First Canadian Hunts Turkeys in Wisconsin
The gobbler raucously ushered in the sunrise causing the Albertan hunter to shiver. It had to be excitement because it’s a lot cooler from where he came, so considering this was the first turkey he’d ever heard no turkey hunter would think there any other reason for the quaking.
All the way from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Kody came to West Central Wisconsin for his first-ever wild turkey hunt. To my knowledge and that of the turkey Maven within the Wisconsin DNR Kody is the first Canadian to attempt the spring turkey hunt here.
Kody and Charlie met each other seven years ago as contributors on the Outdoor Life forum. At first, they exchanged good-natured jabs and humored filled stories then moved on to email exchanges and phone conversations. There are those who think it odd or even a bit dangerous to hunt with someone you only know via “technological conversations.” However, I have not found that to be the case rather when someone is or thinks they are anonymous the real person is on display for all to see. Whereas, in person, we are all more careful to maintain the veneer of respectability.
The adventure started as soon as Kody arrived to pick up his rental car, incredibly customs was not a problem rather as events were to unfold it was the map provided by the car rental folks. Since Canadian I phones don’t work in the states, Kody would need to rely on this sketchy map, in the dark as he attempts to navigate to Charlie elk’s humble, very rural adobe.
Kody stops at the local BP station in “town” to inquire with the young lady minding the store if she could fix his Apple phone. Older folks always think any young person can fix anything tech, but in this case, the poor lass was helpless to help, so she offers the use of the station’s landline to call me. After giving Kody detailed direction a feeling of what could go wrong stuck with me. In hindsight, I realized he would likely miss seeing the sign for my road and drive to who knows where. Sure enough, he has Kim call me from her house in a neighboring micro-village. After I convinced Kim this was not a con, Kody really was from Alberta here to turkey hunt she agreed to keep him there so that I could personally retrieve him.
Finally, Kody and I are shaking hands slapping each other on the back; that is after I pull Kody away from showing Kim all his grandkid and horse pictures. Later as we sit in the trophy room drinking introductory adult beverages, Kody remarks about how friendly everyone is so late at night. Of course, that is because Wisconsinites are the most heavily armed folks in the nation, so everyone has learned to be very polite. “Even more than Texas?” Yes indeed, Wisconsin has more CC permits issued per capita than anywhere else and a strong castle doctrine to boot. At 9:30p we’d roll up the sidewalks, that is if there were sidewalks. “She might have had a gun under her table as we talked…” Very likely so Kody.
Knowing Kody was coming to hunt I had tried to avoid killing the gobbler at the start of this post. He is one of those birds that roosts in the same general area every morning gobbling his head off; this is not to say he would have given me a chance to kill him if I’d tried. Rather it’s the temptation to a veteran turkey hunter is hard to resist. Kody had never hunted or for that matter seen a wild turkey. Whenever I mentor a new hunter, right or wrong, I try to arrange a full flavored hunt; there is so much more to a turkey hunt than a kill. Now we are about 50 yards from the roost tree of a very robust gobbler and his henchmen who are ushering in the morning with all the fanfare any veteran turkey hunter appreciates; we are what is called “tight” on these birds. Getting in this close was not hard because Kody is a veteran of many other species, so he is nimble and quiet while on the move. There is nothing between these birds and us, turkey hunting mornings like this are intoxicating. For a good 45 minutes as the sun starts to crest the ridgetop, I’m starting to think a turkey for the new guy on the first morning is a real possibility. As happens more often than not the turkeys begin pitching off roost flying to wherever they hear hens. The real hens had beaten my calling.
Time to move, we started trolling our way through the valley and busted a few turkeys still on roost an hour and a half after sunrise. We spent the morning on setups working some birds here and there. At one point as I led the way up a field crest, a couple of gobblers were strutting within gun range. I immediately dropped back below and motioned Kody to sneak up; he got a good look at those birds as they impressed him with their getaway speed. Turkeys run 35 mph, fly 50 mph, see like us with eight-power binoculars, and they can see 358 degrees around. The only chink in that defense is their sight is only two-dimensional requiring them to juke their heads constantly to focus.
