Final thoughts on 2013 turkey season

June 4, 2013

Faith Outdoors

My wild turkey hunting season ended last Thursday, May 30. Normally, I hunt Season E in Minnesota, which usually takes place the first week in May. Due to the bad weather and the huge snowstorm at the beginning of the month, I switched to Season H, which ran from May 24-30.

I thought it would be a great time to hunt, hopefully with hens sitting on nests incubating eggs, and the toms out cruising for the few hens that were left.

I was dead wrong. There were hens everywhere, and they were very vocal. Didn’t seem to me like very many were sitting, and the toms appeared to find them readily once down from the roost. They shut up not long after flydown at dawn, and kept silent after that.

Frustrated turkey hunters like me can thank the snow for that. My theory is that the 13-plus inches that fell in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin destroyed all of the eggs the hens had laid, and many of the hens did not re-breed and lay more eggs. I don’t know how else to explain the high number of hens roaming the woods in late May.

Two of my sons, my brother and his son, and another brother and my dad hunted the last two time periods. Only my brother Joe was able to take a bird. The rest of us had chances, but very, very few. Toms would gobble, but were very reluctant to come in. With so many hens running around, they probably figured one would show up sooner or later without them having to go looking.

I heard gobbling on the roost, and I had some toms close by on a couple of occasions, but didn’t lure one into shotgun range in Minnesota. Based on reports I heard, mid-May was a much better time to be out chasing walleyes and searching for morel mushrooms. In fact, I read that this year was one of the best on record for morels.

Sure would have been nice to find a few of those, like I did last year when I shot a tom in Minnesota in the morning, then went over to Wisconsin, where I also had a turkey tag, and found a vest full of morels while trying to cover ground in search of a gobbler.

No such success this year, at least not during the mid-May period when morels were popping. Perhaps, if I had diverted my attention from the gobblers, I might have uncovered a batch of mushrooms.

Alas, I will never know if I ever walked by a cluster of the cone-shaped treasures. It’s a little hard to think about that, especially after a friend texted me a photo of several bags full that he picked. He’s in the woods a lot more than I am, so I’m not surprised he found some.

Walking away from this year’s spring turkey hunting season, I can be satisfied that I reached my two annual goals: 1. Kill a mature tom, which I did on May 5 in Wisconsin, in the snow no less, and 2. Learn something I can use next year. With all the time I spent in the woods, I got to know the properties I hunt much better, which should pay dividends next year.

One thing is already getting me excited about Spring 2014 – the number of 1-year-old toms, called jakes. These birds are easy to identify – short, stubby beards, smaller body size and a tail fan in which the feathers in the center are longer.

I encountered a group of six to eight jakes on one of my properties in Wisconsin. On the first day, I had one of them in range, but passed on the shot to wait for a mature bird. Then, I had them just out of shotgun range a few more times. I shot at them twice, but missed. Turns out they were farther away than I thought. I should never have taken the shots.

The good news is, the birds ran off unscathed, which means there will be lots of 2-year-olds running around next year. Plus, I read reports of other hunters seeing lots of jakes, too. Next year will be fun!

One thing I have learned is that, in fishing and hunting, timing is everything. Last spring, I hit it right for both turkeys and morels. And, last fall, I hit it right during the firearms season in Minnesota, taking the largest buck of my life in the final minutes of the 3A season.

Fish and hunt long enough and you’ll hit both the highs and the lows. As I put my turkey gear away, I expressed gratitude to the Lord for the time spent afield. I saw plenty of birds this year – and probably the most deer I have ever seen while turkey hunting. That tells me the whitetails came through in good shape, although they did look skinny in early May.

I’m not worried. They will feed voraciously this summer, and should be plenty plump by fall. In the meantime, I will continue to practice with my bow, and I plan to be ready when the archery deer season starts in September.

With three-plus months to hunt, the timing is sure to be right at some point in the season!


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About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

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