Late yesterday afternoon I decided to check the Minnesota spring turkey lottery results. This year, the first two seasons are drawn by lottery. Prior to that, it was the first three seasons. And, another change is every season but the last is now seven days long instead of five, which means every season will include a weekend. I was thrilled to go online and discover that I got picked for the first season. Praise the Lord!
For about the last 10 years, I was hunting later in the spring, during Season E. But, I changed my thinking after having a tough hunt during the E season last year and having some great action with my daughter Claire during the first season. We only hunted one day, but she got a chance at two gobblers that I called in during the first hour, along with nine hens.
The landowner told me about a spot where he always sees birds, especially during the early seasons, and I set up the blind for Claire and I there. Sure enough, we had action. In fact, there were two vocal toms roosted within 40 yards of the blind. It’s about as close to a roosted gobbler as you can get.
It was not fun watching those two toms run away after Claire missed the shot. I have kept thinking about those two birds, and decided that I wanted to try to hunt that spot again during the first season. Thankfully, I’ll get my chance after getting picked in the lottery. I am super excited about a first-season hunt.
I wasted no time getting on the phone to talk to the landowner where Claire and I hunted. I also called his next-door neighbor, who also has a nice piece of land with birds on it. In fact, Claire and I went there after she missed the shot at the two toms, and we had a bird gobbling there, but he wouldn’t come in. I also took my son Andy to this property about six years ago, and he shot a nice tom after three came in.
I was able to reach both landowners, and secured permission to hunt there first season. I’m stoked! I have hunted early seasons quite a bit over the years, and have had success more often than not.
One challenge is there are lots of hens running around at that time, and gobblers find them soon after flying down from the roost, and often stay with them all day. The key is to do one of two things: 1. Find a tom that isn’t with hens, or 2. Call the hens to you and bring the tom along.
The latter isn’t necessarily easy, but it can be done. I have done it a number of times, including last spring with Claire. Usually, if a hen starts talking, you can call her in. Just mimic what she does, with just a little extra volume and intensity, and she often will come in eventually. But, it may take a while. Also, the tom sometimes will hang back even after the hens come in, but eventually he should come into range.
With seven days to hunt this year, I’m optimistic. It will be fun coming back to the property where I killed my first Minnesota longbeard in 2003. In fact, it happened very close to where I was set up with Claire last year. I hunted the property for several years and killed another nice bird there in 2004. Then, more hunters started showing up and I ended up going elsewhere to hunt.
There are still a high number of hunters on the two properties, but there also is a high and stable population of turkeys. And, between the two properties, I will have more than 600 acres to hunt. So, even if there are other hunters out there during first season, I should be able to find good spots to set up.
The key is to do scouting and find several areas where birds are hanging out.I have walked both properties extensively both in spring and fall, so I have gotten to know them well. That should pay dividends this spring.
It’s now time for the next step of my preparation: practicing my turkey calls. I have done a lot of practicing over the years, so it shouldn’t take much to get me ready. I use mouth calls, slate calls, box calls and other friction calls. It helps to be versatile, and sometimes, turkeys seem to favor one call over the others. I’ve never been able to explain why. I just know that it happens. So, I want to be ready with whatever call will work.
I also got the chance to call a landowner in Wisconsin to get permission to hunt the fourth season there, which begins in early May. This is my top property to hunt in Wisconsin, both in terms of good bird numbers and in terms of the fellowship I have with the landowner. He is a wonderful, kind man and we have struck up many a conversation at his house when either my hunt is over or I’m taking a break.
We had another great conversation last night, but he told me his wife has cancer and has been struggling with her health. The treatments have helped, but some of the cancer is still there. He said she feels a little depressed about it, which is understandable.
Seemed like he needed to talk about it, and our conversation lasted quite a while. But, I paid no attention to the clock as I spent time talking with this fine man. In fact, he inspired me by telling me that he now tells his wife every day what she means to him.
That’s a great example to follow, and I was able to tell my wife Julie what she means to me. I did it last night and again this morning, and want to do it every day. I told the landowner I would be praying for he and his wife in the coming days. May God restore her to health and bless them for their continued generosity to me!