It’s hard to believe the last time I was spring turkey hunting I was a sophomore in college. School, moving to two different states and becoming a homeowner has absorbed the majority of my spring time over the past decade. I’m sure I’m not the only one finding it difficult to carve out time in the spring. This spring, however, I was determined to find time and hit the woods.
24 hours ago I was sitting in my popup blind overlooking my food plot for an evening hunt. Turkey hunting in the evening is always a little tricky but I’d been getting some trail cam pictures of birds using our food plot on their way to roost. However, this evening appeared to be a bust. No birds, no deer, no nothing. It was a beautiful evening, just nothing in the woods (so I thought).
I started packing up and texted my wife (who was at a local pizza joint/bar with our friends) that I was heading their way. I set my backpack outside the blind and as I’m reaching for my gun…there he was. A big, bright, red head staring right at me from behind a down tree. I froze, he froze. The stare down lasted what seemed like hours. Finally, he’ had enough and was gone.
Man was I pissed at myself. Had I waited a few minutes longer, he could have been mine. I sat tight and eventually heard him fly up in his roost at the edge of my property, where he proceeded to mock me by gobbling his head off. I slipped out of the woods and back up to the house, listening to him gobbled until I shut the back door. “Sleep tight, buddy. I’ll see you in the morning.”
At first light this morning I walked out back with my gear and he was already gobbling like crazy. Hoping I didn’t spook him too bad the evening before I setup in the same blind over my food plot. I did a few soft calls and he responded immediately. At 7:00AM, I heard him fly down. I called again, and he responded…from the neighbors field in the opposite direction. For a moment, my heart sank. He was far, really far. And I could only close the distance on him by about 100 yards before I was close to the neighbors property. I told myself “100 yards is the best you can do. Go after him.” So I did.
I slipped slowly through the woods calling as loud as I could every 20 yards, hoping to sound like a hen coming to him. As I approached the property line I setup at the base of a big down tree and got comfy. This was as far as I could go. He continued to gobble non-stop out in the field and every time I called, he immediately responded. Unfortunately, he was in no hurry to leave his field.
This cat-and-mouse game went on for over an hour. I wasn’t moving and he wasn’t moving. I decided to give him “the silent treatment,” a tactic known to all male species. And you could tell, he didn’t like it. He gobbled furiously out in his field with no response from me for over 20 minutes. Then, he went completely silent. My heart rate picked up as his silence meant he was likely back in the woods. A distance gobble straight in front of me confirmed he indeed was. Now the game was really on.
With my turkey back in the woods, I kept my calling soft and short. A few clucks, a few yelps, then nothing until he responded. I wanted him to know I was still there but I also wanted to keep him anxious and searching. He gobbled every 15 minutes or so, each time a little closer. And each time he did I responded with a few soft calls of my own. Finally, another hour later, he let out a gobble right in my lap. He was here.
At this point, I was done calling. He was close and I didn’t want to give away my exact position. I set my call down and started scanning the thick brush for movement. Finally, after over 2 hours of chit-chat back and forth, I saw him. That’s the good news. The bad news: He was walking a section of brush that led back behind me. I had almost no shots along his path.
As he slowly slipped through the brush I started slowly turning and angling my gun back behind me. As many of you hunters know, this is not a comfortable position. I remained in this position as he continued to slowly work his way behind the brush line. Then, he gave me a break.
Instead of continuing his path, he began angling slightly more towards me down a deer trail. I took my eyes off the bird, followed the deer trail and found an opening, MY OPENING, where two trails intersected. It was only about 2 feet wide and 40 yards away but it was the clearest shot I had. I slowly moved my gun over to that opening and watched my bird ease his way to it. When he hit my opening he stopped, picked his head up to look around and BOOM! Game. Set. Match.
In that moment, I felt like a kid again. The strategy of the hunt, the cat-and-mouse game for hours, the excitement a flopping bird signifying a lethal shot. I did it spring after spring from middle school to the early parts of college…and I loved it. Today took me back in time and it could not have been more fun. The end result: A beautiful Michigan turkey weighing 25 lbs with a 10 inch beard and 1 1/16 inch spurs. My first turkey on my property and my first turkey in 10 years. I mean it when I say it, IT COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE FUN!