“Grandpa I see turkeys coming.”
“Coming down the hill behind us.” Boy, does he have a good game eye, a gaggle of turkeys was weaving its way downhill in our direction.
As excited as we were to get started turkey hunting on Saturday it seemed life was conspiring to keep us from it. The game of turkey hunting is supposed to commence in the early morning dark and span the day, and that was not the way the 2016 Wisconsin spring wild turkey hunt began for us.
10:00- Found us set up in a small woodland bordered by some Ag fields. A lot of hunters would prefer setting up a blind and spread of decoys in an area like this. My grandson, like most young hunters, prefers to be outside a blind rather than in one. Within a half hour, the craggy bark of that old tree bit into our backs making the idea of moving very appealing. Or was it the lack of the turkeys? We moved, several miles away.
10:45- We left the parked truck to hike across a prickly pear littered sand barren field, clearly an area that did not look like it would hold any turkeys, at least to the casual passerby. Down an embankment along the edge of a swamp with too much water for easy walking we headed up to a hillside step and for no other reason than there were fresh turkey scratchings everywhere we setup Nugget, (yes, he named the new decoy). We situated ourselves in a decaying blow down. Walker on my left.
11:10- Walker’s picked those turkeys out, and he knew immediately they were gobblers with a gang of jakes bringing up the rear. With all those turkeys meandering a line towards us his excitement was quite contagious. I must admit my heart skipped a beat or two when it becomes clear exactly how big the lead gobbler was, and he was heading directly towards Nugget.
For some reason, turkey decoys don’t usually work for me. In spite of all those past failures a few days ago I purchased a Scheel’s decoy that had been on sale for $17.89 figuring Walker would like it. Apparently, the lead gobbler liked her too because his focus was on Nugget and seemed not to care in the least there was a trembling 13 year old trying to get a bead on his pulsing head only 12 yards away.
For me, it was an eternity from the time that old gobbler stopped, extended his head high to get a better look at Nugget and the roar of Walker’s 20 gauge. Then inside the scream, NOOOOO… as those big wings clawed air carrying that very large turkey up above the trees and out of our lives. Shots at turkeys do not come much more perfect than that, how could he miss? Outwardly, I whispered, “your turkey nuggets flew away, stay still and be ready.”
The following turkeys had scattered at the shot. Turkeys have short memories and can’t rationalize what happens, they just react. In short order, my calls calmed them down, and they started to stroll back to us. Now you must understand the turkeys have calmed, but my grandson is still shaking from the first encounter, there is no doubt he is rationalizing the situation.
Four turkeys move back into shooting range if Walker was shaking before; this time, it’s an earthquake allowing the turkeys to bust our position and retreat. Again I call to them, for some reason, my turkey calling calms the turkeys but still does very little to calm Walker. Six turkeys come back in range to mill around clucking and purring their contentment. But as turkeys are prone to do given too much time they bust us and fade away again. At this point I remind Walker about how much fun this is, he agrees grinning ear to ear. I ask him if he is hungry for some turkey nuggets, of course, he replies. Then let me know when you are calm, and I will call those turkeys back, again.
After about 15 minutes Walker assures me he is ready to try again. Soft yelps and purrs waft thru the woodland soon the turkeys eagerly answer, and I amp up the calls causing the toms to do about faces and march in; who can blame a 13 old for all his excitement, we had no blind, so there was nothing between the turkeys and us. We were sitting on the ground, so when those birds were in close, they looked down on us. Heck, I know some veteran turkey hunters who’d crack too.
It was important to figure out why my grandson missed that first gobbler, so I measured the distance, exactly 12 yards. Later at the gun range he never missed a turkey target at that range and then it occurred to me; the target was just a turkey head, not the whole bird. I forgot to tell him to make sure he picks out only the head when he shoots at a live turkey.