was the largest tom I had ever shot at just shy of 25 pounds.
So, when Larry and I both received permits for the same hunting period of the 2012 season, we returned to the same land. After staying overnight in a log cabin, we headed out to our spots. Larry returned to the same spot where he shot his bird three years before, and this time I went way around to the very west side of the property.
Larry recounts that he had a hunt-of-a-lifetime, as shortly before 8 a.m. he saw six gobblers in the woods to the northwest of him. The birds were all in strut and there was lots of activity as hens were also in the woods and gobblers were mating with hens.
Eventually the largest gobbler meandered off following a hen, but the other five came toward Larry’s blind and decoy. As one gobbler separated from the others, Larry shot it at 15 yards just a few minutes before 8 a.m.. The bird weighed in at 26 and one-fourth pounds.
My morning was relatively silent until I heard Larry’s shot far to the east of me. But soon after I began to hear gobbling and gobbler yelps in a cornfield north of me. I answered with several yelps from my box call and heard a response that sounded closer.
I had a decoy about 19 yards to the east of me in a small path through the woods and soon I could hear that unmistakable drumming of a gobbler. I had been prepared, sitting at the base of a large aspen tree with my Model 1187 pointed right where I expected to see the bird. When I saw the brilliant white and red head it was closer than I thought it would be, but there was brush that blocked out some of the body.
I knew the bird would soon be behind more brush if I let it get even closer and decided to make a head shot, but I shot over the bird. It was confused and ran right over toward the decoy where I shot the 24 and one-half pound gobbler at 18 yards at 8:10 a.m. Several other jakes were purring in the woods behind, as they will now have to take up where the old gobbler left off.
Larry Keith and I like the pattern that we have. But we hope to repeat it sooner than in another three years.