A short but very sweet turkey hunt
The night before walleye season opened in the Upper Peninsula there was still a little ice floating around in our neighborhood. For the most part, it was gone from boat ramps and the spots where most people would be fishing, but just barely.
Likewise, there were still snowdrifts here and there in the woods when my buddy Joe tagged his first turkey earlier this month. I hadn’t been in the woods with a gun, yet, but I was able to go along to help him out by working the call.
It was an exciting, but short-lived hunt. The gobbler was tagged less than an hour after we parked the truck.
I’ve written about this spot before – it’s a wonderful place to watch ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, grouse, deer and a good number of shorebirds and songbirds while you’re watching the sun come up and waiting for a lovesick turkey to answer your calls.
The sun hadn’t broken the horizon when we heard this gobbler broadcasting his presence from his roost. We headed for a line of pines on the edge of a hayfield that has produced birds in the past. As we got ourselves situated against a big red pine, the gobbler let loose again. He was much closer than we had thought. After giving him a few soft yelps on a box call, to which he responded enthusiastically, we kept quiet.
Ten minutes later, Joe saw the bird flap out of the roost and we both saw him land in the hayfield, just barely out of range. I rarely use a decoy for this very reason – I like to keep the gobbler guessing about the hen’s location. It often makes the difference between a bird hung-up out of range and one that comes a few steps closer.
I should have taken video of the bird displaying and strutting, but I didn’t want to screw up anything for Joe. We watched the show while hardly making a peep on the call. The only time we called was when the gobbler started to move away from us. But even with the sweet talk, he was leery about coming closer.
My heart sank a bit when the bird headed farther down the field, but from the sound of its gobbling, it was still interested. I whispered to Joe that he could pivot toward the bird, now that it was out of sight.
In what seemed like an eternity, we heard the gobbler turn back toward the hayfield as I called again and scratched a stick in the leaves to make it sound as if his love interest was getting antsy.
Joe saw the bird before I did and asked if it was close enough to shoot. I knew it was close, and whispered, “Can you see its head?” He answered by sending a load of 6 shot on its way.
As I’ve mentioned before, Joe is fairly new to hunting and he’s had some pretty good experiences over the past several years. His smile said everything when he put the tag on his first turkey.
“I was geeked from the beginning after hearing him gobble,” he said. “I had to control my breathing – I felt like I just ran a marathon…It was really cool seeing him fly down in the fog.”
Having read quite a bit about how hunts are supposed to go, he compared this turkey hunt to a hunt for diving ducks we’d had last fall.
“They were very similar…Those divers in October, when we had a shooting spree and they came into the decoys like everyone says they should. Then the turkey hunt, where you find a bird, call it down and watch it come in…two textbook hunts.”
Yes, I agree. Two hunts for the books, and I hope many more to come.