One thing I enjoy is helping other turkey hunters. I got that chance again earlier this week when I visited my friend, Buzz Kriesel, in Wisconsin to share with him the opening day of his five-day season.
Buzz took up turkey hunting a year ago, at my urging, and appears to be hooked. He shot at and missed a tom last year and was hoping to connect this time around. I brought my blind, my shotgun, my turkey calls and my 25 years of experience and put all of these at his disposal.
We found a nice-looking area and set up the blind the night before. I knew there probably were turkeys that would roost in the area, so I was optimistic.
Before we even crawled into the blind Wednesday morning, we heard a gobble not very far away. Trouble was, there was a ravine between us and the bird, so we were hoping he would fly across the ravine and come right in. But, as much as he gobbled to our calls on the roost, he did not come our way after flying down. In fact, he gobbled only once or twice more after landing, then walked off and disappeared.
A bird on the other side of us did the same thing. When that happens, it usually means they have found hens. That’s bad news for a turkey hunter. At about 7:30 a.m., we got up and went looking for a new spot. We set up the blind in the area where he had taken his shot last year, then walked to the far end of the property so he could show me an open field where he has seen turkeys before.
And, guess what? The birds were there again — about four to six hens and a tom strutting for the hens. We snuck through some tall grass and brush, then I instructed Buzz to keep crawling toward the bird, while I stayed back to call and get the birds coming our way.
It worked with some of the hens, who swung toward me. In fact, one of them got to about 30 yards, saw me and flew off. Meanwhile the other hens and the tom stayed put. Actually, they drifted away from us slightly and Buzz was never able to crawl in close enough for a shot.
It was about as tough a stalk as we could ask for. There was little cover between us and the tom, so sneaking in was almost impossible. I was hoping that Buzz would go about 25 yards or so and tuck in behind an evergreen tree, then the birds would come in to look for the source of the calling.
But, that didn’t happen. Sometimes, you can call hens in and they bring the tom along. But, other times, they seem to want nothing to do with you. In this case, some hens came in, some didn’t. And, the tom stayed with the ones that didn’t. Still, it was exciting for Buzz to see the birds.
It was enough action to convince him to go back and sit in the blind, which he did for most of the rest of the day. Then, he went back out the next morning. He heard some gobbling on the roost, although nothing came in. Then, around 9 or 9:30, he spotted movement in the woods. Soon, he saw the bright red head of a gobbler bobbing through the woods.
He was excited. Perhaps, he would get a chance to redeem himself. The bird came in, then went into full display. Buzz estimated the bird was about 50 yards away. After what happened last year, he elected to wait for the bird to come closer.
It never did. Like so many other turkeys, it just came out of strut, turned around and went back the way it came. Unfortunately, that’s the way turkey hunting goes. Birds seem to have this invisible line of how close they will come to a hen call or decoy. Once they reach it, you just hope it’s within gun range. In this case, I think Buzz could have made the shot with my gun. I have killed two turkeys beyond 50 yards, and my son, Andy, made a 45-yard shot this year.
But, that’s OK. I understand Buzz’s hesitation. He didn’t want to miss a bird like he did last year. That can be agonizing. The good news is, he has this weekend to try some more. I hope and pray he can have another opportunity. One thing’s for sure — win or lose, he’ll be back again next year. What I liked about going out with Buzz was he had a smile on his face the whole time.
And, that makes his hunt a success.