A few firsts in the turkey woods
Any hunt can stand out as a memory for a multitude of reasons.
There's the ones that got away. The hunts that go exactly to plan, and everything in between. No day is ever the same in the woods. That's why we wake up at 4:15 in the morning to chase turkeys during the spring. Something memorable might happen.
Saturday was one of those days. It started with my 5-year-old daughter, Aubree, joining me on a hunt for the first time. We had talked about this for a couple months, so she was prepared for the early wake up. Aubree climbed right out of bed and ate her breakfast. She was her chatty self by the time I had her dressed in black from head to toe.
We had a pretty long walk across a field to reach the ground blind, so she held my hand before getting up on my back to travel the last couple hundred yards. By 5:30, we were settled in.
My hope was that the toms would be roosted close enough to get Aubree excited. Maybe we would see something. Getting a shot off was secondary.
Unfortunately, the gobbles were way off in the distance. Aubree stuck it out as long as she could, but she got a little cold and was ready to head home after an hour. That's OK. It's a start.
I grabbed my bow and went back out to the woods by myself around 9 a.m. This time of day can be great for hunters, as the hens generally break free from the toms and leave them looking for another potential partner.
The spot I was heading to was a narrow plowed bean field up top, surrounded by timber ridges and a property in CRP.
A tom and a hen were already waiting for me on the edge of the CRP field when I came up over a small hill. I froze in my tracks, but the damage had been done. I kept walking to get set up as they scurried into the trees.
Five minutes later, my two Avian hen decoys were up about 15 yards in front of me. I was seconds away from sitting down against the tree when another tom appeared on the edge of the CRP field. He stared at the decoys as I slowly made my way to the ground.
This bird had to have seen me move, but I was shaded enough and with good background cover. He did not seem to notice me as a direct threat. The tom angled his way across the plowed field at about 25 yards. Easily within range with a shotgun, but not the shot I was looking for as I attempted to get my first turkey kill with a bow.
He slipped into the woods before I let out a few soft yelps on my mouth call. A couple minutes passed, and I went into another series of calls. A little louder this time. That's all it took.
A tom appeared from the corner of the field directly in front of me. He walked 10 yards into the plowing and broke into strut as a second tom came out behind him.
There was a clear hierarchy here. That front bird proceeded to strut the whole time, while the other bird fed his way through the field in the background.
By now my heart was racing. Thirty yards, 25, 20, 15. He was locked in full strut in the middle of my decoys, facing right at me and frozen like a statue. I couldn't move, let alone draw my bow.
Hunting turkeys with archery equipment without a ground blind forces a person to be in control during that moment of truth. "Don't draw," I kept saying in my head. "He'll turn."
All I could do was watch and listen to him spit-n-drum for a few minutes. Finally, he did turn and his fan covered up his face. This was my chance.
I drew back my Hoyt and anchored my thumb release under my chin. With the bird facing directly away in full strut, I centered the pin and released the arrow on a perfect shot. The tom traveled 15 yards before folding.
Instead of jumping up and running out to him, I simply sat against the tree for a couple minutes and thought about the morning. Aubree's first hunt. My first bird with a bow.
The adrenaline was still rushing through me when I grabbed my phone to send some texts and call my mother-in-law to have her bring the kids out. I waited for them to get there before examining the tom, a great bird that will provide us a couple of meals.
Kyla, my 2-year-old, was especially interested in looking over the turkey before we posed for some pictures to remember the hunt by.
All tagged out in Minnesota. A memorable day, for sure.
By Eric Morken
Source, images, credits & more information: EchoPress