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Wisconsin turkey season ends with a chorus of gobbling

May 26, 2016

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There I was on the edge of the woods along a ridge in Wisconsin Tuesday, the last day of the spring turkey season.

It had been a very tough spring. I did manage to shoot a young tom, called a jake, during Season D, but my other bonus tags went unfilled. The gobbling was way down this year, but I decided to try one last time on the last day of Season F.

I had gone to one property and called a hen in to my decoy, but no toms showed. So, I decided to pack up my gear and my shotgun to head to another property.

Actually, I went there to work on trimming shooting lanes for one of my deer stands. It was about 2 in the afternoon and getting hot and humid. Not exactly prime conditions for getting turkeys active, not to mention that the peak of breeding was long past and most toms were losing interest in trying to find a hen to breed.

So, I was quite shocked to hear a gobble right as I got out of the car. A nice little surprise, but I figured it was a fluke. Plenty of times in prior outings, I would hear a bird gobble once, maybe twice, then shut up and never gobble again.

I thought this was going to happen yet again.

I was wrong. He gobbled a few more times, then a hen started clucking and cutting (fast and louder clucking) in response. I was between the gobbler and the hen, which is the perfect scenario.

There was only one problem. I was on land where gun hunting was not allowed by the landowner, and I did not have either my compound bow nor my crossbow, both of which are legal in Wisconsin.

Too bad. Out of desperation, I called the landowner to see if he might be willing to make an exception and let me use a shotgun just this one time.

No dice. He was concerned about his neighbors and the risk that they would get upset if a gun went off. I certainly understand and respect his desire to be sensitive to his neighbors. Actually, I think that’s a noble thing on his part.

So, I decided to slip into the woods and try to call the tom in. I thought if I got lucky, maybe I could get some footage of him with my iPhone.

I also realized it would be a good exercise in trying to work a bird into shooting range. I was all for that, as it had been all too rare this spring for me.

Because I had become so familiar with the property, I knew the bird was on a flat bench downhill from the top of the ridge. I also knew where there was an open spot in the thick cover that I could go to and see down to the bench.

I toyed with the bird and did some calling on the edge of the woods. He gobbled feverishly, then a second tom joined in. They gobbled to every soft cluck and purr I did, and would even double, triple and quadruple.

This was the most fired up bird I had heard the entire spring, in Minnesota or Wisconsin. Who’d have thought I would encounter such a gobbler on the last day of the season, when most toms supposedly were losing interest in breeding, and during the heat of the day, when toms often shut down and hang out in the shade?

These birds apparently didn’t read the script about what they were “supposed to do.” In fact, they proved a statement made many times by my turkey hunting mentor, Steve Huettl, who helps run Gamehide clothing. He says that the only thing that you can predict about turkeys is that they are unpredictable.

That is precisely why I didn’t thing to pack my crossbow for possible use. I thought there was no way I would find active birds in the afternoon this late in the season.

Well, not only were these birds active, but they also were quite eager to come over and investigate the hen calls they were hearing. They gobbled often as they worked their way down the ridge toward me. I had a perfect vantage point in some bushes overlooking the bench.

Sure enough, one of the toms showed. I didn’t have my facemask on, so he saw my face and spooked. But, had I been hunting this bird, I would have been well concealed. He was about 25 yards away, which was a very makable shot with my crossbow. In fact, less than a week earlier, I had sighted it in and hit the bullseye at 40 yards.

Oh well. I know that if I had been able to use my shotgun, I would have taken this bird. That is consolation enough. I have killed about 25 turkeys over the years, including two this year, one in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin (both jakes). So, it wasn’t a huge disappointment not to get this one.

The important thing is, I learned a valuable lesson for next year. I definitely plan to hunt this property with my crossbow. The birds tend to move along the ridge, and I know how to set up on them now. That bodes well for next spring. Plus, there is very little hunting pressure in this area. There is one guy who came out to bow hunt earlier in the spring, but that’s it.

I can’t wait to go after them. I also am excited about the other properties I hunt in Wisconsin. I spent lots of time to try and learn where and how the birds move, plus I gained access to some new properties. So, I will have plenty of places to go next year.