After lunch, a trip to see some tourist attraction and the gun range were in order so that Kody could shoot my Benelli M2. He shot it well, and he was deeply impressed with the tight pattern produced by the Carlson turkey choke with Fiocchi nickel plated lead shells. Kody is a guy who relishes new, different things. The lush green woodland with all the sounds of life. Northern forests are generally very hard to move through and devoid of all the noisy small critters operating on the
background canvas, some locals take it all for granted. Kody noticed it all, asked lots of questions making him a real delight to hunt alongside.
We set up in the afternoon on a wooded point that extended into a corn field we called, snoozed and called some more. Of course, all turkey hunters know what happen when we stood up to leave. That’s right, three turkeys crested the horizon and busted us. Another 5-10 minutes of sitting still while staying awake may have produced a shot.
The next morning we had to set up further away from the gobbling birds due to thin aerial cover and they had moved their roosts to the tree we had called from yesterday. A rushed or forced set up rarely makes an ideal situation but once you are there with the gobblers right uphill, few choices remain. Besides turkey hunters are almost always optimistic, that is until 20/20 hindsight kicks in as the birds leave going straight up the hill away from you.
As we snuck up that hill, Kody whispers “this is real hunting, I understand why turkey hunters are so addicted.” Just then it happened again, three gobblers in strut right in front me. In my mind, Kody came
all the from Alberta, so any possible shot is his to take. I back away and down for Kody to get into position, again they vanish in a blur of feathers. Many times disturbed turkeys are easier to call in, with Kody in the lead we move up the rest of the way to the previous day’s afternoon setup.
Within ten minutes of settling in and laying out a set of kee kees and lost yelps, a very nice gobbler comes running towards us. A stern cluck stops him to turn and look at the decoy; he takes a couple of steps towards us then abruptly stops with neck extended straight up. Kody’s heart must have been beating overtime because his shoulders, head, and gun were bobbing like a cork in some big waves. The tom stood there stationary for quite some time studying the situation; this was the first time I ever wished for a turkey gun capable of shooting 60 yards. It was tempting to have Kody take the shot and hope for the golden BB, but that is not the way I hunt and happily not the way Kody hunts. The gobbler sauntered off in spite of my purr-clucking pleas to come 15 yards closer.
During the close encounter, my phone kept vibrating this is why I hate cell phones while hunting. However, I have continually carried it afield just in case mrs. elk needed me back quickly. This time, it was not mrs. elk rather it was Shane who had wounded a tom at 8 am inquiring if I would drive up with Vic the turkey dog to help him recover the bird. Vic and I have provided many successful turkey recoveries to bowhunters. My only hesitation, this time, was one a turkey was on the way in and two Kody only had 2 and half days to hunt so I did not want to burn up any of his hunting time. When asked Kody did not hesitate to agree to help find that bird, besides, we were tired of sitting in the same place watching a dirt field without any turkey life in visual range.
When we met up with Shane Simpson, founder of Calling all Turkeys and Joe Slaton—Linden, CA 2015 NWTF national gobbler calling champion. Kody was duly impressed with my pro turkey connections. Shane brought us up to speed with the day’s earlier event by explaining and show video of the shot. The gobbler being hit hard probably had not gone too far after reaching the woods. Took Vic to the last blood, he immediately scented and went after it. The cover was thorny and think with several fallen trees. As I typical of turkeys under stress they usually hunker down tight in stuff like this and rely on staying still to keep them out of sight. Vic’s tracker showed me that he went directly to what turned out to be the turkey squatting against one of those fallen tree tops. However, Vic is a pointer, and I could not lay eyes on him nor could he see me due to the thick cover, so he came back. I made what I consider an operator error; Vic pointed that tree with me standing there and the turkey hiding on the other side. We walked around all through all the brush and brush piles; a few rodents darted about so I thought Vic may have just pointed them. The offseason is hard on Vic as I train him not to grab turkeys he finds spring and summer, come the fall season I train him back to holding turkeys. When Joe spotted the turkey, I repeated the mantra to myself “trust your dog,” I knew better but failed my dog. Gosh, darn it. I’ll do better next time Vic.
Those few days flew by and too soon it was Monday noon with Kody thinking more about how to find his way back to the airport and less concerned about the gobbler sounding off on the opposite hilltop. As with all the good times in life they eventually they end, it’s one of those bitter-sweet things.
Kody is a great hunting partner and guest. He is a good hunter who is polite, considerate and came bearing healing flowers for mrs elk. He took the time to visit with her to bring extra joy to her day. We are both grateful he chose to visit us.