Setting the Stage for Turkey Success
March 31, 2022
The hen slowly made her means towards the banks of the Pink River. In tow have been six toms that have been spinning in strut like senseless robots. The toms’ courtship dances jogged my memory of the outdated 70s vibrating soccer sport the place the gamers simply moved round in random circles. The birds have been solely 80 yards from my setup on the time.
I had referred to as from atop the rising embankment within the woods above the riverbottom and bought fast responses from a number of gobblers. I smiled in consequence, and adrenaline pumped again into my veins as I headed down the embankment.
I’ve usually heard individuals say that searching turkeys is like searching elk: You name to find them, after which transfer in as shut as you possibly can and get arrange. And like elk searching, simply since you find turkeys, doesn’t imply that they’ll cooperate and comply with the script. This had been the case in my earlier dozen-plus setups.
The issue wasn’t discovering toms; it was getting them to behave the way in which they have been alleged to. Regardless, I used to be simply grateful to be enjoying the turkey sport right here in Minnesota, only a mile south of my home. Elk must wait till September.
I hurriedly arrange my pop-up blind and caught my plastic protagonist jake decoy about 4 yards from the entrance of my blind. My fake jake’s wannabe “girlfriend” was positioned a number of yards to my proper, the place she performed it cool, appearing all coy and coquettish. A lightweight breeze made my artificial thespians dance and rotate, additional including a way of life and vitality to the scene.
This was my third set of the morning, and the beautiful morning solar pouring into the riverbottom made for a stupendous mid-Could hunt. The small flock of turkeys was nonetheless out of vary, and all I may see at that second have been the fanned-out tails of the toms rotating and shimmering within the daylight. I couldn’t see the hen anymore, as a few small, rolling knolls blocked my view of the birds — and probably that of the toms’ view of my decoys.
I referred to as for all I used to be price with nice gusto and enthusiasm. I can use a diaphragm name, however fact be instructed, I’m not that nice at it, so I keep on with my easier-to-use slate and field calls. I’ve no clue if I over-call, under-call, or do something appropriately. However generally what I do works, and generally it doesn’t!
After an hour or so of bantering backwards and forwards with the birds, I figured this was going to be only one extra irritating and uneventful turkey hunt. I may see them and listen to them, however to date, they wouldn’t budge. After which, by some unseen pressure, the hen started slowly sauntering in my path — pecking on the floor as she got here — and the six amigos adopted her like automated drones on a leash. The hen’s gradual and regular path in the end introduced the toms to roughly 30 yards, the place they might now clearly see my ruse. That modified every little thing, and I grabbed my do-it-yourself longbow and bought prepared for motion.
The Magnificent Six, beforehand unable to assume on their very own, now rapidly got here towards my place stuffed with bravado and machismo. When the lead tom sauntered in entrance of my blind at 4 yards, I drew my longbow, centered on his head and neck, after which launched my arrow tipped with a three-bladed Tom Bomb. Sadly, the tip of my bow’s prime limb hit the roof of the blind, and my arrow skidded harmlessly away. I rapidly nocked a second arrow, and within the hen’s confusion bought off a second shot with the identical actual outcomes… Dadburnit!
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The six toms scattered in all instructions, confused by the state of affairs and unusual noises. One tom scooted to my left at 12 yards and paused broadside. I had a screened window on that facet, so I grabbed one other arrow with a “regular” Bear Razorhead, centered on his vitals, contorted my physique and bow to maintain from hitting the blind’s roof, and launched. The magical “thunk” of broadhead assembly feathers and flesh was music to my ears. The arrow-struck hen rapidly ran two 20-foot circles and dropped lifeless. A fluttering of tail feathers within the wind signaled “sport over.” Jubilation and celebration quickly adopted, made all of the sweeter by a earlier two-year drought on turkey success. I used to be again!
As a dedicated conventional bowhunter for 35-plus years, I’ve solely been pursuing turkeys for the previous 12 years, throughout which era I’ve skilled my share of celebrated successes and dismal failures. Urged on by my good pal Paul Speral, I jumped in with each ft and have cherished the journey and sit up for it every spring.
The vitals of a turkey are small, as a lot of the hen is simply fluff and feathers. It’s too straightforward to wound or not deliver down a turkey with a misplaced physique shot. A gobbler’s head/neck is roughly the identical measurement as his vitals, and a shot to this a part of his physique often ends in a lifeless turkey, or a whistle-clean miss. Because of this, by means of the urging of my pal Paul, I’ve just lately switched from aiming at a tom’s physique to focusing my intention on his head and neck. As an apart, I’ve by no means thought-about myself a persistently nice shot, which is why I’ve additionally employed the usage of significantly massive fixed-blade heads particularly designed to lop the top off a turkey at shut vary.
The tools I exploit features a Primos pop-up blind, tripod folding chair, an outdated backpack, my jake and two hen decoys, binos, and calls. I put on all black clothes and use a black facemask and light-weight black gloves — the proper camo for mixing into the darkish confines of a blind.
