Ottertail County, MN Spring Turkey Report


Ottertail County has long been known for it’s rolling oaks, wetlands, and walleyes, but as a turkey hunting spot? Why would anyone drive north to hunt turkeys where only a decade ago there had been few to none? Because the same habitat that makes it a deer heaven, makes it a turkey hunter’s dream come true. I was along to simply call for some friends, in the hopes of returning a favor to the landowner who’s been very kind and generous to me in the past.

Like the rest of the upper midwest, Friday and Saturday showed us some extremely tough weather conditions. However, birds gobbled well for us on Friday morning. We took off for a lone gobbler just before daybreak that was only occasionally gobbling on the roost. Not knowing the terrain well-enough proved to be a big mistake. Five years earlier, the area had seen a big windstorm, and wouldn’t you know it, mr. tight-lip hung up 90 yards out on the backside of a blowdown area…..which we couldn’t see in the dark, below the hill we were working him from.

From that point on, we logged miles, and miles, and miles. High winds made it difficult to locate, let alone work gobblers. We tried the lee-side of ravines, we tried wind-sheltered pine plantations, we tried protected pockets and field. Nothing held birds. We didn’t even bump birds! This would be the theme until Sunday morning, where we setup tight on a traditional roost site, and lucked out to find a bird in the tree 80 yards out, ready to drop in our LZ. Too tight and open to call, I waited until the bird started the old rocking chair motion in the tree and started to cluck at him. At flydown, I cutt/cackled at him and he promptly dropped into our laps instead of the hilltop location he was headed for. As I was trying to whisper "shoot him" with a mouth call stuck to my tongue, the bird got a little spooky. At the shot, he ran/flew away unharmed. 31.5 yards on the rangefinder, but it was not meant to be.

Meanwhile, earlier, two members of our group had setup on a pretty obvious pinch-point. It was a field approach where 3 gobblers and their hens were crossing a road at 7AM/7PM religiously. That’s no way to kill a turkey I first thought. Surely the finest bird in the animal kingdom did not deserve such a death? Well I was wrong. The turkey woods is full of lessons, and never looking a gift turkey in the beak is one of them. Which is not to suggest that these birds came easy. It took some fine wing-shooting, and a great deal of improvisation to take these birds that spooked at 200 yards, only to fly right at the blind and be plucked out of the air by both experienced gunners. To double-up under those circumstances takes a bit of luck, and alot more hard earned experience and skill with a scattergun. Congrats guys, and here’s to next year!!!


Bill’s Bird

Weight – 24lbs, 4oz.; Spurs – 3/4"; Beard – 11 7/16"

SCORE – 62.125!!!

Bruce’s Bird

Weight – 23lbs, 2oz; Spurs – 3/4"; Beard – 8 11/16"

SCORE – 55.5!!!


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Joel Nelson

From the big water of Chequamegon Bay in Northern Wisconsin, to the prairie ponds of the Ice Belt, to the streams of Yellowstone, Nelson has filled an enviable creel with experience, reeling in bluegills to lakers, walleyes to stream trout. Full Bio ›


  1. Great report Joel! I did the same thing a few weeks ago with a guy I was calling for…it’s harder than heck to say “shoot” with a mouth call stuck to your tongue! Congrats to the fellas in the pictures and their birds! Plucked out of the air…impressive!

  2. There’s no stinkin turkeys in OTC…ok, there’s a few but they are tough to hunt and you gotta take ’em on the run (or fly ).

    Great stories from your experiences up north. You must return for more, Nelson!

  3. Great report Joel!

    Is it over now???????

    Now can we focus on Deer????

    I know you have one more season left in WI Good luck!

  4. Great report Joel and congrats to your boys on some fine “wing shooting”!

    “Is it over now?????
    It’s never over for a turkey nut like Joel…just ask him!! My guess is he’s already making plans for deer hunting this Fall!!!!!

  5. Steve’s right. After yet another costly deer turkey encounter, and several over the weekend. I’m already making plans to fill all tags that I legally can. And apply for DNR sharpshooter status.


  6. We had a ton of deer blow a chance this past weekend also. As I’m filming over Brads shoulder wiating for the Gobbling Tom to appear. 7 deer decide they want to come into the decoys at less then 30 yards.

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