All posts by Grant Carmichael

Dead Turkey Observation and Examination Quiz

Often times we have articles and other works submitted by our members here on the Turkey Hunting Forum.  Gary Meinke, a GSN member submitted this Dead Turkey Observation and Examination quiz, which contains a great deal of interesting information that  might just stump even the most seasoned turkey hunters among us!

Give it a shot, and let us know what you think!

Turkey Dead TOE Quiz

Turkey Dead TOE Quiz answers

Turkey Hunting Land

Hunting Turkey in the Snow

The wind was blowing the snow completely horizontal as my friend Les and I put on our hip boots. That April afternoon we were in the midst of a full fledged blizzard, getting ready to cross the river to set up near a turkey roost. I carried a Double Bull blind and my seat, Les had his gun and seat. As we started our mile long trek Les said “I bet we are the only dedicated turkey hunters on the river right now.” I said “Les…I don’t think dedicated is the best word to describe us.”

The roost was in an old river channel and we found the slight drop in elevation protected us from the wind. In the blind it was really quite pleasant as we watched big flakes of snow float softly to the ground. We called periodically, and a little before sunset I looked out my side of the blind. Just 25 feet away there was some movement at the top of some weeds that I couldn’t figure out. Finally I realized I was looking at the head and neck of a hen turkey. I didn’t recognize what I saw at first, because she was covered with a half inch of snow from the base of her neck to her tail. Her body just blended in with the white background. The hen fed around the blind for a while and eventually shook off all the snow that had accumulated on her. Les commented how cold, wet, and miserable she looked. The hen soon moved off and flew up to roost about 70 yards away. We managed to slip out of the area without flushing her. Les and I never saw or heard a gobbler that evening, but I will never forget that hunt. Hunting turkeys in the snow can produce some special memories.

I do most of my turkey hunting out west and spring snowstorms are not uncommon during the turkey season. I have experienced spring snows as late as the third week in May. Our spring snows usually come with a good dose of wind, and many fall into the blizzard category. It seems I hunt turkeys in the snow at least once every other spring, and two or three times in some of the more volatile springs. I have put together some observations on how a spring snow affects turkeys and hunting them. However, my experience with hunting turkeys in snow is limited to the Rio Grande and Merriam’s turkey. I have yet to hunt Easterns in the snow. If you are hunting out west for a Rio or Merriam’s and find yourself hunting in snow, then perhaps you may find some of the following information useful.

BEHAVIOR

Both Rios and Merriam’s tend to gather in pretty large flocks in the winter. In cold late springs these flocks don’t break up until just before the spring hunting season opens. An early spring snowstorm can delay flock break up.  Once breakup occurs, a snowstorm may cause the birds to regroup into flocks of 10-25 birds. For Rios this means the flocks may be fewer and farther in between, but more birds in each flock. In the case of Merriam’s in the mountains, the birds may migrate vertically downhill in a spring snow after flocking back together. If you are hunting public lands, which are usually at higher elevations, the birds may just move to lower elevations which are usually private lands. Since these spring snows are not uncommon, some turkeys do take them in stride and stay up high.  When hunting higher elevation public lands during a storm, I have managed to find a few birds still weathering the storm.

Turkeys may just choose to hole up in sheltered areas during the intense part of a storm.  The birds are out there 24/7 and will have to feed and move about sooner or later. When a storm finally does break the toms are pretty anxious to get back to the task of breeding. If the snow quits and the wind dies down some gobblers may start sounding off even in the middle of the day. And if the temps are rising with some snow melting, things will be getting back to normal relatively quickly. However, if the snow is very deep (close to a foot or more) it may take several days for the turkeys to resume their normal routine.

Prolonged cold and several storms during the spring may delay nesting in hens for a week or more. This could affect how the breeding flock structure progresses later in the season. The hens may not be leaving the gobblers as readily to lay their eggs.

ADVANTAGES OF SNOW

There are really not many advantages of hunting in snow. The competition of other hunters certainly is reduced. About the only other hunters out there are ones that pre-planned a hunt for that particular time and ended up hunting in the snow by chance, or the few turkey hunting nuts, like me, that think its fun to chase gobblers in the snow. Local hunters normally just wait for the weather to improve.

Turkey hunting in the snow

Here   Tracks will certainly be more easily revealed wherever turkeys roam. In snow it is easy to tell fresh tracks from those even a few hours old. You may be able to track a flock and anticipate the direction they are going and have an opportunity to head them off. Tracks that end suddenly or start from nowhere indicate the location where turkeys have flown up or down from a tree. Find this subtle clue and you have probably just found a roost site.

Turkeys are much easier to see in the snow. Out west where the country is open, it is very likely that you could spot a flock from a good distance just by doing some glassing with binoculars. Spotting turkeys is also simpler because the size of the area to search may be reduced if some portions of it are clear of snow. Wind can blow areas clear or the sun will melt the south facing slopes sooner, so check those spots first. Even though turkeys could easily scratch through shallow snow, they seem to prefer clear ground or where the snow is almost gone.

DISADVANTAGES OF SNOW

The biggest disadvantage of a spring snowstorm may be the inability to get to the hunting area. Backcountry roads can be difficult to navigate at best. Many are just not plowed. Even when the storm is over and the snow is melting the roads can be very slippery. However if you happen to be camping in your hunting area when the storm hits, those same difficult roads could keep others from getting in, this turns a disadvantage into an advantage. Just make sure you are always prepared for the unexpected and have plenty of food, water and warmth.

Crunchy snow can be another major problem. Spring snows are almost always a wet snow. The daytime temperature may be close to, or above the freezing mark, but nighttime temps usually go below freezing. This means that slushy wet snow becomes hard and results in a very noisy, crunchy snow by morning. Consequently, it can be extremely difficult if not impossible to move in on a roosted gobbler. Not only can turkeys hear you moving from a great distance, they can see shadows against the snow in very low light. You lose the cover of darkness.

Although, you can see turkeys better in the snow, they can also see you better. For a turkey, their eyes are its greatest asset. It is especially challenging for a hunter to try to remain hidden on a carpet of white. A white sheet over your legs and partially up your waist can help you blend in while sitting up against a dark tree. The sheet can easily be carried in the back pouch of a turkey vest when moving.

As I mentioned previously, turkeys may flock up a bit and that means more areas without turkeys. This can mean a lot of leg work before you make any contact with birds. For Merriam’s this is especially the case because their density is less concentrated.  The inclement weather may also tone down the frequency of gobbling.

