I grew up spending 2-3 weekends per year being covered from head to toe in blaze orange while following my dad’s heels around Minnesota and Wisconsin during the month of November, just hoping to see him shoot a whitetail. This tradition has taken place each year from the time I was five years old till now and as each year passes, we are spending more and more time in the outdoors. The majority of my weekends are spent working on our family farm, tending to the food plots, hanging stands, checking cameras, replenishing the Nutradeer and trying to cross things off our endless project list. It could be a full time job but as luck would have it, we need a real job to fund all of these good times!
During the past few springtime’s IDO has really peaked my interest in turkey hunting, there have been some intense stories that have made it look like a great way to spend some time in the field. I’ve seen many turkey hunts on TV and it had never really made my blood flow like the anticipation of an arrow release on a 160” whitetail… till now! Over winter, Kooty and I knew we would have the spring itch so we applied for one of the early MN seasons when the birds were going to be “easy” to harvest but had no luck in the draw. This was not a deal breaker because we were able to purchase over the counter gun tags for any of the seasons in May. With fishing opener, closing on a house and planting season… we were not able to get out until the last season. We both pestered Joel and wondered what would be the best way to get an opportunity at one (maybe two if we are lucky) of these gobblers. The answer was simple, as always, we need to get out in the field and see where the birds are and what they want.
3:50 a.m. sounded off the alarms and for the first time since whitetail season I did not have to hit snooze! I think Kooty slept in his camo but maybe he just got up a little earlier than me. We hopped in the truck and headed to the land, we had a good tip on a location from Bob Bergeson of Trophy Plots Plus, he had been pestered by an angry tom while he was planting one of our destination plots the week prior. The location is called ‘The College Farm’ and there is a freshly planted corn and bean field that always seems to hold turkeys no matter the time of year. It’s the field where I posted a trail cam picture in a “Got Turkeys” post several months back when I was looking for some answers to my first rounds of turkey questions.
We stepped out of the truck at 4:25 with a surprisingly bright sky for no sun and put the boots down to get in position to find a roost. I use the term “boots” lightly because Kooty happened to forget his, and the 5-7 inches of rain on a freshly planted field made every step in his loafers a potential lost shoe shenanigan! We had still not yet heard a gobble and were really not sure which side of the field we should be on. There was clover and a tree line on the south/opposite side of the field from us and, of course, the grass is always greener on the other side. The sun had still not peaked out and we decided to cross, you could hear a suction-cup sort of sound every time Kooty stepped half way out of his sandals. But still no gobbles, it was time to hit the crow call so Kooty sounded it off…no response…where are these birds? We did not expect them to be overly vocal but we did think we ought to hear something.
The College Farm is a good area and we are sure that there are birds in proximity, we decided to work towards one of the corners that I have previously busted birds out of the roost on and hope for the best. We found a nice place to settle in. Hit the crow call again…still no sounds. At this point we are really starting to question our location choice. No matter what, we are committed to watching the sun come up and staying optimistic that some Toms will want breakfast. It is about 5:00 and a crow starts to caw right next to the field entrance where we were standing less than 30 minutes ago. This must have been the alarm clock for the woods this morning because gobbles start sounding off right below him! We were within 75 yards of the roost on our way in… good news is we snuck in without being detected. The better news is we could make out three separate gobbles and the game had officially begun.
The sky was changing color rapidly and within minutes of the start of the gobbles, Kooty picks up movement by the field edge and we could see the heads of three toms and several hens. The rest of the forest was also starting to wake up with several single gobblers sounding off from nearly every direction. We were not ready to make up a backup plan just yet. These seven birds scratched their way into the field, fed, strutted, gobbled, and fed some more. They really hung tight to the corner they entered from. Kooty sounded off the box and the slate call without even a head turn from one of the toms. They were over 300 yards away and I looked to Kooty wondering if we should sneak back into the woods and make our way towards their location. He signaled that we should sit tight and see if they choose a heading before we do anything. Within minutes the hens are starting to move their feet towards us and I am out of position for a lefty, the camera angle, and the first crack at a bird if only one shot is possible. Kooty was able to grab my gun while I rolled deeper into the cover before moving laterally to reposition on the other side of Kooty. Somewhere in the middle of these ninja aerobics, he tells me to not move while I am on a pile of rocks. A doe had entered the field within 20 steps of us and was hammering the clover. You could hear her chew every leaf.
We were able to remain undetected for 2-3 minutes at fifteen yards while the turkeys had slowed their progress but were still heading in our direction. The doe caught the movement and, God bless her, ran away from the turkeys. When the birds settled back down after her departure, in that little bit of commotion, I was able to slide into position and the turkeys are around 200 yards. Everything is looking fine except for one issue. If they continue, their path will cross just outside of range.
The intensity increases and we are both unsure if this is going to work out for a kill. At this exact moment, it felt like the stars lined up one more time for us in the form of a lone tom entering the field. He came from the opposite corner and was making ground towards the hens. For some reason they didn’t seem too impressed and three of the hens charged this tom. The four of them start scratching at each other directly in front of us but still over 50 yards out. During the entire episode, the three initial toms from earlier are still strutting and getting closer to our locale. The trio spread out in a single file line just within range and I hear Kooty ask which one I was on, which was the center tom in full strut. In an adrenaline-driven haze, Kooty whispered to fire when ready. BOOM! Kooty must have had his trigger half pulled, it could not have been one tenth of a second after I shot before his gun barked.
Kooty’s bird went down hard. Mine was flopping a little bit too much so we sent some more shot his way. We got a double. We were standing over our two birds at 6:17 on the opening morning of our hunt! I can’t believe that just happened. We took a few minutes to breathe and admire our birds a take a few photos. We packed up our truck and were back to the cabin in time for breakfast. This was an amazing morning of hunting – but an occasion that I would have sat all day to experience.
I want to thank Kooty, Joel, Bob and IDO for making my springtime so much more interesting. There is no doubt in my mind that at least one part of every spring will be spent chasing these resilient beasts! I’m pretty sure we are done around here for the spring, but fall is not so far away.