Harvesting a turkey is always special, but it is even more special when you can hunt and harvest a turkey on your family’s land. Our hunt started late Sunday. After spending an awesome Mother’s Day with my son Nick and Brad, Brad and I headed to Brainerd. We got to there mid-evening and decided to put on our camo and head out to scout the birds heading to roost. Brad asked if I was going to take the gun. I didn’t think we would need it but okay. As we were headed toward the roosting area, we heard gobbling. Brad called and the tom responded to our calls. So we set up in a small opening on the ground. He was out in an open field and we figured he would head through a small shooting lane and into the opening to get to his roost. He surprised us and came around from the left through some thick brush and strolled by about 15 yards in front of us! I struggled to get into shooting position and he didn’t offer me a clean shot. I was frustrated but hopeful because I wasn’t even planning to have an opportunity for a bird that evening. I hoped it was an indication of greater things to come. The tom headed up to roost. As we were walking out to our truck, Brad “shushed” me and in a tall tree not 50 yards from our truck, he was up in the roost in a wide open pasture.
On Monday morning, we headed out the door about 4:30. The Roosted Tom was facing east the last time we saw him so that is the side we decided to set up on. This meant walking an extra mile from the cabin, through the woods and down the fence line, so we wouldn’t bump him. It was our hope he would fly down and head back toward the open field he came from that evening. At daybreak he flew down toward us and kept answering our calls, even gobbling when we weren’t calling. Unfortunately instead of walking through the open pasture to our right he got hung up on a small swamp that was between our blind and him. We called, he gobbled, we called, he gobbled, we called, well you get the point. This lasted for about 45 minutes and he finally got frustrated and head off into the woods. At that point, we decided to pack up the Covert blind and our stuff and head cross country to see if we could cut him off. We were hearing gobbles in the distance and decided on an opening that has multiple trails running through it. Either we would encounter the Roosted Tom or perhaps some other bird in the area. We set up the blind and shortly after, we heard a gobble. We were pretty sure it was the Roosted Tom. YES! We beat him to the opening. (Note: We had two sides of the blind open to the two potential lanes we thought he might present himself. We also had a jake and hen inflatable decoy set out kitty corner to the right and another hen decoy kitty corner to the left.)
Twenty minutes went by with some gobbling in the distance and some gobbling from what we hoped to be the Roosted Tom. All of a sudden out of what seemed like no where and from the blind side of the blind, we hear something running toward us. There is a turkey attacking the inflatable jake decoy!!! He was a very small tom but thought he could take on that “lightweight” jake. I could hardly keep from laughing out loud. His “attack” lasted about 10 seconds, then he was about 5 feet behind our blind drumming and spitting….He must have decided not to do battle and walked off.
Shortly after, we heard our Roosted Tom again as well as some gobbles in the distance just opposite him, so we turned the blind about 90 degrees. That would give us a better view of the trails we thought the turkeys might take. Sure enough, three jakes came walking down the trail coming from the left and just then, our Roosted Tom comes out from the right! The jakes are now 10 feet in front of the blind and we are locked down. The Roosted Tom is gobbling and strutting. He spins a couple of times. He is 30 yards out, but if I move to get in position for a shot, the jakes are going to bust me. We watch as he struts and walks off back where he came from. We could hear a hen aggressively pulling him back. My heart sinks…We have been hunting him since last night, he is 30 yards out, and no shot. The jakes follow him.
Not 10 minutes later, the same 3 jakes come strolling back by from the right, offering many opportunities to shoot. They could care less about the blind. They were dusting themselves. Two of them just laid down in the grass for about 7 or 8 minutes. All of a sudden, they started acting spooked. The distant gobbling we had been hearing stopped, and from the left comes 3 TOMS! My heart was racing so fast I could hardly breath. Each tom was chasing a jake, it was complete mayhem in front of us, TURKEYS RUNNING EVERYWHERE. When I think back to what we were witnessing I start laughing out loud. It was hilarious to watch them. Brad did a great job of calling and turned two of the toms. They came running right toward the blind. Now my heart was beating so hard I thought it was rattling the blind. I tried to take aim at one of the toms, but with all of the confusion and trying to reposition myself, I was stressed and not ready. I missed. What a great opportunity AND I MISSED. I was very frustrated with myself. I told Brad later that I wasn’t upset at myself about missing the shot, I was upset that I pulled the trigger. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t confident about shooting and I shouldn’t have taken the chance.