The cold and wet can make for some uncomfortable hunting. Waterproof outerwear is a must. Since I travel for most of my turkey hunting, I always pack extra clothes and even an old turkey vest as a spare. This allows me to hunt in very wet weather and not have to worry too much if something ends up totally soaked. I can go back out hunting with a spare item while the soaked one is drying. I like to wear Lacrosse rubber knee high boots in wet weather. Even in mountains the ankle fit boots will allow me to maneuver around without any problems and still keep my feet dry. I have an insulated pair I use if it is very cold. With the Lacrosse felt insoles, the boots are very comfortable and I can walk all day in them. A good seat or pad that keeps you dry can mean the difference between a pleasant hunt and a miserable one. Calls and other gear should also be protected or waterproof.

During snowfall, gun sights may become clogged or covered with snow. Even after it has stopped snowing this may occur as you move about and inadvertently brush snow off branches. This becomes a greater concern if you hunt with a scope or dot-type sight on your gun. I always check my sight frequently to be sure it is clear. A scope or dot sight can also fog up in cold wet weather.

Turkey hunting in the snow

Here If you find yourself in turkey country that is carpeted in white, get after them if you can. There are some added challenges, but some special memories can be made…and you might even end up with a “snowbird.”

Gary Meinke

Grand Slam Network.com    

How to Kee Kee

The kee kee run is a must have call for fall turkey hunting, but can be effective in the spring as well.  In this video, Sadler Mcgraw, Matt Van Cise, Shane Hindershot and Scott Ellis perform their version of the kee kee run at the NWTF calling championship.

Take note of the common sequence of the kee kee run, which sounds like “pee pee pee yawk yawk.”  The kee kee is often used with 3 kee kees followed by a couple yelps.

If you’ve ever bumped a group of young turkey during the fall, you’ve probably noticed the way they use the kee kee run to regroup.

For more turkey hunting information, be sure to visit our turkey hunting forum.

Turkey Target Download

First and foremost, I’d like to thank one of our dedicated forum members, Gary Meinke, for providing this target for everyone to use.  Its folks like Gary that make Grand Slam Network a great place to hang out!

Hopefully before March has rolled around, you’ve pulled out your turkey calls and started practicing.  Equally important to calling is making sure your turkey hunting shotgun has a good pattern and that you know it effective range for harvesting a turkey

This Turkey Target Download is scaled properly for you to print and pattern your shotgun.  Other turkey targets include the actual head and feathers, which can be misleading because you are lead to believe your effective range is further than it actually is.

This Turkey Target Download includes the skeletal system of the turkey neck and head, so that you get a more accurate representation of the effectiveness of your gun at a particular range.

Here’s how you pattern your turkey hunting shotgun

  1. Print several copies of the target and head to the range
  2. Post the target is a safe direction and measure off 30 yards which is a nice starting distance.
  3. Aim at the middle of the neck and shoot
  4. After inspecting the target, you should have a reasonable number of shot in the skeleton.
  5. Keep increasing the distance between you and the target until you discover your effective range.

Turkey-Target

Evolution of Turkey Hunters

What do automobiles, country music, and turkey hunters from 1980 have in common with today’s versions of the same? In my opinion, all three have experienced the same dramatic changes and evolved along similar paths over the past 34 year period. Today’s cars are sleeker, trucks ride better than cars, all have high tech features and sensors, and some even have televisions in them. Country music has evolved beyond Conway Twitty and Porter Wagner and now has rock and roll drummers and guitar players, and an entirely different sound with lots of young people involved. Today’s turkey hunters have evolved in much the same fashion in very similar aspects when it comes to transitional changes, styles, product option alternatives, and the younger generation.

Impressions

The idea to compare “todays” turkey hunter with “yesterdays” and discuss the “evolution” as I view it was inspired by a couple of occurrences.  The first was from spending a day with a few older generation veteran turkey hunters that I served with as a judge at an Alabama State Turkey Calling Contest. The stories they told about earlier days including some about Ben Lee were fascinating.  They had been involved in some of the very first turkey calling contest and ran in the same circles that most would consider pioneers of turkey hunting.

The second was a result of sharing camp in Texas in 2004 with an older gentleman named John. I don’t remember Johns’ last name but he was from Tennessee and shared the ranch with our group of six guys that year. He was 72 years old, in good shape, and drove to Texas to hunt turkeys and back to Tennessee each year by himself.  He had alot of personality and I liked the guy right off and grew to respect him as I got to know him. My conversations with him were interesting.

Mr. John started hunting back in the 1960s and hunted everything that walked the woods including turkeys. He told me you were lucky to even hear a bird gobble more than a couple times a season when he first started hunting. He used to just sit on a ridge saddle all morning with a piece of slate and a handmade striker, and would only cluck or purr once an hour and occasionally kill turkeys. As I listened to him talk it was easy to understand times were different and so was turkey hunting. He even talked about roost shooting and said that was one of the ways he did it because it was one of the few times you knew where they were and turkey hunting was not the sport it is today. His season didn’t necessarily run exactly with the DNR’s as he considered the season to start when turkeys started gobbling and ended when they stopped. But, he said, “that was back in the day and it was an accepted way to do it”. Now he hunted them differently. He had changed and evolved with the times as had his hunting tactics.       

 Changed But Different

But he still didn’t do it like we did it. He didn’t own a vest, a decoy, or any of the modern day products many of us buy into. In fact, while the six of us were messing around prepping all our turkey hunting gear for the next morning, he just sat on a stool in his one piece long johns with the built in rear flap, having a drink of whiskey watching us. When we got up in the morning and “loaded up our stuff”  and  drove off in trucks or golf carts, with packed turkey vest, turkey loungers, decoys, GPS, radios, and a half dozen calls in our vest, he just stood there drinking coffee grinning and wishing us good luck. I got the feeling he found all of us amusing and that he knew something we didn’t. When he left you weren’t sure if he was going hunting or to the store because it looked like he had forgotten his gear and didn’t have what was needed to get the job done. But in reality, all he wanted or needed was a mouth call and a shotgun.

According to him, his day to day approach was to ease through the woods, call, move some more, and stand against a tree when he was working a turkey. He never sat down unless he was tired. He did wear camo although his gun wasn’t camoed and it looked like Willie Nelson’s guitar. I believe the man had fallen down while carrying it a few times or dragged his gun behind his truck. I don’t really know but if gouges and scratches give something character, his gun was loaded with it.

He got his birds quickly the year we shared camp, packed his truck up with one Rubbermaid container, and drove back to Tennessee. I was told by the outfitter it was the same each year he hunted there. I remember thinking about the contrast between him and our group and realizing that with time, ways, and means really do change.

22 Years Ago

I entered the turkey hunting arena in 1992 and felt fortunate to be coming in at a point in time where many of the pioneers of the sport had produced cassette tapes and videos that had an influence on how I perceived and approached turkey hunting. I wore out an old Ben Lee cassette listening to it over and over my first spring season. I really didn’t know beyond a point how others had gone about it but I did try to understand what turkey hunting was perceived to be at the time. We all learn from our teachers and are influenced by who or what we’re exposed to. Mine happened in the early 1990’s but from influences that originated in the 70’s and 80’s, while those coming in today are being taught by a whole new group of teachers and influences.

