On April 10th the opening day of Wisconsin’s 2013 wild turkey season I awoke to find the temperature at 21 degrees, 16 mph wind, snow covering the ground and sideways freezing whatever. Not exactly the kind of weather spring turkey hunters dream about.
So I did what any self respecting old turkey hunter does on days like this-
- Enjoyed a pot of coffee
- Chatted with Mrs. elk
- Puttered around with stuff until I figured the turkeys were well off the roost.
My Reasoning– When there is no foliage the woods is naked and as was the case this morning it’s very easy to see anything against the white landscape. Roosted turkeys with their 8 power binocular eyesight would have spotted me in an instant. Best to wait until they are down on more equal footing.
Since I had no idea where exactly any turkeys were I setup cold on a windswept point over looking a 2 mile valley. I chose my Willow Ridge Death Wish pot and peg call to start and after 2 sets of calling to my utter surprise a group of gobblers across the valley enthusiastically chain gabbled back. I called more aggressively and they moved along their side until they were almost straight across from me. The sound of large wings lifting off brought a spark of hope as they pitched off and sailed to the bottom of the valley on my side. My plaintiff calling brought no more responses for an hour. I was iced over and soaked obviously under dressed for these spring time conditions.
My Reasoning– When the turkeys are not gobbling you must try and make things happen. I frequently setup on points where the sound of my calling will travel a great distance and in return I’ll have a better chance of hearing turkeys answer. Listen for turkey vocalizations other than gobbles. Toms will not always gobble an answer, many times they cluck or yelp back.
Back at the hut the hot soup refurbished my resolve…
Changing into more and dry snow camo I stuffed the snow net in my vest and headed down and circled around where I thought I had last seen the birds. Willow’s Death Wish call sang out and was promptly greeted by thunderous gobbles below and out of sight. I moved down the tight logging trail which offered no good setup locations. So I setup in a not so good spot, if the turkeys came they would be nearly in my lap with only the snow net between us.
The first set of 3 came in, jakes, I thought about taking 1 to fill my tag because the forecast was full of bad weather for the next several days. There is no dishonor shooting a jake but I didn’t want my first turkey hunt of the year over so quickly. Instead of shooting I waved my gun barrel to scatter them out of the way. I was convinced a long beard lurked behind. The jakes flew up into the trees around me and they were worked into a frenzy; started loud angry purrs, clucks and putts. I yelped loudly back at them, one of the treed jakes caught my moment and he took to flight, in the same moment a thunderous gobble on the hill above snapped my head around. Yeah, I know, couldn’t help it, he startled me with his feathers rattling at the tail of each gobble. In spite of him obviously being in range, incredibly I couldn’t see him on that brush choked snowy hillside.
My Reasoning– In a tight spot like this the jakes needed to be cleared off the trail to make way for sir gobbler. If a gobbler is out numbered by jakes he rarely pushes his way in rather he finds another place. Since these turkeys were challenging each other I changed my calling accordingly.
More aggressive gravelly yelps from me; I don’t know how he got to standing on the trail but there he was gobbling hard at 16 feet with only the snow net separating us. In my early days of turkey hunting the turkey had the advantage during a stand off like this. Not so any more; as you can see he did not win the race.
Nice double beard, 1/2″ blunt spurs and weighed only 14 lb. 12oz. I wonder if all the turkeys are going be small bodied this year? Aw, who cares, it’s all fun.