Pro Staff Blog

Tough Birds by Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson

As unbelievable as this story may sound, it is true. There are no exaggerations and no lies. This is a true story told just as it happened.

Last spring turkey season was crazy! As soon as I was done with finals, I headed up to the farm. The timing couldn’t have been any better. Finals week was during the first week of turkey season. That wasn’t a big deal because in Missouri, you can only kill one bird during the first week. With school out, I had the next two weeks to fill my tags. Little did I know that it would take nearly two full weeks.

I hunted harder than I ever had. I was up before sunrise and didn’t head back in until 1. Dad and I had turkeys all around us every morning. They answered calls while still on the roost. One morning we counted atleast five toms, all within about 100 yards. Every morning, the turkeys would fly down from the roost, hang out for a bit, answer some calls, then disappear. We tried so many different techniques, but nothing worked. After 8 days of hunting without seeing one of our ghostly turkeys, I decided I was going to do anything it took to kill one.

Dad called it a day around 9 or so. He was getting pretty frustrated, as was I. But I decided to stick it out. “You can’t kill a turkey sitting in the house,” I told him. I took a short nap thinking I wouldn’t see anything for a while after he went walking through the fields back to the house. I woke up a while later, reorganized my vest, and starting calling. Nothing. After waiting about 45 minutes, I called some more. Still nothing. I amused myself watching some squirrels and then called some more. Finally an answer. Just to the north. He was at the south edge of a corn field where I normally hang my deer stand. I grabbed my gear and eased up the fence row. There were two strips of woods that I would have to negotiate my way through without making a sound before I could get to where he was. As I approached the first strip, I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled to a location I could easily cross. Every few minutes I would hit my crow call to make sure he was still in the same location. I hit my belly and started crawling through the woods. Inch by inch. I was getting close now. I decided I had gotten close enough that I could probably call him in the remaining distance. A log seemed to be divinely placed in front of me to use as a rest. I got ready. Something was strange though. As I was making my way to this point, every few minutes the turkey would gobble once or twice. He had stopped. “I hope he’s not trying to circle around the woods,” I thought. At this point, I turned around to look behind me. As I scanned the horizon, a big red head popped out from behind a tree about 10 yards away. He had successfully flanked me. And that was the end of that hunt. That bird made a big mistake. He was at the top of my wanted list. It was no longer about the size of the beard or spurs. It became a matter of pride. I had a grudge to settle.

The next morning went as the rest of the week had. Except now I was really frustrated. My dad went in early again and I stayed out. My routine at this point was very similar to the previous day. After a couple of hours I heard a gobble. I thought I knew where he was, but couldn’t be sure with only one gobble. He cut loose again. I determined he was across the creek about 1/4 of a mile away. He gobbled again. “That’s it, I’ve had enough! I’m going after him!” I thought to myself. I gathered my gear, checked for turkeys in the field to the north, the ran towards the creek. There was plenty of cover between me and that turkey. At this point I was wanting to close the distance as fast as possible. As I approached the creek, I eased up. The water was high so I had to get to the bridge to cross. The undergrowth was so thick that it seemed like forever. I was walking so slow, trying not to make any noise. I didn’t have to worry about being seen because of how thick the brush was, but I knew he was close enough to hear me if I made too much noise. I finally made my way to the edge of the creek where I thought the bridge was. But there was no bridge. I had mis calculated. At this point I didn’t care. I slipped down the bank and made my way through the sticky mud. I climbed out on the other side trying to stay as low to the ground as possible. I really had to be careful now. The tom was on top of a ridge planted in CRP. He had the height advantage. I continued to ease through the woods, being as quiet as humanly possible. At one point he spotted me. I was watching him as I crawled hands and knees through the woods. I could tell by his behavior that he saw me move. I froze. Didn’t move a muscle for what seemed like an eternity. He finally went back to strutting and feeding. I moved on into some thicker brush and lost sight of him. When I emerged, I didn’t see him anywhere. I continued to the edge of the woods and setup at a tree. Still no sign. After waiting for about half an hour, I decided to go back to get some gear I left behind to lighten the load.