I can’t say for sure how it was in 1980 because I wasn’t involved. But what I remember from 1992 was that the “accepted” gun range was 25-30 yards with #6s and 35-40 yards with copper plated #4s. The videos produced were mostly by the pros and every gobbler killed (at least according to the video) was called to 20 times. Hen decoys were on the market and I didn’t believe I could kill a bird without one, so I carried two around thinking that was twice as good. I remember camo gun socks were always on the shelf at Walmart and later seeing my first camoed turkey gun up at the old Bargain Barn in Jasper. Lynch box calls were part of every turkey hunter’s vocabulary and most owned at least one. I owned two. I had never heard of a hunting forum but there were turkey articles to read in various magazines. The 3700 acre river swamp lease I hunted was shared with three other turkey hunters because only 4 of out of 14 members had any interest in turkeys. Two of the three were always out of the woods by 9:30 and only two of us hunted afternoons.  A 200 acre lease in Jones County near Cedar Creek WMA that only cost me $300 was my back up property in case the Flint River Swamp flooded. In fact, leasing turkey rights from deer hunters was easy to do because no one seemed to turkey hunt back then compared to now. Old fashioned scouting was the only way to know what you were hunting and trail cams were a futuristic concept. Bug Tamer Suits showed up a few years later with Thermal cells still on the horizon.

Today

Now feeders and trail cams are everywhere and do much of the scouting for us saving countless hours in the field. And to avoid snakes and chiggers, we can be view them remotely from the comfort of our homes or office. Gobbler decoys, blinds, and fanning, have become more and more popular. Videos are common and we have three “Outdoor Channels”. Camoed guns, tightly choked barrels, and super loads have created a lot of 50 plus yard shooters which means what used to be considered “hung up birds” are now dying. Over 40,000 people attend the NWTF Convention each year and there’s an abundance of options when it comes to products that fill up the cart compared to 1980 at which time almost all the options on the market if you owned them, could be carried in your two cargo pants pockets.

Today’s turkey hunters include a wide range and a great blend of individuals that includes a crossover of three generations of turkey hunters that blends old and new school mentalities. In my view this has created three general profiles of hunter groups and the framework for the evolution.

Earlier Generation Hunters

I can’t really describe what the true earlier generation of hunters would be because I didn’t have enough exposure to them. So what I mention here applies more to some I was exposed to when I first started and how I believe many still operate today.

Many in this group originate from the early days or they’re molded after and strongly influenced by those that hunted prior to the real product expansion period. Many are younger and entered later but adopted their predecessor’s philosophy.  Some might consider them “hardcore” as they hold strong in their beliefs. They all have a history of success and have a passionate perception of what turkey hunting is supposed to be based on their entry into the sport and their influences of the time. Most believe the only shootable turkey is one that comes to the call or a very limited list of encounter type scenarios. What many believe to be useful accessory products, they consider props. They don’t own a blind or decoy and a bird has to be inside a tight circle of range they’ve adopted as a standard because it’s where they believe a bird should be brought into before he’s taken. They may equip themselves with guns, loads, and chokes capable of longer shots but still limit themselves to a specified perimeter. They put an emphasis on the three main elements of turkey hunting which include calling, woodsmanship, and turkey knowledge. This group is successful with less in their bag and is made up of experienced veterans with more of an old school type mindset and the fundamental basics being their keys. Because of the strong influence by the earlier mentors and influences, if they were not originals to this group, they’ve strived to progress with goals of evolving into this OGH membership after gaining years of experience and gradual skill improvements. As their personal bars rise with success, they drop off most of the accessories if they ever used them, and over time hunt with a shotgun and calls.  They are believers in doing the job with less with more limitations placed on how they shoot turkeys and they know how to work turkeys from 100 yards in with by choosing good setups, calling, and strategy.

 Mixed Generation Hunter

Many here are somewhat of a hybrid with a mix of “old school” and progressive mindsets. Hunters in this group were also affected by earlier older style influences but have adjusted ways and means as time progressed with a wider acceptance of accessories and a “softer core” than the “Earlier Generation Hunters”. They’ve enjoyed a good turkey population to hunt with early learning and development resulting more from field experience and old school traditions while recent years include modern day influences.  Their horizons have expanded and they utilize the loads and chokes available and accept that extended ranges handled responsibly are a part of their personal practice standards. They will reach out and touch birds at longer ranges extending their capabilities and bird counts. Use of decoys and blinds may or may not be included and they capitalize as turkey hunters taking birds beyond just the “called in” ones and are more opportunistic. Like EGH many personal style adjustments have come in increments as confidence in abilities progressed. The progression of experience alters their ways and means. They hunt with a blended style that incorporates and appreciates earlier approaches while enjoying many of the benefits of the modern day hunter. They are generally more open minded and to an extent many serve as crossovers and mix well with both EGH and newer generation hunters.                                            

Newer Generation Hunter

This is the newer generation that includes both young people but also those older in age but newer to turkey hunting. They enter in to a highly marketed, organized sport, enjoying a healthy turkey population to hunt and in an era that is televised 24 hours a day, and in the video and You-Tube period. Outdoor channels, internet access, community forums, I-Phones, GPS, trail cams, feeders, and numerous other accessories are at their fingertips and have become second nature. Blinds and decoys are mostly standard procedure with all options on the table because they’re accepted as a part of the modern day turkey hunting sport and have no reason not use them.  They are generally successful quicker with a wider range of methods and utilized means to kill turkeys. Where earlier generations took longer to become successful, the learning curve at least to the point it takes to kill turkeys is cut in half. “Kill methods” ways and means are increased as are harvest numbers compared to old school approaches. This combined with numerous encounters from a healthy gobbler population, more information, increased travel hunts with added bag limits, and more time in the field provides newer generation hunters opportunities to hit numbers in a few years that may have taken decades in the past. This new generation of hunters often provides video of varied styles of hunting considered exciting my many and bring new enthusiasm and a growth in participation to the sport.

We All Enjoy Turkey Hunting Our Own Way

To be very clear, I realize all of the aforementioned groups are blanket generalizations and there’s much more involved here. It’s impossible and unfair to try and fit everyone into any category. I describe what I have not as a judgment on any ones style of hunting nor do I believe there’s a right or wrong way for others to go about it. In fact I’ve held this piece for over two years reluctant to share it not wanting to risk stirring the pot. I mean no offense to anyone. It’s a simple observation, opinion, expressed perception, and views on the “evolution” as I see it.

