Editor’s Note: This is the final installation of one turkey hunter’s quest for the Grand Slam, a journey that takes him throughout the country as he seeks to fulfill his dream of hunting and killing the four U.S. turkey subspecies: Rio, Merriam’s, Eastern and Osceola.
Read Part 1 Here
Read Part 2 Here
Read Part 3 Here
By Gordy J. Krahn
Slammed! Part Four:
Timeframe: May 16-18, 2014
Subspecies: Eastern/The largest of the wild turkey subspecies, the Eastern turkey is also the most widely distributed and abundant, found in 38 states and five Canadian provinces. Mature toms routinely exceed 20 pounds in the Northern reaches of their range.
Location: Southeastern Minnesota, where the birds were reintroduced in the 1960s and ‘70s. While the state’s wild turkey population has expanded greatly in recent years, the highest concentrations remain in this area of the Gopher State.
Sidetracked: For the best deep-dish pizza in the free world, visit Stumpy’s Restaurant and Bar in Rushford, Minnesota—and bring your appetite. If you can finish one of these bad boys you should get a tee shirt.
My spirits were high as I eased onto the grassy edge of a faint field road leading to a high pasture where, for nearly 20 years, I’ve spent the first morning of my Minnesota turkey hunt with hand cupped to ear listening for gobbling turkeys. It felt right that I’d be spending the waning days of my 2014 spring turkey season on my home turf—where I hoped to complete my Grand Slam. The pasture’s a great launching point because it’s at the epicenter of the property I hunt, and I can hear every gobbling bird on the farm from this vantage. Typically, the turkeys begin their morning ritual about 5 a.m., and continue gobbling until they jump down from the roost about a half-hour later. This morning it was cool and calm … and eerily quiet.
Wait a minute. Was that a gobble to the east? There it was again, faint but distinguishable. The tom was on the property, but a solid half-mile away, with a lot of rugged ground between us. I hesitated to go after the bird, hoping a closer tom would fire up. But as the precious predawn minutes ticked by it became apparent that this was the only game in town. I needed to get moving while the bird was vocal.
Problem was, from this distance it was difficult to pinpoint the turkey’s exact location. If I circled to the north—a steep climb to a huge agricultural field that bordered the property—I could try pulling him up the fence line. If I were wrong, it would cost me the better part of an hour. The other option would be a southern approach, a more direct route to the bird—but an area where I rarely encounter turkeys. My gut told me he was on the north side of the deep ravine that split the property, one the birds only reluctantly cross. My gut was wrong, when more than a half-hour later it was apparent I’d made the wrong decision, as the bird gave me a courtesy gobble from the opposite side of the gulch. Knowing it would be difficult if not impossible to pull the bird across the steep obstacle, my only option was to circle back to the other side—a move that would cost the better part of an hour.
I stopped to catch my wind after a long hike up the south edge of the ravine where it intersected a plowed corn field. The gobbler had been quiet for the better part of an hour and there was no way of knowing if it’d stayed put or wandered off. The plan was to ease into the area where I’d last heard it gobble, plant a decoy and call for an hour or so. The tom crushed that plan, but in a good way. I was sneaking up the field edge when a loud gobble, not 80 yard away, nearly made me jump. It sounded as though the bird was in the woods, but definitely on my side of the ravine.
After placing a hen decoy 20 yards out onto the field, I sneaked into the thick underbrush along the field edge to set up an ambush. Immediately, I realized this was a less than ideal situation. Visibility was seriously obstructed and the only way I could see out onto the field was to stand against a tree and try to find a clear lane through which I could shoot.
The tom arrogantly cut off my first soft yelp and a followed-up gobble told me the bird was on its way. I poked my shotgun barrel through a small opening in the brush, hoping the bird would follow the field edge, spot my decoy and walk into my sights. Only seconds later, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and then spotted the fanned tom as it bee-lined toward my faux hen. I gave a soft cluck as it walked into my sights and then sent a load of No. 5s turkey-bound when it paused. The bird hit the ground and never twitched.
I knelt beside the beautiful tom and absently stroked its glossy plumage, giving thanks for the opportunity to experience such a productive and enjoyable spring in the turkey woods. Then I hoisted the bird onto my back and began the long walk out.
April 2015 Turkey & Turkey Hunting Digital Download
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“What better way to gear up for the spring wild turkey season than with an information-packed issue of Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine?” says Gordy Krahn, T&TH Editor. “Inside you’ll get top-notch instruction on how to improve your hunting skills as well as the latest dope on all of the new gobbler gear. Everything from the latest and greatest turkey calls to how to get the most out of hunting public land – it’s all here in this special spring issue.”