No sooner did I pack up all my gear that he gobbled again. I dropped everything except a diaphragm call and my gun and took of running. This time I was going to head west along the south fence and flank him, just like he did to me the day before. I crossed the creek and paused at the edge of the woods. He wasn’t on the ridge anymore, but had moved about 100 yards west into a bean field. I continued up the south fence until I came to another strip of woods. I eased up through the woods to the edge of the bean field and sat down thinking he might be working my direction. He gobbled a few more times. He was in the bean field, but I couldn’t see him for the terrain. For a minute, I thought he was headed south west, so I crossed the south fence then headed west using the tree line for cover. I stopped at the top of a knoll and got ready. But he was no where to be seen. After sitting there for about 10 minutes, he gobbled again. Now he was back on top of the CRP ridge where I had first seen him nearly an hour before. He gobbled again and I took off running across the bean field. I knew he had to be about 60 yards out into the field. There was a tree line with thick underbrush that provided perfect cover for me to get to the edge of the CRP field. As I approached this tree line, I eased up. I picked out a tree to use as a rest. I wasn’t going to bother sitting down. Two steps away from the tree, the tom stepped out from under the fence in full strut, just five feet from me! I don’t know how he didn’t know I was there, or how I didn’t know he was there. But somehow it happened. I froze. I didn’t even blink. It’s a good thing I didn’t have a full bladder, because I think I would have wet myself. He dropped his strut and crossed back under the fence. “Well, I just blew that,” I thought. I took the last two steps up to the tree. Just incase, I got my gun ready. There was only a small basketball sized hole I had to shoot through. Sure enough, his head appeared through the hole only 10 yards away. Boom! Nothing. No flapping, no flopping, nothing. I thought I missed. I was so disappointed. From where I was, I couldn’t see the ground to see if he was lying there dead. “Well, I’ve got to check to see if he’s dead or wounded.” I stepped out to see a 21 pound tom with a 10 inch beard and 1 ¼ inch spurs dead on the ground. My grudge was settled.

That evening, a buddy of mine showed up to hunt for the weekend. He didn’t believe me when I told him the birds were not coming in to calls. He thought I was crazy for stalking them, and thought he was going to show me up and call one in. So in the morning we headed out as usual. There were turkeys all around us and they were answering calls. After about three hours none of them had come in. Instead, they just disappeared. I couldn’t help myself. “I told you so!” We moved to another spot, set up, and started calling. We tried everything in the book over the period of the next couple hours to no avail. We were contemplating going in for lunch when we heard a gobble across the creek in the same location I was busted two days prior. He gobbled again. Neither of us said a word and simultaneously started shucking gear. We didn’t want anything to slow us down. Because of the lay of the ground, we were going to have to the long way around to get setup on that tom. We sprinted ¼ of a mile south across a bean field, caught our breath at the south fence, then ran east along the fence until we got to the east edge of the property. The tom shock gobbled to a crow call. He was still in the same spot. So we continued north along the east fence. As we got closer we dropped to our hands and knees and crawled about 75 yards. We were getting close now. To our advantage, we could not see the turkey for a small knoll in the field. At the south edge, we dropped to our bellies to army crawl. There was another 60 yards to the top of the knoll. The only problem was that the field had just been cut and was merely a few inches tall. We had no cover and could only hope that if he came in, he would think we were logs. For a second, it sounded like two birds gobbled at once. But that couldn’t be. It would be too good to be true. We painstakingly crawled closer and closer. I moved to the edge of the woods and slowly raised my head up to get an eye on the tom. Sure enough, there were two big toms. I dropped back down and we continued crawling for another 45 minutes. We nearly reached the top of the knoll when we spotted a tail fan. This would be as far as we would go. My buddy hit a couple of soft, sexy clucks. Maybe it would entice them just enough to close the distance. We watched as they slowly worked their way straight towards us. Distance was hard to judge as we were lying on the ground. The two bobbing heads appeared to be in range. “You take the left one, I’ll take the right one. Shoot on 3.” We started the count and the birds switched places. The count restarted. They switched again. “1…2…3” Boom! We both shot, but only one bird dropped. Mine flew off. It turned out to be a 45 yard shot. My 3 inch loads just didn’t compare to the 3 ½ inch magnum loads my buddy was shooting. But I didn’t mind. The experience was well worth it. Now we just had to convince my dad of what happened. There is no way anyone would believe our story. Sure enough, we spent an hour convincing him that we were telling the truth.


Kevin Paulson

Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of His passion for Hunting began at the age of 5 hunting alongside of his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography and hunting trips around the world.

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