I do admire the ones that adhere to more of an earlier generation style of hunting. Its hard not to because their standards, requirements, and in a way a self inflicted handicap, means that when they kill a turkey they’ve likely done it the most challenging way possible by doing  it with less. When it comes to pure skill and killing turkeys and someone is armed with only a call and a gun, it’s what’s’ in their head that matters and separates them from the rest. But that style and challenge may be considered too limited or not fun or enjoyable for everyone.

I believe there are definite differences in hunter styles and what’s considered turkey hunting today. There are differences in how and why birds are brought into range. For example:  Picking good setups, controlling movement,  and calling without use of any other accessories means a bird has to be methodically worked to be brought in from a 100 yards out and in to range. It’s that last 50-60 yards that is the most challenging for most of us. Calling and getting him in to 80-100 is often not that difficult, but breaking him loose from there and into shooting range can be.

By comparison if you call a gobbler into 100 yards and he sees a decoy, especially a gobbler decoy he may run in on his own being deked in instead of called and worked in. Either way the gobbler dies and both ways work, but there’s a definite difference in the type of hunt and the method in which the bird was taken. Both methods are considered turkey hunting and both are accepted ways and means that come down to a personal preference.

 An Example of Influence

I’d probably fit best into the “Mixed Generation” group and here’s a good example of one of my influences that helped shape me. Someone loaned me an old Ben Lee cassette tape that I played over and over. On it Mr. Lee and friends are riding down the road stopping and calling trying to strike a gobbler up. When they hear one, they take off running through the woods and set up on the bird. Mr. Lee narrates the hunt like a football game and calls out the yardage as the gobbler approaches. “The turkeys coming in…he’s 35 yards away…still coming and now just 30 yards…… we’re getting ready to shoot the bird…25 yards and BOOM! I remember the tape well because the gun shot was loud compared to the voices and it made you jump.

Understand that I did not know or hang around other turkey hunters aside from one person I shared the woods with occasionally, so this tape made me want to try to kill turkeys like they did. Although I really don’t know how Mr. Lee and others hunted all the time, this tape made me believe this is how it’s done. But the reality is, if I tried to kill turkeys exactly as I perceived they did, at 25-30 yards, I wouldn’t kill nearly as many. So even though I try to get birds in that close, I don’t limit myself to that and try not to let birds walk back out of a 45 yard circle.

But as far as early influences go, that one hunt stuck with me. Since then I’ve wondered just how many true old timers if hunting today, might be plastering birds and utilizing today’s chokes and guns. A lot may have had to do with the gun capabilities of the day. Where we may think that close range was a standard and a certainty for them, they may say “Are you kidding, do you know how many turkeys I could have killed if I had the chokes and loads you have today”?

Enjoy the Mix

Personally, I enjoy seeing all the newer hunters mixing in with others that have varied years of experience and influences that have created different make ups. I hunt with both young and old gun types. I’m somewhat of an opportunistic turkey hunter that likes to hunt and take turkeys in varying ways. I don’t use decoys but I used to. I don’t use blinds because I like to feel the air. As mentioned I try to avoid shooting over 45 yards because I have a pre set perception and self standard that was influenced from older days, and more importantly, I’ve missed too many birds already. I hunt the way I enjoy and not necessarily the way someone else enjoys or believes is the right way. I hunt like I believe all others should, for me and not someone else.

Modern Day

Cars and country music of the earlier days are great and should always be appreciated and respected for what they are. Todays cars and country music are also great in a different and evolved way. But no one forces us to do anything and we can still drive or listen to whatever we want. In my view the same comparison fits with the varying styles and preferred approaches of turkey hunters. We should all be thankful and respectful of those that walked before us and that set the table for this evolution to occur. And we should be thankful and respectful for those that are continuing to evolve even if it’s in a different way or doesn’t fit a personal perception.

It seems to me that just like country music, turkey hunting needs to be appealing to the newer generation of hunters and young people so that the sport is assured of growth and continuation. Look at all the videos that we share with each other each season from both older and younger hunters, both friends and family,  and how many are “high fiving” after a successful hunt. In a way we fire up and feed off each other at the same time. Videos and the camaraderie seen when hunts come together goes a long ways in helping draw others into the sport and fueling the drive for those already in it. The faster paced, wider range, of ways, and the enthusiastic young guns we have here draws more into the sport that one day will be tomorrows old timers.

I feel very fortunate to have entered into turkey hunting at the time I did. I was able to read about and listen to some of the earlier players and yet I now enjoy the benefits of progression that allows me to select the pieces I want incorporate into my turkey hunting approach.  The world is a different place today than 34 years ago and so is turkey hunting. It’s great that this sport continues to grow and watching this “Turkey Hunter’s Evolution” has been a fun and interesting experience.

So to be clear I’m not saying that yesterday or today’s turkey hunters, or anyone’s style is better or worse, or right or wrong when compared. What I am saying is that we all have varied perceptions and views based on our influences and exposures, all of which have varied through the years. What’s important is that it’s fun, rewarding, and healthy for the sport.

I’m sure that my old friend Mr. John from Tennessee would find all of us amusing.  But there’s no doubt in my mind, even if he was standing at the door grinning and shaking his head, he would be glad and happy that we were enjoying turkey hunting in our own way and wish us the best of luck as we climbed into our truck.

Bobby Parks
GrandSlamNetwork.com
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom Field Expert

Chasing Montana Merriams Chapter Two

Ridge Assault

As I sat watching the sun disappear and darkness setting in, I could hear a Merriams gobbler hammering out several distant gobbles 200’ above me but a good quarter to half mile away. It sounded like he was up on the high ground, out on a ridge finger coming off the back of the alfalfa fields. I had a good idea which ridge he was on and mentally marked him as the bird Grant Carmichael and I would go after the following morning. We were now at the end of our second day which for the most part had been uneventful.  Although Grant had taken a bird the previous afternoon (See: Chasing Montana Merriams Part One) and we’d heard another bird that morning, I was starting to be concerned because, I’d only seen a few birds throughout the rest of the day, none of which were gobblers.  From my elevated position, I could glass for a half mile in one direction and close to a mile in the other and where I’d seen groups of birds in the past, I only saw a couple sets of hens. I knew the prairie area in Montana that I’d hunted for the past 10 years had experienced a die off and now it appeared it had caught up with the river birds as well. It just wasn’t like it used to be and I knew we had our work cut out for us. We should be hearing more birds than just the one above me.

High Ground Morning Hunt

The next morning we arrived well before first light and parked up on the high ground instead of dropping down to the river. We worked our way along the rear of an alfalfa field turning out onto the prairie and off onto the ridge base, where I thought the gobbler from the evening before was roosted. This area is mostly open with prairie sage and dotted with Ponderosa pines. The ground is a mix of sand with millions of varying sized stones and rocks which makes for interesting terrain. There are numerous ridges and brush filled coulees (“draws” if you’re from the south) that finger off the high ground out towards the lower agricultural flats that run along the river. Mule deer trails follow along the edge of the high ground where the ridges and coulees start to break off and run up and down from the river area through the coulees as well. Birds often walk the ridges and fly over into the timber in the adjacent draws to roost, and fly back off the limb, and over to the same ridge at day break. From there they may stay high and move out into the upper fields or follow the trails and drop down to the river area.