On this hunt, I used one among my shorter 62-inch longbows. I’ve additionally taken a few good toms with my recurves. When bowhunting turkeys from a blind with conventional deal with, you’ll need to make sure that to make use of the most important/tallest blind you possibly can. I usually arrange my blind for a pair weeks of follow, however as you possibly can see from this hunt, within the warmth of the second, it’s very straightforward to overlook the place your bow’s limbs are in relation to the blind. It’s a lesson you’d assume I’d have realized over time, however apparently I’m a gradual learner…
Talking of blinds, turkeys — in contrast to deer — may care much less about them. Once I set my blind up, I go away the entrance home windows open, with out screens. The 2 nearest facet home windows I like open however with full screens. This offers me further visibility for birds coming in, plus extra hidden safety and an occasional shoot-through alternative. In my quiver, I carry two arrows tipped with head-loppers, and 4 loaded with common broadheads, in order that if I need to shoot by means of a display on the facet, I’m good.
I’ve had good success finding a flock proper earlier than sundown, and when this occurs, I’ll arrange early the subsequent day within the predawn darkness, out of sight however inside calling distance of their roost timber. That is in no way foolproof, thoughts you, as a result of turkeys are turkeys and oftentimes have a thoughts of their very own and simply go the place and after they need to — they’re a really fickle and finicky critter, for certain. That is the place scouting comes into play: If I’m in a position to determine their day by day patterns, I’ll arrange an ambush earlier than dawn between the place I noticed them go to mattress the night time earlier than, and the place my scouting has instructed me they’ll often go shortly after they fly down from their roost to feed.
All that mentioned, I nonetheless contemplate myself extra of a run-and-gun turkey hunter. I’ll drive to a number of places that I do know have held birds previously and name to them. If I get a response, I’ll pack in and arrange — regardless of the time of day. On a couple of event, I’ve pushed my seven-mile turkey loop a number of instances a day simply to search for turkeys. If I’m lucky sufficient to identify some, I’ll then use the terrain to sneak in as shut as I can earlier than establishing. “Adapt and overcome” is an effective motto for spring gobblers.
A pair years again, I had an early morning hunt close to a roosting tree. As mild slowly poured out over the panorama, element and colour returned to forest and subject alike. The terrain got here alive with the sounds of spring. The gobblers and hens ramped up their morning wakeup chatter with elevated depth, and shortly the flapping of huge wings could possibly be heard as your complete flock descended to Mom Earth. I bantered again with my finest imitations, and most frequently bought a right away response. All the time an encouraging signal, however I’ve been at this lengthy sufficient to know that simply because these birds have been “returning fireplace,” didn’t essentially assure I’d get shut encounters of the turkey sort.
The morning continued to put on on, and after a boring hour or so of no visuals or audios, my hopes started to fade like so many different earlier high-hoped beginnings. Simply after I’d just about given up all hope, destiny intervened within the type of a bright-red head poking over the rise of a small hill. My coronary heart charge immediately accelerated into overdrive, and I hit the decision with depth. Quickly, two extra crimson heads emerged like periscopes scanning left and proper. Let the Gobbler Video games start!
The mild breeze was timed completely because it made my three decoys dance and spin on cue, creating the phantasm of life and motion. The three testosterone-amped toms started to fluff and strut of their ingrained try to each showcase for my hen decoys and intimidate my jake.
However then an odd and weird factor occurred: The three toms started operating in circles, up and down and throughout the small hilltop. One would run 100 yards a method, disappear behind the hill, solely to point out up once more the place he started 10 minutes later. Just a few instances, one would feign a direct assault in my path, solely to veer off in one other random path when he was 40 to 50 yards away. These gobbler antics have been each hysterical and very irritating, and I smiled and laughed below my breath on the unpredictable and surprising circus earlier than me. With every rush, dodge, dive, and duck of the toms, I’d maintain my bow within the prepared place after which sit again down in disappointment… These ADHD turkeys have been driving me nuts!
After 45 minutes of dancing, dodging, and disappearing on and off, abruptly the three crimson heads appeared once more 50 yards to my left, and so they quickly gained the crest the place they then stood like generals evaluating the battlefield beneath them. Just one dared shut the space, as he slowly got here on a beeline with deliberate objective towards my jake decoy. A hostile skirmish was about to happen.
As he closed the space, the emerald iridescent-green plumage of his puffed-up chest shone within the vibrant sunshine. What a powerful creation, I believed to myself as I tightened my grip on my do-it-yourself recurve and readied myself for the second of fact.
The tom strutted low and large, zigzagging barely left and proper as he entered the gladiator’s enviornment. He was calling loudly as he crossed by my open capturing window at 4 yards. I centered, silently drew again, canted my bow to the appropriate to keep away from my limb tip hitting the blind, and launched an arrow that rapidly dispatched him by means of decapitation.
My plastic and foam actors continued their efficiency like true professionals; nonetheless dancing and spinning regardless of the drama that had simply transpired earlier than their very eyes. I used to be the one one to applaud their efficiency. I struck the stage, collapsed my blind, folded the actors again into my daypack, shouldered all mentioned baggage, after which exited Stage Left with my bow in a single hand and turkey legs within the different.
I smiled deeply, admired the beautiful morning, and gave thanks for that little additional little bit of satisfaction that’s at all times felt when getting it finished with conventional gear.
The writer is a conventional bowhunter from Moorhead, Minnesota.