Those birds stayed in the area and circle our blind about 50 yards out for about 45 more minutes. They would walk away and come back from different angles. We kept repositioning our blind, but they didn’t get close enough to offer another shot. At that point, it was about 1:45 and we decided to take a break. We headed back to the cabin for a sandwich and to regroup.
That afternoon, we set up in a completely different spot in the middle of the woods. We figured we would hunker down and go mobile if we heard some gobbles. About an hour into our wait, we heard a gobble back in the direction of the cabin. So we grabbed the gun and headed out. We got over there too late. We had to go around a large water hole and swamp. Whoever it was went silent. But, we did hear something gobbling, back in the direction of the blind! So, back over we went. Nothing. By then we were hungry and tired. (Okay it was more me, but we had walked about 6 miles carrying gear and I was pooped.) We had hunted hard from sunrise – 7 pm. We decided to give the birds a break, no roosting, just head back. On our way out, along one of the fence lines in the pasture we saw a porcupine. He was lumbering along. We stopped and watched as he slowly walked over to a tree and climbed right up. It is amazing to watch them use their front paws just like hands. I named him Petey. If they have a name they are not scary (See Brad’s post on Squeakers the Mouse.) We had had an AWESOME day. Great encounters. I didn’t count the gobbles but it must have been over 200. We saw at least 5 different toms and 3 jakes (12 deer, a chipmunk, several ducks, 4 sandhill cranes and a porcupine.) It was also special for me to have that time with Brad. We haven’t had a lot of time to spend just the two of us. No other people, no cell phones, not email, just some time away. We make a pretty good team!
Tuesday morning we woke up at 4 am ready to head out again. The wind had been howling all night long and hadn’t let up. I knew that we were at a disadvantage if the birds couldn’t hear us and we would have a hard time hearing them. We discussed strategy and decided to set up our blind about 100 yards south of where we had the chaotic encounter with the jakes and toms. We set up along a wide grassy trail that also intersects another trail and there is also a large opening where they all convene. We set up a full strut tom decoy with a bedded hen, thinking that if one of the toms saw it down one of the paths it might draw him closer. I made a promise to myself that we would sit tight until noon. So we set up and climbed in. We heard a couple of gobbles off in the distance occasionally but not nearly the action of yesterday. We discussed trying to go after one of the birds if they got really vocal but that didn’t happen. About 7:20 one of the gobbles started getting closer, so Brad started calling (slate call). A tom came down the path from our left. Brad could see him before I could. He was curious about the decoy, but didn’t want to get too close. Obviously he wasn’t boss Tom…He walked out then started heading back down the trail. He was a little out of shooting distance. When he did get close enough, he was behind a metal fence post and I didn’t have a shot. Suddenly, he started acting nervous, we looked down the path and there were two deer, they blew and ran off. The tom then turned and started walking back toward the trail opening but was back further then we wanted for a shot and looked like he was going to head down the opposite side of the fence line away from us. Brad called a couple of times, very aggressively with the slate call and turned him. All I needed was two more steps closer. I asked Brad if he was close enough to shoot. He said Yes. It was now or never. When the tom lifted up his head, I slowly squeezed the trigger and down he went. WHOO HOO! My first Minnesota turkey! I shot him at about 35 yards. The difference between yesterday’s shot and today’s was that I was prepared. I rehearsed how I would position myself and the gun and I was confident in the shot I was taking.
Every time I am out I learn so much more about hunting from Brad, about calling, positioning, decoy use, turkey behavior, the list goes on. I cherish the time in the field and the time outdoors. This may sound kind of corny but it is so amazing to sit and watch all of the creatures in their own habit and share a small piece of what God created. I also had a great guide!
Author: Tina Hebert