Even though it was dark, the moon was bright enough for us to cast a shadow so we were concerned that we might be serving notice.  I didn’t know exactly where the gobbler was because I’d heard him from a distance, so we worked our way out 100 yards onto the main base of the ridge, and stopped under the overhanging limbs of a pine tree trying not to crunch any of the 5,000 pine-cones that lay at its base.

Merriam’s often gobble much earlier than Easterns and we began to hear what sounded like two birds at a distance while it was still dark. They were a longs ways off and several draws over so we just held tight hoping our intended target would sound off. After a few minutes we began to believe we’d been spotted in the moon light knowing we should have heard something out of our targeted bird by now. We were both getting worked up from the feint but constant gobbling from the other birds, and agreed we should take off after the gobblers and try to set up on them before they flew down.

The Ridge Assault

We jumped up and took off at a fast jog mixed with periods of fast walking.  We were following the edge of the tree line dropping up and down out of coulees as we worked our way towards the birds.  We covered a long distance quickly and were both winded by the time we got close enough to pin point where they were. Day had already begun to break so we knew the birds would be on the ground soon. We began our final approach by dropping down into the timber of the next to last coulee working our way down the draw and then climbing out and up to the top of the next ridge finger. The birds were loud now and it sounded like 3 gobblers as they continued to hammer away. They were off in the draw just beyond the next ridge across from us in trees 100 yards away.

As close as they sounded they would be at least 50 yards from where we were if they landed on the adjacent ridge so we’d have to push and get over and be in range when they hit the ground. We eased across the narrow ridge top we were on using a clump of short pine trees for blocking cover from the roosted birds in case they were roosted higher than the far ridge crest. We dropped down into the last wooded draw and slipped out of our vest and quietly crawled up our side of the targeted ridge. Grant was 20’ to my left as I eased my head up slowly to take a peek. They gobbled again as my eyes searched allowing me to lock in on them only 50 yards away. I believed we were on the ridge they had pitched off of and should pitch back onto but just in case we planned to encourage them to come our way by calling to them and making them think hens were roosted in the draw just across from them.

The adrenalin was pumping and our nerves were on edge as I made a soft yelp on my crystal. All three gobblers gobbled right back so we knew this was about to get interesting. I made another call a little louder this time which caused them to hammer right back. There was no doubt they knew where we were so I carefully laid my call down making sure it wouldn’t roll down the slope (it’s happened before) and got my gun partially up. Getting positioned was awkward because of the steepness but Grant and I both got as ready as we could careful to stay below the crest of the ridge.  When they flew down they could be right on us and we didn’t want to blow it before they got down by being seen above the ridgeline.

I was peeking over the crest trying to keep my head sucked down inside my neck which is not easy to do, when I heard wings flap and saw first one gobbler and then the two others fly down our way. They didn’t fly onto the top of the ridge but instead just dropped out of the trees onto the lower opposite side of our hill, just out of site. My adrenalin regulator was really being tested now as it was nerve racking because I didn’t know where they’d pop up on the ridge. I could see down the ridge fine but if they showed up right across from me they’d be in bayonet range 6’ away. I turned and signaled to Grant that three birds were on the ground, but he had watched them as well and knew what was unfolding with his gun ready.

My heart was pounding as I saw movement as one bird topped the rise 25 yards away. A few seconds later a second bird came into view. Because of the low light, distance perception was tricky but there was no doubt they were in range.  I could only see heads and necks of two birds looking our way. Based on our team plan my bird was on the right so I counted to 3 just loud enough for Grant to hear and we both fired. Both birds disappeared and we both jumped up. I saw a head still looking at us and fired again not knowing if I’d missed or if it was the third bird. As Grant and I both charged over we realized we had all three birds laying or flopping on the ground.

When it All Comes Together

I’ve hunted Montana many times and taken many birds there before the sun came up. I can tell you that watching the sun rise with the scenic view Montana provides while sitting with your bird is a wonderful feeling. Grant and I took the time to take in the moment and just sat with the birds taking it all in. It was as pretty a day as you’ll see out there with no wind but cool dry air. The elevated views and big sky sunrise is second to none I’ve ever seen. The heavy feathered beautiful Merriams don’t hurt the occasion either.  I’ve shared this same glorious moment with others and alone many times.

Hunting Montana Merriams
Photo: Grant sits on the ridge where the birds were taken
Hunting Montana Merriams
Photo: View from high ground showing lower river area

Hunting Merriams

As I mentioned, Merriams in Montana have the beautiful white tips and heavy feathering that Wyoming and South Dakota Merriams carry and what most look for when they go after this bird. I know a few l other states do as well. Where ever you hunt them out west it’s likely to be a great experience.

Merriams like to gobble, cover ground, and will respond well to a call. Like any birds, a lot depends on the pressure aspect. Prairie birds especially are fun to hunt and can provide for some great action. I don’t hunt them because I consider them easy. I love to hunt Merriams because they are beautiful birds that occupy beautiful country, and I enjoy the adventure that comes from chasing them on the western ground they occupy.

The Grand Slam Network
Photo: Grants awesome photo with the birds hanging from a cottonwood tree

As mentioned earlier, my experience has been that birds out west often approach and leave a roost area by the same path. This is often true with any birds but with Merriams it has been almost like clockwork. So the basic take away being if you see where birds walk in and fly up from to roost, you’ll want to be waiting for them in the same place or on the same route when they come down.

Bobby Parks Turkey Hunting Montana
Photo shows Bobby following the same path I believe the birds would have taken

The sad news is that the immediate area I’ve hunted has seen a significant decline of birds, which from the best I can gather is at least partly due to avian pox. How wide spread this is I’m not sure but the prairie area I’ve hunted has been decimated. The river area, at least where I’ve hunted in this region now appears to have been affected.  What the future holds for this area is a question mark in my opinion.

Even though the latter hunt was more of a run and gun effort similar to what we undertake on the open prairie, I wished Grant could have experienced more of it along with the constant trolling that comes with it.  In the past we’ve had to cover miles of ground to find birds. We did ride around in the hills and checked out several areas that used to hold birds. None were found and at this point even if they were I believe it would be best to leave them alone and hope they’ll reproduce.

The 2013 Montana hunt was a memorable and enjoyable hunt complete with good weather which is not always the case.  We both tagged out early and made a quick dip into Yellowstone Park. Hunting with Grant Carmichael was a pleasure and created memories that we’ll both carry with us for a long time to come.

