As a hunter I try to resist the temptation of “keeping score”, when it comes to turkeys or any other quarry. Being that hunting is considered a sport, its not always easy, as we live in a world that is centered around scores and points. However as much as I try not to strive on counting points or scores, I tend to make it more about the experiences, gained each year in the field.
Last spring, my experiences in pursuit of the wild turkey were extraordinary! Not because I filled my tag but because of all the remarkable encounters and lessons I was able to share with friends throughout the season. These experiences were very frustrating at times yes, but when looking back on them, I can say taught me to know and love the sport that we call turkey hunting.
Opening day of every season is always a very special day. Mine began a few days prior to the MN turkey opener, as I scouted from a near by road watching some gobbles strut and then later on return to their “roost tree”. Things were looking bright for the seasons opener, now knowing where the birds were and what I needed to do, giving me a great ambush. I guess for me what ended up making the 2009 opener so special was all the gobbling. It seemed as I was hitting things just right. I have never heard so many gobbles out of one location in my entire life. Needless to say I wouldn’t sleep one wink that night!
Thankfully with the loud and voicesterous birds roosted in the pines to my south, I set up undetected waiting anxiously for sun up. I had birds gobbling loudly and frequently. They gobbled often and loud! They gobbled at a near by owl and then back to me as I sat on the field edge in my Ameristep ground blind only 100 yards away. When the birds took flight off their roost tree and landed directly on my decoy spread, I couldn’t help but to be excited, but what I didn’t realize as two mature gobblers made their way into bow range was the jake that had slipped in undetected from my left-hand side and unbeknownst to me would end up blowing the entire set up, as he caught me coming to full draw.
Two days later on the same piece of ground that I heard the 50 some gobbles opening morning, a friend of mine, Andy and I set up with hopes of catching the returning birds as they looked to roost for the evening. It had been a tough hunt so far with almost no gobbling, but right at about 30 minutes left before sun down, both toms from opening morning appeared atop a rise in front of us at 200 yards or so. Closing in on our ambush site the birds mysteriously hung up at 75 yards and became very timid. I began to wonder what we possibly could have done to tip the off the two toms, when all of the sudden two stray dogs tore through the open field in hot pursuit of our birds!
It was tough to swallow and a little discouraging I will admit, but It was a good reminder for myself that this is why we call it hunting and not killing. Andy and I were able to laugh about it afterwards but commented on how things just didn’t seem to be going our way thus far. Admitting honestly though, that in my few years of turkey hunting, I have never called in and had as much fun as I did on those two setups. This was quickly becoming one of the most remarkable and rewarding springs to date for me as a turkey hunter.
Now four days after the unforgettable opening morning, we set up on the opposite side of the wood-lot watching as the birds strutted atop the nob in the middle of the field to our north. I couldn’t resist the temptation and told Andy I was going in! This is where my guiding experiences in the west have caused havoc to my turkey hunting style! Trying to slip in on the flock of birds like you would an antelope in the western states, I was able to reach the field edge undetected. closing the distance to about 70 yards the birds slowly continued in my direction. I began to realize that this really might happen! I was laying tight in the tall grass on the fence line between my filed and theirs as they made their way closer and closer. I could now make out a bunch of birds but still couldn’t see the mature tom. Just when I began to wonder where he had went, I saw a full fan spread out between all the grass blades I was peering through. Luckily for me the fan was moving in a steady pace to my right following the rest of the flock. Leaving a 35 yard shot, I sat up slowly drawing all in one motion, I released my arrow. Not wanting to believe what had just happened, I walked out to the mud soaked arrow realizing that at some point during my sneak one of my three fletchings had fallen off, preventing the arrow a true flight to what I had hoped to be a 35 yard kill shot.
I’ve come to realize that there is a mystical relationship between numbers and living things. Never though in all of my years of hunting have I experienced the connection, the relationship quite like it happened in 2009. No I didn’t bag bird but I don’t think anything like it will ever occur again, even if I hunt for another 25 plus years. That is as it should be, and is the reason why we love this sport and take to the woods each passing year!