The problem is all inside your head, she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to leave your GOBBLER
-Paul Simon(Maybe slightly Modified)
While there may be fifty ways to leave your lover, I know for certain that there are at least 5 ways to leave your Gobbler.
I recently returned from a whirlwind double-header turkey hunt. I spent two full days in the rolling sandhills of Nebraska and immediately hopped a plane for a 2 ½ day hunt in Upstate New York. The vast openness of Nebraska allowed for miles of views, while the dense, wet, and wooded areas of New York called for a different style of hunting. Each hunt presented wildly different experiences but left me with the same result: no turkey.
I consider myself a completely novice turkey hunter. I shot a Merriam hen last fall out of pure luck. I happened to be standing nearby when a flock of 20 birds hopped single file onto a dirt road. They either never saw me, which I highly doubt because I was just kneeling in the road, or they could not have cared less. As soon as I had a clear shot I fired. What a cinch. Turkey hunting seemed easy.
Nebraska – Spring 2017
After a long, late drive through torrential rains, we pulled up to turkey camp at 1:00 am. There was really not a chance that we were going to get up early. We did not know where they were roosted and it was pouring rain. We headed out to scout at about 9:00 am after the rain had lessened. Everything was a mess. In fact, no trucks or cars were out, as we later found out that school was cancelled for a mud day. I am all too familiar with snow days, being from Colorado, but had never heard of a mud day.
We drove a short distance and figured we would learn more if we hiked around. We headed to a high point to glass and saw a few hens way out in the distance. The good news is that the turkeys are very easy to spot in the Nebraska sandhills. The small black blobs are easily recognizable, but they are usually miles away. After watching for awhile, we noticed that the birds were partial to the crop fields and the deep ravines that fingered in every direction.
We hiked through a cut-corn field and stopped on the other side. The view was breathtaking. For miles, all that was visible was an alluring, lush green flat with gullies where crawling pines, cedars and brush ensconced themselves in hidden havens.
We set ourselves on a hidden ledge and started calling. Gobbles answered. The gobbles were coming from my left which was ideal. I had a perfect wall of native grass and sand that barricaded me from view. I was about 40 yards above the flat when we heard the majestic ripples. They were gobbling and they were coming, 2 Jakes. Not ideal because, of course, we are all searching for the Longbeard. However, hunting is hunting and meat is meat. I did not have much time and my tag allowed me a Jake so if it was right, I was fine with shooting.
Unfortunately we were too high up to set any decoys so we just worked the call. Hunting turkeys requires a lot of patience and I am convinced that it is 90% luck. These Jakes were coming, they gobbled responses to the “Turkey Thug” box call and they were coming! They continued to move our direction, 10 more yards, 10 more yards. I was ready, my gun was on the sticks and my heart was pumping. Then, like a fugacious wonder, they were gone. About 60 seconds later, a hungry coyote came gamboling through the valley. (#1 way to lose your Gobbler.)
New York – Spring 2017
It is not that often, actually it has never happened to me, that you get invited to Upstate New York for a turkey hunt. Due to my exposure through HuntressView, I was approached by the Vice President of ScoutLook to join their team for a 2 ½ day hunt for Eastern Turkeys. I was able to juggle my work and parenting schedule for this incredible opportunity.
In my short hunting career, I have only hunted with a few people: my boyfriend Eric, my son, and two of Eric’s friends. This trip would mark the first time that I hopped a plane, hunted and camped with complete strangers for a species that I knew nothing about. I am never one to turn down a challenge or an opportunity so away I went.
Hunting is a lot like golf in this regard. You may get paired with people you do not know and you are stuck with each other for the next 4-5 hours, sometimes days. It is about flexibility and adjustment and working to understand the intricacies of humanity through different personalities, backgrounds and preferences. I love people and human performance. Whether the experience is positive or negative, there is always a lesson gained.
Our first morning began abruptly at 3:30 am. In New York, you can only hunt turkeys until noon. I am still unclear on this law, but have come to my own conclusion that silly rules like this encourage afternoon napping, so it’s all good.
Josh Dahlke, VP of Operations at ScoutLook, Matt Sprouse, cameraman extraordinaire, and I headed out to a field that had been a marked roost area on the ScoutLookWeather and Mapping app. Our plan was to set a ground blind about 75 yards from the treeline of the roost trees. We were successful and got comfortable (as comfy as 3 can get in a ground blind) with our eyes open and our decoys positioned.
Just as the sun began to rise, I spotted 5 turkeys roosting in the trees straight ahead. It was a little hard to believe that they had spent the entire night in the limbs that waived waved? side to side like a hippy at a Yanni concert. I thought turkeys didn’t like wind and preferred nice, thick, horizontal limbs. Nope, not these birds. Safe to say they were New Yorkers.