Bobby Parks
GrandSlamNetwork.com
Mossy Oak
Ol Tom

Hunting Montana Merriams
Photo: Yellowstone buffalo that was looking like he might want a piece of me.

Reverse Engineering the Hunt

How to Use Google Earth to Scout

There was a time when my brother and I called one of our public land hot spots “The Killing Hole.”  The reason was simple – you could setup in this area most mornings and hear birds sounding off in all directions.  Even on the quiet mornings, if you sat tight, birds were going to work through the area at some point.  We had stumbled on this spot scouting the good ole fashioned way – covering as much ground as possible looking for signs that turkey were in the area.  In about a three year transition, however, the dynamics of the killing hole changed.  The hole went from a near guaranteed opportunity to work a bird, to a spot where birds were, but you were likely to get walked over by other hunters, and in its present day it feels like birds avoid the area after the first week of season.  It didn’t take long before we knew we had better pick up some new hunting spots close to home in a hurry.

As you will read in this article, I was able to reverse engineer the hunting experiences we had in the killing hole by applying firsthand knowledge of the area’s terrain to what was shown in an aerial view on Google Earth.  In doing so, Google Earth was used to quickly identify areas that should hold turkeys based on similar terrain, and boy did it pay off with a fine eastern to tote back to the truck!

turkey-hunting-north-georgia-13

The Killing Hole’s Terrain

The killing hole is nestled in the foothills of northwest Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest on public hunting land.  Cuts in the mountains above produce gently flowing creeks that work their way into the flatlands.  Loggers didn’t cut the timber in close proximity to the creeks, which created wooded buffers between roads, clear-cuts and the creeks.  In the mornings, birds would be roosted in the trees near the creeks.  Sometimes they pitched down into the clear cut and others they seemed to vanish into thin air.  In the evenings, turkeys would work their way through the clear cuts, visit the creek for a drink of water before scratching around a bit and flying up into their roosting trees.

Using Google Earth to Scout New Turkey Hunting Areas

After realizing the killing hole had become the hotspot for many other hunters, recovery efforts were needed in order to locate new spots that were likely to hold turkey.  The quickest way for me to do this was to use Google Earth and scout virtually using my computer.

I launched Google Earth, and after a search and some scrolling, the screen was zero’d in on the killing hole.  Zooming out a bit, the formation in the hills that created the small creeks down below in the flatland stood out, and after assessing the general area, similar terrain down the ridge a ways looked promising so I locked the coordinates into my GPS to use in the morning.  With double the distance to walk (maybe 1.5 miles) to the new listening post in the morning, I left a little earlier than usual.

I apparently misjudged the time it would take to walk to the new post, as I arrived later than anticipated breathing heavily (I had be covering the 1.5 miles as fast as I could to beat daylight). I began the process of softening my steps and calming my breathing as the remaining distance to the listening post closed.  Since the sky was starting to lighten up, I decided to draw my crow call and delivered two sharp blasts just short of the post for the sake of time.  A surge of adrenaline rushed through my body as a tom exploded 80 yards to my left, which was just over the property line.  Seconds later, a group of birds near the creek to my right answered.  Talk about a mad scramble, the morning sky was turning to daylight, birds were sounding off, and because I didn’t know the area well, I wasn’t sure where to setup.  Unfortunately, this particular morning the birds hit the ground and vanished.  Patience is not a virtue of mine, so after the lull I eased around the area and took inventory.  It looked promising with all the turkey tracks in the mud and scratching along the creek.  I smiled to myself as I realized the virtual scouting experience might actually pan out.

Success 24 Hours Later

The next morning, the departure time was adjusted and I arrived to the post plenty early.  Going in stealthy that morning, I eased in and sat down and waited.  Time passed and the bob white quail started their morning routine.  I should have heard a bird or two by now, so I pulled out a box call and yelped 3 times.  A bird gobbled, but because of his distance, it was chalked it up to coincidence.  It seemed as if he were miles away.  Just to be sure, I checked him with two sharp cuts and four yelps, and he answered promptly.  After 10 to 15 minutes of waiting the process was repeated.  This time he had cut the distance in half, but was still a ways out – the hunt had every indication of being one of those quick morning hunts that you’re back at your truck with a bird while some of the other guys are pulling in late.

My back and legs were starting to cramp when he gobbled off to my left, still out of sight, but close.  The setup wasn’t great but there wasn’t much to choose from in this particular area.  Based on his distance, I only had a few seconds to ease my barrel to the left and hold tight.  Moments later the fan eased up to the road about 30 yards to my left.  When he hit the road, he raised his head up as if something was out of sorts, and with the fastfire on him, I eased the trigger and rolled him back on the clay road.

I rushed over to him as he was doing the death flop.  My hand felt the business end of the spurs before my eyes saw them – at that time I knew I had a trophy on my hands.

eastern-wild-turkey-hunting-10

Why you should use Google Earth to scout virtually

In turkey hunting on public land, there aren’t many shortcuts to harvesting a mature eastern turkey.  It helps to know the land you’re hunting and how the birds use the area during the spring (which can be different than how they use it in the fall).  There are tools, like Google Earth, that you can use to your advantage by scouting virtually and identifying areas to hunt without seeing the property beforehand.

Using Google Earth in the Field

If at all possible, install Google Earth on your home computer and do your scouting before the hunt.  In doing so, you’ll be able to identify areas you may want to visit or even print maps to carry on the hunt (this is easy to do and works well).  In some instances, printing maps in advance may not be possible and having Google Earth on your smart phone will pay huge dividends.  In their Idaho hunt, Bobby and Wesley installed Google Earth on their smartphones because they were on an adventure hunt covering lots of ground in unfamiliar territory.  Having Google Earth on their devices allowed them to see fields and other types of terrain [while on the hunt] that might hold birds that they would have otherwise missed.

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When technology is not available

Cell phones and GPS batteries die and cell service is not available everywhere, which is why learning the terrain turkey use for a given area is important.  In the big country out west, there is lots of ground to cover, and if you aren’t careful, you can spend days trying to locate birds.  Take note of the terrain when you find birds.  Outside of your typical agricultural planting and food plots, you will discover certain types of terrain hold birds for various reasons.  By knowing the terrain attributes that hold birds, you can shave hours and even days off your scouting efforts.

In the end, technology doesn’t replace the need to understand turkey habitat and behavior, but leveraging technology with that knowledge of the wild turkey will produce killer results!

