By Gary Clancy

Spring weather in Minnesota is fickle. Hunt turkeys long enough
and you are likely to experience everything from snowstorms to
oppressive heat. Funny thing about hunters. They seem to remember
the bad weather days better than they can recall those all-too-few
perfect ones. I’m no different.

One time out in the Black Hills, one of my favorite places in
the whole world to hunt turkeys, a couple of so-called buddies
dropped me off on a mountain two-track in a driving rainstorm and
told me that they would return in an hour. I headed on up the
mountain and darned if I didn’t blunder into a small flock of
turkeys. The wind was blowing so hard that the rain was coming down
horizontally instead of vertically. I noticed that the raindrops
were getting slushy. The turkeys could probably not see any better
than I could in that gale force rain, which I am sure is the only
reason I managed to stumble onto them 70 yards away.

I would like to say that I called the big Merriam’s gobbler in,
but although I did call and call as loudly as I could, I doubt that
the gobbler ever heard me. A couple of times he gobbled. I could
not hear the gobble, but when they stick that neck out like that
and open their beak, that is usually a pretty good sign that they
are gobbling. I slipped around to get in position and killed that
gobbler. Then I hustled back to the road to wait for my ride. It
was three hours before they showed up. Dave Greer is still
apologizing to me for that one.

The most snow I have ever hunted turkeys in was on another hunt
in the Black Hills. An April snowstorm had swept across the area
overnight leaving a half foot of wet, heavy snow on the ground and
clinging to all of the Ponderosa pines. It was beautiful, but
getting to where I wanted to hunt took some doing, even with
four-wheel drive. By the time I finally got there it was three
hours after sunrise. I just took off walking looking for turkey
tracks. When I found the tracks of a gobbler heading straight down
the mountain I followed. About a half hour later, I spotted the
gobbler huddled under a pine tree about 100 yards away. I sat down,
propped my shotgun over my knee and gave a couple of quiet
yelps.

That must have been the only hen that gobbler had heard all
spring. He ran up the hill as fast as he could through that deep
snow. A Merriam is the most beautiful of all of the sub-species of
wild turkeys, but this one, against that backdrop of virgin white
was especially beautiful and a sight I’ll never forget.

Another time, I was hunting down in Missouri, and it had rained
steady for three days. Not a gentle spring rain either. Day and
night for three days straight it just poured down. On the third
morning, I was about to give up and head back for camp when I
thought I heard a bird gobble. I had the hood up on my rain jacket
and the rain was pounding down so hard that I could not be sure
what I had heard was really a gobble. You know how it is? Sometimes
you want to hear a bird gobble so bad that you imagine hearing
things. But just in case the gobble I had heard was real, I stood
behind a stout oak and belted out the loudest cutts I could muster
on my mouth call.

The gobbler hammered back and this time there was no mistaking
the sound. I thought the gobbler was a long ways off by the muffled
sound of his gobble, but it was not 10 seconds later when he popped
over the ridge 40 yards in front of me.

He just sounded a long way off because of all of the noise the
rain was making. I shot him and since I had an Iowa tag in my
pocket and had to go through Iowa to get home anyway. I stopped to
hunt on a friends farm in Iowa later that morning. It was still
raining hard when I parked the pickup, and I’ll admit that I was so
sick of hunting in the rain that I almost said “the heck with it”
and just headed home. I’m glad I didn’t. A couple of hours later I
killed a giant southern Iowa gobbler that weighed over 26
pounds.

Larry Boughten and I worked together to take a big gobbler off a
rocky outcropping overlooking Duschee Creek down by Lanesboro a few
years back. That was another really nasty morning. It started out
as a heavy rain and then turned to wet snow. The wind was blowing,
too. The Old Scutter had packed it in as soon as he heard the
forecast for that last day of our season. The Old Scutter is not
fond of rain. Larry and I stayed. I had taken a gobbler earlier in
the week, but I get a bigger kick out of watching someone else take
a bird than I do shooting one myself, so I hung around to share
Larry’s hunt.

It was mid-morning before we made contact with the gobbler.
That’s not unusual when the weather is nasty. Birds sit on the
roost longer when it is raining or snowing. We knew where this one
was as soon as he answered our hard, loud cutts. We had both hunted
gobblers on the point this bird was occupying before. It was a
tough place to reach without being seen, which of course is why
gobblers liked to strut their stuff on that point.

We got within about 100 yards and Larry snuggled down on his
Browning while I went to work on a glass call. It took forever, but
the old boy finally broke and came strutting down the ridge. The
snow had built up on the ground by then and he was about as pretty
as a gobbler can get strutting his stuff amidst the snow covered
cedars. Larry put him down for the count. We have been together on
other gobblers, but that is the one we always remember when we get
together.

Like I said, the worse the weather, the better the memories.

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