Josh began calling. I was impressed. The only time I really tried to make a turkey call with my diaphragm (which takes me hours to get used to because of my horrific gag reflex) was when I was supposed to be making a cow elk call. I enjoyed listening to his turkey music and once the turkeys started responding, it was like a Red Rocks concert. The woods were waking up.
Moments later, we watched in awe as a hen pitched down from the roost directly in front of us. I had seen a turkey in flight for the first time days prior in Nebraska and it was only because they busted me. This, on the other hand, was what that 3:30 am wake up call was about. Shortly, there were several turkeys in our field! I could feel my heart pumping and took that moment to appreciate the present.
“Long Beard on the left!!!! Get ready!! Get the gun through the window,” Josh yell-whispered. I swung the barrel to the window, noticing it was inches from Matt’s head. Oh crap, I can’t shoot, what about Matt? Josh continued, “Plug your ears, Matt!! There he is, SHOOT HIM.” The Tom was strutting and moving and I was worried about Matt. I couldn’t find a comfortable shooting position. The turkey kept walking and was now visible through the next window. The whisper-yell directions continued, “There HE IS.. c’mon get over here!! He is TOO FAR. Here, use the 12 Gauge!! Are you comfortable with that? Do you want to shoot it? Here TAKE it. SHOOT!!” I shot. I shot a gun I never shot. I definitely missed. (#2 way to lose your Gobbler)
After the party we experienced on Day 1, we decided it was best to head back to that same spot. Torrential rains and high winds had plagued the night, but by 4:00 am the woods were placid and breezeless. We delicately ambled toward our blind, or where our blind WAS, and arrived in somewhat shock and disbelief. Although we heard the winds, it ever once occurred to us that our blind may be gone. We couldn’t waste time looking for it so we made a new plan, Stan.
We sat for a few while we gathered some more information on the ScoutLook map and decided to head to another known roost spot. The humidity was high and the temperature was climbing. In New York, that typically directly correlates with the amount of gnat and mosquito activity.
Enter Thermacell. Thermacell repellent devices are small walkie talkie looking units that hook to your clothing or pack. They are powered by a butane cartridge. Butane provides the cordless, portable heat that activates the devices. The heat generated by the butane cartridge is directed to a metal grill. A small mat saturated with repellent is inserted on top of the metal grill. Heat disperses the repellent from the mat into the air, creating a zone of protection. Exit gnats, mosquitos and other micro-annoyances that keep you from stealthy hunting behavior and general comfort. (#3 way to lose your Gobbler)
We settled into to a corner of trees and started calling. We were pretty exposed, but heard some gobbles so I got my first whisper-yell warning. “Get ready to shoot and don’t MOVE.” Josh began his music and instantly a hen was intrigued and responsive.
Turkeys have incredible vision and are able to detect motion many, many yards away. Their eyesight is said to be three times that of a human.
In addition to their excellent visual acuity, turkeys also have awesome peripheral vision. Turkeys have laterally positioned eyes to give a broader field of view. They have an approximate visual field of 270 degrees around them. Put that together with a turkey’s uncanny ability to rotate his neck completely around and he can spot a huntress coming a mile away, 360 degrees around him, with a simple twist of his head.
Camo game better be strong! It really does need to match your terrain and it needs to cover you from head to toe. I was lucky enough to receive my Sitka Gear Subalpine Optifade the evening I left for my hunt. The scientifically vetted pattern is intended for hunters who are stalking or ambushing animals from the ground in tree covered and vegetated terrain. The high contrast of the pattern is optimized for close engagement distances of fifty yards or less and it allows the pattern to keep its depth at these close ranges, providing the hunter an edge to stalk in and hopefully get a shot.
I was reassured that my camo game was on point at this moment. The hen danced within 5 yards of us for 10-15 minutes. Putting, purring, yelping, every textbook sound you read about. It was truly magical. Unfortunately she was running solo that morning. (#4 way to lose your Gobbler).
My 2017 turkey adventures have led me closer to field independence. Mother nature and God’s power will always dominate the hunt (#5 way to lose your Gobbler). However, there are many things I learned this year that will make me a better turkey hunter: patience and keeping an open mind, preparation and field knowledge through guides like Josh and ScoutLook, perfect ground blind locations, well-patterned weapons, calling, decoy placement and good old fashioned luck. I met new friends, made great connections, used elite products, ate fabulous meals and made memories that will never fade away. As for those turkeys, they lived another day.