Turkeys play hard to get in Wisconsin

May 17, 2017

Faith Outdoors

It has been a while since I’ve had a really good turkey hunt in Wisconsin — 2014 to be exact. That was the year I bagged two longbeards in the Badger State, and didn’t have to work very hard to do it. In both instances, toms gobbled lustily on their way in to the hen they thought they were hearing. In one instance, I pulled to trigger just after he bellowed a nice gobble.

That was a far cry from what I faced this past week during Season D. Normally, by that time, hens have finished laying eggs and are sitting on their nests, making the toms lonely and willing to come to any hen sound they hear.

Not so this year. There were hens everywhere throughout the season, and I saw toms with hens more than usual. In fact, one time I was set up on two birds gobbling hard on the roost, then heard two hens yelping and making their way to the gobblers. The birds flew down and shut up, leaving me perplexed and frustrated.

Another problem was hunting pressure. At two properties where I hunt, there were hunters on the neighboring properties. In one instance, I listened to a hunter work a bird for more than an hour. I never heard a gunshot, so I knew the person was not successful.

I did get one chance, however. It came on a property where I have shot birds three years in a row, a longbeard in 2014 and a jake each in 2015 and ’16. It should have been four in a row this year. But, I executed what baseball announcers call “a swing and a miss.”

After setting up around 10 a.m. and calling for two hours, I did not hear any toms sound off either close by or far away. The only sounds I heard were squirrels chattering and running along the ground. Around noon, I made some soft calls on a slate, then did a light yelp at the end. Minutes later, I heard something walking. I thought it was squirrels.

I was wrong. I was facing straight ahead and turned slowly to my left and saw two longbeards standing in the open. My gun was in my lap, and I tried to figure out what to do next.

I decided to quickly swing my gun on the birds and try for a shot. I got the barrel on the bird in the back, and put the bead on his neck. Thinking the bird might spook  at my movement, I shot fast.

I clean missed. Both birds ran off, and I was left frustrated at myself for not settling the bead on the bird’s head like I always do. I have no one to blame but myself for this, and I hope to learn from this mistake.

That took place on Day 2 of my seven-day season. I never got another chance after that. I saw birds, and I managed to get close to one that was gobbling in the woods. But, he did not come one step closer once I called after setting up on him within 100 yards. That’s the way it went.

I think what happened is the frost we had a couple weeks ago destroyed a lot of eggs, and hens had to breed all over again. It happened in 2013 when the area I hunt got 15 inches of snow. The birds this year were acting just like the birds did in 2013.

But, as tough and disappointing as this season was, I spent a lot of time in the woods and learned plenty. I always say that my ultimate goal when I hunt is to advance my knowledge and make myself a better hunter. Doing so helped me down a nice longbeard in Minnesota this year, and I hope to do the same in Wisconsin next year.

May 2018 can’t come soon enough!

 

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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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