A day in the spring woods brings back some fond memories — and reinforces the sage advice handed down by veteran turkey hunters. It also reminds this hunter that a wily, old gobbler at close range is way quicker than a Western gunslinger.
by Daniel E. Schmidt
I’ve shot my share of turkeys over the years, and I’ve even made the rookie mistake once when I uttered “how can anyone miss a turkey?” while in a camp filled with veteran hunters. Yep, you guessed it, I missed a turkey soon thereafter.
Last week’s turkey season opener here in Wisconsin saw me relive some of that shame from years gone by.
It all started when I cut my morning hunt short to go home for breakfast after 3 hours of no turkey action. Not even a distant gobble. I had the day off from work, so I figured why not be productive and cut firewood on a rainy, dreary day rather than chase nonexistent gobblers. That sounded like a good plan … for at least an hour.
Then the sun came out.
Turkey hunting 101: If a rainy morning suddenly turns clear and sunny, you had best get back out there. And that’s what I did.
It was 11 a.m. when I crawled in to my buddy Cory Johnson’s Primos ground blind. I really didn’t think I’d see, much less hear, a turkey, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to sit tight until lunch time and cast out a yelp here and there.
“Yelp-yelp-yelp!” Pause for 10 minutes. “Yelp-yelp-yelp!”
The time was going by rather quickly. That’s when I got to the “last cast” mentality. “I’ll cutt one time, wait a few minutes, then head home,” I said to myself.
“Peck-pack! Peck-pack-pack! Peck-peck-pack-pack-PACK-PACK-PACK!”
Could it be? Seriously? You bet. It was a gobbler’s response, but he was a half-mile away.
I waited 10 minutes and yelped loudly.
He was not only closer, he was definitely coming to my calls.
Within minutes, there was … just 80 yards away and now in full strut. I froze statue-like, as I was taught to do when a turkey is within eyesight. Only problem: My shotgun was leaning up against the side of the blind to the left. The turkey was approaching from the right.
He stayed in full strut for several minutes, but he never whirled — staring straight at the blind the entire time. Worse yet, he kept stepping ever so closer.
Before I knew it, the gobbler was 40 yards out — easy gun range. When he broke strut momentarily to duck underneath a downed tree, I slowly grabbed the gun and brought it to my knees. I could only point the gun out the window in front of me, however, which left the gobbler 90 degrees to my right. I figured he would eventually work his way toward my lone hen decoy, which was just 10 yards out the window to my left. He worked that way all right, but here’s the catch: the old tom took a path to the decoy that placed him precisely 2 yards in front of the blind.
With one motion, he hopped up onto a downed log that touched the blind, stopped and peered right into my eyes from 9 feet away.
Oh-oh. It was now or never, I thought. Dare I try to outdraw this wild old bird?
I dared. And whiffed.
That full load of Winchester Extended Range #5 shot hammered the dead pine tree about 1 inch from where the gobbler’s head had been. And, yes, my Mossberg 835 with Mad Max choke throws one heck of a tight pattern at 3 yards.
But all’s well that ends well. The follow-up shot put the bird down instantly … just a tad downrange of my hen decoy.
I took some good-hearted ribbing for my earlier miss. But that’s OK.
The evening’s dinner of fried turkey strips, coleslaw and butter biscuits sure were tasty.
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