As I get ready to put my gear into storage, I have a few observations about items that I used. I would like to name and comment on some of the best products I used this year:

  1. Dave Smith Decoy. My brother Joe has been using them for three years and swears by them. He has been bugging me to get one. But, they’re spendy, costing $120 each. After seeing his, I decided to buy one when I found a sale price of $107 online at Scheels. I set it up Tuesday morning and called a hen right to the decoy. She circled it for several minutes and eventually started pecking at it. I think the realism of the decoy is what caused her to do this. Can’t wait until a tom sees it next year! My brother has taken several toms with this decoy, and says it holds up very well to multiple uses.
  2. Tom Teaser Dominant Hen box call. This short, compact box call is a real beauty, and I used it many times this year. It produces such great sounds, the best of any box call I have ever owned. I get great high and low tones that you like to produce on yelps, which is how real hens sound. I have two of them, and I probably will not buy another box call as long as I have these.
  3. Dead End Game Calls double-reed Batwing 2 mouth diaphragm call. This call is designed primarily for soft calls, like clucks and purrs. I used this call to lure the tom in Wisconsin into view. If I had had my crossbow, I think it would have been lights out for this bird. The company also makes a Ghost Cut call that works for soft calls and also the kee kee run that turkeys do in the fall.
  4. Woodhaven Custom Calls Red Wasp mouth call and Cluck ‘n Purr pot friction call. The Red Wasp makes raspy yelps and cuts, and the pot call makes the softest clucks and purrs you will ever hear. These two calls cover both ends of the spectrum, and I know I will be using them for years.
  5. Quaker Boy push button calls. I have used one of them for years and finished off many birds with soft clucks and purrs. They recently came up with a newer version, called the Turkey THUGS Trigger Box. The main difference is that the rod on which the striker plate is mounted does not extend beyond the call box. This means it will never accidentally get bumped in your vest and make a squeak when you don’t want it to. It makes beautiful soft calls and I had it in my vest this spring. I will use it next year, but I can’t get myself to stop using my older one, as it has called in many birds and given me great confidence in it.
  6. Winchester Long Beard ammo. This stuff is phenomenal. It produces the tightest patterns of any ammo I have ever tried, and made 60-yard shots possible. That could come in handy in certain situations, so I will be sure to have it with me next year.
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Wild turkey feast feeds 16

April 25, 2016

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The payoff of my turkey hunt April 13 came on Saturday, when I prepared my favorite recipe: wild turkey/wild rice casserole.

This would be the largest group I would feed with this dish — 16 people, including my wife Julie and daughter Claire. The other 13 guests were college students or recent college grads.

Some of them had never tasted wild turkey before, while three of them actually had gone turkey hunting before and taken birds. To make sure I had enough for everyone to eat, I added some venison cheeseburger on a stick to the feast.

I needn’t have worried about food quantity. Not only was there enough casserole to feed everyone, but there was plenty left over. That meant I was able to take some in my lunch today.

I never tire of eating the casserole. It tastes great every time and is very hard to screw up, which is one thing I like about it. For those who are interested, here is the recipe. Note that you can use store-bought turkey or chicken as a substitute for wild turkey.

Wild turkey/wild rice casserole

Ingredients

6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound wild turkey breast, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 medium carrot, sliced (1/2 cup)
1 medium stalk celery, sliced (1/2 cup)
2 cans (14 ounces each) ready-to-serve chicken broth
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) cream of chicken soup
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/4 cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained

1. Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Stir in turkey. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until turkey is brown. Stir in onion, carrots and celery. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally; drain (Note: I don’t drain because I like to have the bacon grease go into the casserole to give it more flavor).

2. Beat 1 can of the broth and the soup in crockpot, using wire whisk, until smooth. Stir in remaining can of broth, the marjoram and pepper. Stir in turkey mixture and wild rice.

3. Cover and cook on high heat setting 30 minutes.

4. Reduce heat to low setting. Cook 6 to 7 hours or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed (Note: In my crockpot, it only takes 2 or 3 hours to get it fully cooked, so you’ll have to experiment).

5. After everything is cooked, add cream for extra flavor, about 1/2 or 1 cup, and cook for another 1/2 hour or so.

Enjoy!

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Turkey hunt goes smoothly

April 22, 2016

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I always say that turkey hunting is NEVER easy. Sure, I have had hunts where the birds did what I was hoping they would do. And, hunts that ended quickly, like less than an hour.

But, so much work goes into making a hunt successful that I refuse to ever use the word easy to describe any of my hunts — even the best ones.

That is why a hunt like I had last week in Minnesota will be described as going smoothly rather than easily. I did my homework prior to opening day of Season A, which was April 13. I talked to the landowner of a farm near Red Wing, and he noted that he had been seeing a large flock of birds using a picked corn field regularly.