Grant Carmichael
Grand Slam Network
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
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Chasing Montana Merriams

Chasing Montana Merriams – Part 1

Over the Tracks

As Grant Carmichael and I eased down the right side of the raised rail road tracks staying in what was the equivalent of a wide ditch, we hoped to avoid detection from any turkeys on the lower ground to our left or from the quick rising coulees and high ground on our right. The area on the left of the tracks was a long flat strip of ground covered with Cottonwood trees and Russian olive bushes that ran for over a mile, with the river running parallel of the tracks forming the back edge. The strip was 100-150 yards deep and was 30’ lower than the track elevation. There was a long narrow lake bed that ran for 250 yards, although at the moment I didn’t know just where we were in relation to it or if it was wet or dry. We avoided standing or walking up on the tracks to look as we risked being busted if birds were around. In years past this strip was an area that turkeys occupied and roosted in. We were working our way down to a spot that birds traveled back and forth from the strip to the high ground, with plans of setting up and beginning our 2013 Montana Merriams turkey hunt. Although I have hunted Montana for the past 10 years, this would be the first time that my friend and Grand Slam Network.com partner had teamed up for this hunt. It was Grant’s first trip to this beautiful state and his first crack at these gorgeous white tipped birds.

It was mid afternoon as we walked and whispered back and forth discussing our plan when we were interrupted by a gobbler that gobbled on his own 80 yards away to our left. It sounded like he was just across the lake and as glad as we were to hear him, we were not in a position to call to him or get over on his side without being seen. Crossing over and going straight at him seemed like a bad gamble as we could be spotted or heard crunching gravel as we ran across the tracks. Our only option appeared to be moving down the tracks, crossing over, and trying to move back towards him. But if the lake had water in it we’d have a problem getting over on his side. I was trying to remember just where the dam was and finalize a decision when I heard the train off in the distance. This was a timely blessing as these trains run fast and it would be on us in a few minutes. This provided us another option that we’d not have otherwise.

I’m a believer in working with what you have and capitalizing on opportunities when you can and ours was speeding towards us. As unorthodox as it may sound, we decided to use the train for cover. We would wait and use it and the disturbance it caused as a diversion and cross over to the other side. We would then try and call the bird to the opposite bank which should only be 25 yards away. This would allow us to go straight at him without giving up ground but we had to be really quick with our move.

Chasing Montana Merriams
Trains in Montana are often three quarters of a mile long and travel fast.

Once the train got to us we hopped up near the tracks and stood only a few feet from the train holding our hats so they wouldn’t blow off. We were like wide receivers waiting for the ball to snap and the instant the train cleared us we darted around, jumped off the tracks, and initiated somewhat of controlled slide feet first under the barbed wire fence, and down the bank hoping that all the noise and commotion of the train would mask our move. The birds were used to the train and in a worse case its passing might push them back a ways but not spook them. I hoped this provided us a chance to get directly across from the gobbler without a long walk down the tracks and trying to circle back on him.

As we crossed I saw that the dam was 50 yards to our left and that the lake bed was dry. We slid two thirds the way down the bank and stopped, but quickly realized it was too thick to set up so we dropped on down the last 10’ to the dry bed.  With our backs against the bank, Grant got his gun up and began searching the far edge for any sign of movement. We spotted three birds 150 yards to our right down the long narrow lake bed right out in the open. This confused me at first because I didn’t think the birds were that far away or in that direction. As soon as the sound of the train faded, I yelped on a glass call thinking we might hear a gobble from their way. Nothing came from that direction but two gobblers hammered at us from our 11:00 position only 80-90 yards away.

Grant Carmichael Turkey Hunting Montana
Grant Carmichael Turkey Hunting Montana

I called again 30 seconds later and could tell the two gobblers were already moving in our direction. We were lower than the adjoining bank so we wouldn’t see them until they walked up to the far edge which was good as far as I was concerned. They’d have to come looking for us and once they got there they’d be in range.  The dam to our left began to worry us though because the next time they gobbled, we realized they had angled left and it sounded like they might come in from behind it or walk out on it. The dam splits the lake bed and I knew there was a low area beyond it just like we were sitting in. If they topped the dam they would be looking down on us just out of range. As close as they were and as risky as a move seemed at this point, we had to get closer. There was plenty of brush between the birds and us so we jumped up and sprinted 20 yards towards the dam and dropped back down now within easy range.

I called again to “gobble track” them so we’d have our guns pointing in the right direction with hopes of doubling up. They answered so we knew we had gotten away with our move. Within a minute I heard Grant whisper “I see em and I have a shot.” The bird Grant was on came up from behind the dam and walked right up on it, but the second bird stopped short with only the top of his red head visible over the crest. He only needed to take another step or two up and I could be on him but he appeared to be frozen to the earth. The first bird had his head stretched up staring down at us while Grant was fighting off pulling the trigger, trying to give me a chance at the second bird. If his bird moved left or right he would have obstacles in the way. Grant reminded me a couple more times that he had a shot and afraid to delay any longer, he plastered the bird dropping him in his tracks.

Grant now had a beautiful Merriams gobbler and we had both heard a good dose of afternoon gobbling. “Bird One” was down and in the books. Things had gotten off to a great start and although it had happened fast, it had been a fun and exciting hunt. Using the train for cover as we did made the hunt different and it was tense but exciting making the move around it and across the tracks. The decision to make the secondary sprint 20 yards to the dam had added to the drama and paid off.

As we walked back down the tracks with the gobbler over Grant’s shoulder, we looked forward to our next few days of Chasing Montana Merriams.

Special Delivery

I suspect all of us have been the instigator or the unfortunate recipient of an underhanded practical joke while in hunting camp. Well as innocent as I am, it’s worked both ways for me although currently I’m slightly ahead in deliveries versus receipts. Due to my perceived history I make it a point to sit at the camp-house table with my back to the corner and I’m constantly on alert for incoming efforts.

Back in 2002 I took a friend hog hunting at our club on the Flint River.  He wanted to know if they would attack you and at first I said yes and suggested that he always keep a climbable tree in sight just to make it more exciting and interesting for him. Then after feeling guilty for lying I told him the truth and that a pig attack wasn’t really likely.

I took him to an area and dropped him off and suggested he move into the wind and follow along the edge of a clear cut which the pigs moved in and out of. I left him and drove about a half mile away and started hunting for hogs as well. After a short stalk I walked up on a couple of midsized pigs and shot both of them thinking that they would be just the right size for my smoker.

I dragged them to the road, loaded them in the truck, and sat for a while trying to give my hunting partner more time to shoot a wild hog. About an hour later I headed back to pick my buddy up.

On my way I passed through what used to serve as the rear entrance of our club and at a crossroads that at one point used to be our “sign in” area. There was an oversized mailbox mounted that we didn’t use anymore and as I drove by it a little light bulb came on in my head. I stopped, got out, looked at the mailbox, looked at one of the pigs, looked at the mailbox again, and figured it was worth a shot.

