2016 marks my second year of turkey hunting with a bow (and in general) as well as the first year that Minnesota allows bowhunters to hunt the entire season, which started on 4/13/16 and goes until 5/31/16.
Below is a chronicle of my season.
Hunting public land spot A along the river. Put the birds to bed the night before, things were looking optimistic. On my way out I flushed a trio of birds there weren’t there when I left. The Gobblers were gobblin’ but no dice.
On the way to work, driving over the river I look off to my right and I see a group of 5 turkeys in the woods, plain as day. I pull over and grab my bow to put the stalk on.
I belly crawled to a stump and began calling. One of the toms pulled away from the group and walked down an old creek bed to go looking for love. As luck has it, I forgot my range finder. I guessed at 30 yards, let an arrow fly, hitting his feet and then he ran like hell. Obviously it was more like 40.
I belly crawled closer to the remaining turkeys. They moved to the other side of the creek bed, giving me cover to crawl up to the edge of the creek. All 4 turkeys laid down for a nap. I snuck up behind a tree and waited for them to get up. They all stood up at once, I drew and stepped out, exposing myself. I put my 40 pin on the tom’s wing and let it fly…only to take a few feathers off his undercarriage. Two arrows gone. Two turkeys still alive. Lesson learned #1: Bring Your Range Finder.
Shots Taken: 2
Hunted down by the old farm along middle road. Found a nice oak ridge with lots of turkey scratchings. Hot as hell and a long ass walk. Used the blind and decoys. Waited all night and didn’t see a thing. On the way out I could hear gobbles in the distance to the south. Maybe a mile away.
Hunting spot A, started at the ridge and listened for them to fly down. Tried calling in the tom but he kept moving farther away, so we went after him.
Walking the trail I stood at the edge of the strip mine and did a yelp, he immediately returned. Did it again and we saw him run to the edge of the woods about 600 yards away. It was time to go after him. We walked to where he was and didn’t see him. Then, looking to the west, we see him. Exactly where we were! So set up the decoys and hid behind some berms and 45 minutes later he showed up at 150 yards in full strut. A perfect fan and shiny feathers. He stayed out at 46 yards, pecking along a brush line, then started making his way toward me. Thinking he would pass right in front of me, I waited. Then he made a sharp right turn and went into the woods to the left of me about 10 yards away, giving me no shot. He never came close than 80 yards to the decoys. I feel the Montana Tom decoy was too much for him, even being a mature bird. Especially this early in the season. He hung around as we could get him to respond back with a gobble. After a while I decided to pack it up, I stand up and there he was, in the same spot out in the field. He obviously saw me too and it was over.
Lesson Learned #2: Take the shot when they are coming straight on.
Lesson Learned #3: Stay put after hearing a gobbler respond, even if he is 600 yards away.
Lesson Learned #4: Ease up on the use of tom decoys.
Lesson Learned #5: Stay put.
That evening I took Leah out on her first turkey hunt. She was so excited to finally be able to go and have the opportunity to be the one shooting. We got set up around 6:00 PM in the ground blind on top of the ridge. I let her choose where to put the decoys. Boredom was setting in and then around 7:00 we heard the gobbler boom. The look on her face was priceless. She went for the crossbow, got it on the shooting sticks and was ready. The tom was probably 100 yards away but in the woods. Told her to just ease up, we have some work to do. Did some gentle purrs and clucks and had a ton of hens scratching all around us. It was intense! Then Leah wanted to try calling with the box call. It was a little crude by she got a tom to respond! She was so pumped to have a turkey respond to her call.
Shots Taken: 0
Tried the flat for a while with decoys out. Had a hen show up right where another hen showed up on the 17th. Came into the decoys and pecked around and left. A few minutes later another hen showed up in the same spot. She went to the north. Waited until 6:30 and then I moved to the ridge. I stayed a little farther south on the ridge than normal and waited for gobbles. As I’m sitting on the ridge I could hear another hunter on the island. And rustling down on the river bottom but I couldn’t see anything. Then I heard gobbling to the north. A minute later a hen pops up on top of the ridge. She had climbed straight up the bluff! The ground and leaves were soft from the rain and she was clucking on her way to the toms. So I decided to follow her silently. I followed her for about 40 yards and then I kicked up 3 deer. The deer ran and flushed 3 turkeys from the trees. Disappointed in my decision to follow her, I went back to my spot. As I’m standing by the tree I had an owl come straight at me…so close I had to put my arm up and then it did a 180 and flew to another tree. Guess I looked like a good perch. I waited for another 20 minutes – it was probably 7:45 PM and I decided I had screwed up my hunt and decided to pack up. I stand up, sling my decoy bag over my shoulder, turn around and there’s a tom 10 feet away from me who just came up the bluff! We both had that “Oh shit” look on our faces and he did mach 20 through the woods. Hunt over.
Lesson NOT Learned #5: Stay put.
Shots Taken: 0
Decided to do a quick hunt after work. Got to the parking lot around 6:00 and another hunter, younger guy, was getting ready to head out. We discussed where each of us was going, he was obviously much more ambitious than I was since he decided to do a 3 mile hike at 6:00. This time I went a little farther on the ridge, to where a little peninsula sticks out into the creek. Set up my decoys and waited. Did some light clucks and purrs, rain wasn’t giving me confidence in birds being in the woods. I didn’t hear any birds all night. Then around 8:00 I look about 60 yards to the north and I see a tom coming through at the top of a hill. Following him were 3 hens and another tom. They didn’t stick around but I believe I found the tree they roost in often.
Shots Taken: 0
I’ll be spending some quality time with the kiddos over the next few days so probably not much hunting will be done until Sunday. Hopefully I can put a game plan together in the meantime and get it done. Then the focus is on getting Leah a bird.