So, I set up my blind in the far corner of that field, with help from the landowner’s cousin. When we got to the spot, we looked out the window of his pickup truck and saw a flock of 25-30 birds feeding in the picked corn field. There were several adult toms strutting for more than a dozen hens. Needless to say, I was excited.

At the far end of the field where I set up was a finger of woods that went back in quite a ways. I saw some large oak trees that looked good for roosting, so I was optimistic about opening day.

I climbed into my blind well before dawn, and let things quiet down. Then, as it started getting light, birds began to sound off. There were hens yelping and toms gobbling. There also was the sound of juvenile toms trying to gobble. More than 30 years of turkey hunting have helped me learn and identify the range of sounds made by turkeys. There was at least one first-year tom, called a jake, roosted within about 50 yards of my blind.

The trick to getting close to roosted birds is to come in well before sunrise — like an hour before — to take advantage of their poor night vision. I got there plenty early and was hopeful birds would show up in the field in front of my blind.

It didn’t take long. Two hens sauntered out of the woods to my left and began feeding in the field. I knew more birds, including toms, would soon follow. Actually, it took longer than I expected.

Finally, about a half hour after the hens came out, I heard a gobble in the field to my right just over a small rise in the terrain. I gave some soft calls — clucks and purrs — and got my gun ready.

Eventually, I saw a red head pop up over the rise. A gobbler was coming in! I waited for him to come over the rise so I could see his full body. When he did, I realized he was a jake. In a matter of seconds, three more jakes joined him.

It was a very cool sight, but I wanted to wait for a mature tom with a long beard to come in. So, I passed on the jakes. The hung around for a bit, then turned and went back the way they had come. They continued to gobble, and proved to me that sometimes jakes can gobble like mature toms.

A little while later, a longbeard came out into the field and walked across, but he was too far away. My calls got him to stop, but he did not alter his travel route. Eventually, he got to the other side and disappeared into the woods.

Maybe a half hour later, a fifth jake appeared and walked out into the field and toward my decoy spread. I could have shot him, but I let him walk. With this much bird activity, I figured it was just a matter of time before a longbeard came within range.

Things got quiet for a while, then my phone buzzed. It was my brother Pat from Colorado, and I decided to take the call. He could hear me whisper, so we talked for about 10 minutes.

As I was hanging up, I heard a loud racket to right of my blind and behind me slightly. I recognized a sound I don’t hear very often — fighting purrs. Males does this throughout the breeding season when they are fighting for dominance in the flock — and breeding rights.

I grabbed my gun quickly and peeked out the right side of the blind. A longbeard stepped into a small shooting lane I had made in the brush and stood there looking toward my decoys. I had a jake decoy with a real tail fan, plus two hens.

The longbeard seemed hesitant, then turned to his right and headed back into some brush. I got nervous about missing my chance, but then another bird stepped into the same shooting lane. I saw a red head and knew he was a male, and I assumed he was a longbeard like the first one.

I lined up my fiber optic sights on the bird and fired. He dropped where he stood, and the other birds scattered.

When I walked up to the bird, I was surprised to discover that he was a jake. The telltale short, stumpy beard greeted me when I turned the bird over.

I was a tad disappointed, as I like to shoot a longbeard when I can. But, that’s the way it goes. I have shot plenty of birds over the years, both adult toms and jakes, so I’m happy with whatever I am able to get. I always make sure to thank the Lord for whatever I am able to harvest.

One benefit of a young bird is the meat is more tender. Older birds can be tough, which won’t be a problem in this case.

And, I have big plans for this bird. I am going to make wild turkey/wild rice casserole for a group of college students tomorrow night, along with venison cheeseburger on a stick. We are gathering for a special Saturday night tradition called Lord’s Day. It features praise and worship, special prayers and dinner.

Some of the students have had wild game. In fact, two of them have shot wild turkeys. For some, this will be their first meal of wild game.

I am super excited to prepare this feast!

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Will turkey scouting pay off?

April 11, 2016

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We all hear about the importance of scouting in preparing for a hunt. I learned firsthand during a trip down to two adjoining properties I will turkey hunt near Red Wing when Season A opens on Wednesday.

I had planned to hunt a spot where I had called in two toms for my daughter Claire last spring, also on the opening day of the A Season. Without hesitation, I parked my car and headed to a back corner to set up the blind. It’s a spot where a narrow strip of pasture and a picked soybean field meet. Last year, the crop field was picked corn, and the birds were using it before the season. I got that report from the landowner, which is the most valuable source of information there is.

