Last night a farmer had called inquiring why I had not been out turkey hunting on his farm? Last time Vic and I hunted this farm there were no turkeys, that happens a lot during fall turkey season. The turkeys are there and then they are not. My farmer friend continued “As of a couple of days ago he said there had been a turkey invasion.” OK 2 days of fall turkey season left–time to squeeze in a Wisconsin unit 3 hunting trip.
The truck’s thermometer said 25 below I as stepped out into yesterday’s unit 3 sunrise. The frigid air started crystalizing around my face instantly and the snow screeched with each step of my snowshoes. All I could think is how dangerous a turkey addiction can be. But waiting for a warmer day is not an option with the season closing in only 2 days.
Faint sun dogs on the morning’s horizon outlined the roosted turkeys. There were turkeys roosted nearly everywhere along the field edges. The only approach available is across a barren snow covered 140 acre field and those turkeys. Hiding from all those sharp turkeys eyes was impossible so all the noise of my approach did not matter. What does matter in this situation is the directness for a hunter’s approach. By that I mean if you were to walk in a straight line towards the turkeys they will get very nervous and flush. Usually a good thing during a fall hunt, if the turkeys break apart and head off in different directions. That is Vic the Turkey Dog’s preferred strategy. However due to the intense cold Vic is not on this hunt, he has no coat to keep him warm during a prolonged cold setup. Cold of this magnitude affects all dogs so I grudgingly left Vic at home.
My approach towards the turkeys was indirect, a steady meander across the field to a shrubby point that had frozen wild grapes, dogwood berries and elderberries. This setup put the turkeys at an angle to my left that way if things go according to plan the turkeys coming off roost will be approaching on my strong shooting side. Many years of hunting turkeys have taught me turkeys do not seem to remember danger after a period of quiet waiting. So after a long silent 20 minute wait, -25 makes a 5 minute wait seem long, 20 minutes feels like hours. I belted out the first series of assembly kee’s to the still roosted turkeys. Feathered wings began shaking off frost and a bunch of turkeys sailed off roost passing by and stumbling to their landing in the field about 25 yards to my right- a gobbler rolled dead at the shot. Large wings stirred up a whirl of snow crystals as they clawed their way back into the sunrise.
As anyone who has been out in serious cold temps knows a lot of things don’t work in this kind of cold, various body joints, mechanical parts, particularly anything electronic and this morning that included my camera. As I trudged back across the field I could the turkey getting stiffer the turkey was frozen by the time I reached the truck for the drive home.
This was my coldest turkey hunt ever. Over the years I’ve been asked what makes me do these extreme hunts? Interesting term as I don’t think of them as extreme. It’s mostly simple I look forward, no I obsess over the next hunting season, my quiet prayer is “Oh God, please just one more season. So if the season is open, no work on the schedule (that can’t be rescheduled) and an open tag in my pocket it’s a good day to hunt.
To me the best part of hunting is getting into the hunt, being immersed so that no other day to day mundane problems enter the mind. It’s a mental preparation so that you are not thinking about any discomforts, undo home front tasks or checking the happenings on the grid. A sense of freedom washes over and through the soul of a hunter. It’s just you, the weather, the turkeys and the surroundings. If not for those turkeys that morning I would not have been there. Had I not been there I would not have the seen the sun dogs at sunrise, heard the squeak of the snow nor the frosty feathers being ruffled as the natural morning wakeup time arrived. As a hunter I was a participant rather than just an observer.