If you want a real challenge, try cramming a 50 lb. pig in a 24” mailbox. It took several attempts and I had to bend a little strip of metal to help keep the lid closed. The effort was further complicated because the box was tilted toward the front so the pig kept trying to slide out. Finally I was able to back away and the lid stayed shut. I wiped the blood off the edges, sat in the truck and watched it a couple more minutes to be sure it would stay shut, and then went to get my friend pretty happy with my upcoming entertainment program.

My buddy was waiting and as he walked over to the truck he mentioned that he had seen a few pigs but could not get a shot off. He asked if it was me that he heard shoot a couple times and of course being the honest and forthright person that I am I acknowledged it was me and that I had a pig in the truck and had missed another one. He wanted to keep looking at my dead pig but I couldn’t wait to get back to the crossroads as I intended to ask my buddy to check the mail.  Finally he jumped in and as we drove back down the road I was hoping that the compression packed pig surprise had not popped open.

As we pulled up to the crossroads I was relieved to see everything was still in order. I asked my buddy if he would mind checking the mailbox, to see if any other members’ might have signed in and explained that any coming in the back gate would sign in using the mailbox. They wouldn’t but he didn’t know this so he just jumped out and kept talking to me and looking around as he walked right up to the mailbox and grabbed the lid. The instant he pulled on lid the pig’s head popped out and fell on his hand and then the whole pig came sliding out like it was greased and pressurized and landed right at his feet.  He jerked his hand back so fast it’s a wonder his fingers didn’t fly off and he looked like he had been plugged into an electrical outlet. He jumped and did the man scream thing followed by some impressive back pedal movements that Michael Jackson would have been proud of. For a big man he could move surprisingly well when he wanted to. He began to verbally abuse me at this point and appeared to be threatening to hurt me. I couldn’t really hear what he was saying because I was laughing so hard I had I had tears running down my face. What I would have given to have had an I-Phone or video camera then!

As long as I live I’ll have the mental video re play of this memorable event. I’m pretty sure he has the same video memory only with a different perspective.

Like I said earlier: When I’m in hunting camp with my friends,  I sit with my back to the corner and I’m always on the lookout for incoming efforts from those who “owe” me. The bad news is my “pig in a mailbox” buddy moved away. The good news is I have new friends and guest hunting with me this year.   It should be a fun season and of course it’s always great to help create memorable moments.

My First Trip to Alabama

Years ago I accompanied a friend on his first turkey hunt on his newly joined hunting club over in Alabama. This trip was planned a month ahead and because my buddy had no turkey hunting  experience I suggested he watch a few videos and read what he could so he would have an idea of what to expect.

A few weeks later as we made the drive over from Georgia; I munched on trail mix and explained the basics involved with chasing turkeys.  We pulled into camp around mid afternoon and met the club president who invited us into his camping trailer and gave us the history and background of the club and property.

15 minutes later all three of us jumped in my truck and took off for a quick tour of the club property. As I drove I continued to munch on my trail mix but about 15-20 minutes later I started having digestive issues which I’m pretty sure were due to the dates or raisins. Realizing what was coming down the pike, I rolled my window down and as a common courtesy; I suggested they do the same. The club president didn’t take this very well and demanded that I stop the truck immediately, which I did because he was already opening the door and it looked like he was going to bail out into the ditch before I could pull over.

He launched himself out of the truck like we were under a chemical warfare attack which in a way we were, and stood with his arms crossed leaning against the tailgate. I wasn’t really expecting anyone to be thrilled with the event but was a little surprised he was taking it as he was. After what I guess he thought was an appropriate de-fumigating period he climbed back in but didn’t seem to think as highly of me as he did when we first arrived.  I had to stop two more times and let him go through the evacuation procedure and stand outside the truck with his arms crossed at which point he told us that we had seen enough of the property and was ready to go back to camp. I believe he would have walked if he could but it was too far.

On the way back we saw 3 gobblers and several hens in the back corner of a large pasture. When we asked if we could go after the birds he told us it wasn’t part of the property although I know he said it was when we went by it the first time. It occurred to me then that the date and raisin debacle was about to cost us a chance at a gobbler. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like to eat health foods.

After we pulled back into camp, he either didn’t want me to come in his trailer or he started liking us again or simply thought he was safer to get rid of us because he changed his mind and told us that the pasture with the gobblers was now back in his possession and that we could hunt it. He mentioned that the birds might exit the pasture off the back right corner and that there was a narrow food plot that they might head to 75 yards from the pasture. He told us how to get to a logging road that would take us to the plot the far end of the food plot.

Fortunately I was born with a genetic make up that allows me to drive to the “Dukes of Hazard” standard when the situation calls for it. I displayed this gifted driving ability all the way back to the logging road that led to the food plot. As I fish-tailed around the turns and re-arranged everything in the bed of the truck, I told my friend to be ready to hit the ground running and that we had to beat the birds to the green strip. As we blew past the pasture the birds were leaving the field off the back edge just as we had been told so I knew it was going to be close.

I slid up into the logging road and we bailed out jamming shells into the gun as we sprinted towards the food plot. The birds weren’t in sight yet and I knew they would come from the left if they came at all so we backed off 25-30 feet into what little cover we had with my buddy 20 feet to my right.

I really had no idea how my partner would react with the birds so I told him to get his gun up on his knee and point it straight out towards the green strip. I also told him to be statue still, and not to shoot until I told him to. If the birds came in we’d just let the gobbler walk in front of his gun and if the first bird got in front of him I might have a chance on one of the other gobblers if one trailed in.

I threw out a couple of yelps and within a couple minutes caught a glimpse of a gobbler 50 yards away in full strut coming down our side of the strip. Just as I was about to communicate that a bird was coming, my friend (who for some reason is incapable of whispering) said “BOBBY, SOMEONES COMING”. I began to panic and wondered who would be walking in the woods at such an inopportune time knowing they were about to spook our bird. Then it occurred to me that my friend was looking in the direction of the gobbler and was seeing the red and white head of the fanned out bird through the foliage and didn’t know what he was looking at. Apparently he had not watched any turkey hunting videos.

Once this craziness registered I whispered, “It’s the bird”, afraid the bird had already heard him. Then to my surprise he came back in an even louder voice with,” NO, IT’s SOMEBODY, THEY’RE RIGHT THERE”. By this time I was about to go into cardiac arrest and in a terse whisper, I said “IT”S THE BIRD, BE QUIET!” At that moment he realized what was happening and quieted down.

Somehow the bird ended up being alone did not hear us, strutted by 25 yards away, and walked in front of my friend’s gun. To his credit, he did stay still and when I said “shoot”, he plastered the bird.

As we were standing over his first gobbler he said, “I don’t suppose I can persuade you to not ever tell anyone about this can I”?  Of course, completely understanding how embarrassing this must be for him and being the sympathetic and reliable person I am, I said, “Oh you’ll never have to worry about me saying anything”.