This year, I set up the blind without talking to the landowner first. I couldn’t find him, so I just relied on last year’s results. Then, after I set up the blind and walked back to my car, I spotted him in a field working. Another guy was with him. Turned out to be his cousin.

I approached him and asked where he had been seeing birds. He pointed to a field to the south and said he had just seen a flock of 30 or more birds the previous evening. He had seen them on other days, too.

Thinking this to be a sign from the Lord, I asked his cousin if he would be willing to drive his pickup back to where I had set up the blind, pick it up and give me a ride to the field where the birds have been hanging out.

He quickly agreed, and off we went. After picking up the blind, we drove a long way back to the far end of the picked corn field, and when we stopped the truck, we looked and saw a large flock of turkeys feeding. There were several toms strutting for a large group of hens.

X marks the spot. I set up the blind, and that’s where I will hunt on Wednesday. The nice thing was, the birds didn’t spook at the sight of the truck. I think they’re used to vehicles driving in the fields. They paid us no mind and went about their business while we set up the blind.

I went back yesterday morning to listen for gobbling. I did not, however, walk back to where the blind was, as I didn’t want to spook any birds.

I plan to be in the blind well before daylight on Wednesday. The weather looks good, which will make it comfortable inside the blind. I plan to be there as long as it takes, all day if necessary. Lots of hunters leave the woods later in the morning to take a break and/or eat lunch.

Not me. I stay in the woods. I have killed plenty of birds between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., including a bird I shot last year. Even if things are quiet,  toms can fire up at anytime. Sometimes, the hens leave to attend to their nests, or the toms just get tired of strutting for hens that aren’t ready to breed yet. So, they go l0oking for different hens.

I want to be the one that a lonely longbeard finds!

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Turkey broadhead should prove deadly

March 17, 2016

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Ever since I started bow hunting in the fall of 2011, I have focused my efforts on trying to execute pass-through shots on deer in the heart-lung vital area.

To that end, I landed on a mechanical broadhead manufactured by New Archery Products called the Killzone. The two blades open up to 2 inches, and I have gotten pass-throughs on two of the three deer I have shot at with these heads.

This spring, I will be armed with another NAP product, this time for turkey hunting. But, I will not be aiming for a pass-through. In fact, the product is designed not to pass through a turkey.

That’s right: it is NOT built for pass-throughs.

How can this be? Well, I have done lots of reading up on this head, called a Spitfire Gobbler Getter. From what I can tell, it has been around for about 10 years, and it has most of the features of the conventional Spitfire — three folding blades, with the ends pointing forward and hugging the ferrule.

The Gobbler Getter features a blunt, rounded head versus a sharp, pointed head that the conventional Spitfire employs. The idea is that the blunt point will result in more energy being released into the bird. So, in addition to the blades slicing the bird, you’ll also have blunt-force trauma. This is designed to help keep the bird close to the point of impact.

That’s a huge advantage for the bow hunter. One of the common problems with bow hunting for turkeys is having the birds run or fly off after being hit. They can travel more than 100 yards, and often there is little to no blood trail. Add to that their tendency to crawl into thick cover and you have instances where the bird is never recovered — or at least requires a huge effort to recover.

Thus, the designers of this head tried to come up with a product that can hit a bird hard and anchor it near the point of impact. The research I have done online suggests that hunters have been achieving this effect.

The conventional three-blade Spitfire has been a highly successful design that creates a big wound channel, plus it has a history of consistently opening on contact with a deer and getting lots of pass-throughs. The reviews have been great on this head, and it is a personal favorite of Chris from NAP, whom I talked to about NAP broadheads recently. He and I had a lengthy conversation, and I got a chance to pick his brain about broadheads for both deer and turkey hunting.

I decided to get my hands on a set of Gobbler Getters, and I am planning on using them on future archery hunts, with my crossbow in Wisconsin, where they are legal for all hunters, and in Minnesota with my compound bow. Chris from NAP said they should work just fine with my crossbow.

One thing to be careful of with mechanical heads is the danger of having them open in flight because of the higher speed of crossbows. But, Chris said I shouldn’t have to worry about this for two reasons: 1. My particular crossbow, the Parker Enforcer, is relatively slow, shooting at 285 feet per second (some compounds with 70-pound draw weights can approach or match this speed), and, 2. the Spitfires are held closed with tension springs versus o-rings or rubber bands, so they are less likely to open in flight.

Bottom line: I am not going to worry about using the Gobbler Getters with my crossbow. I eventually hope to try them with my compound bow, too. I thought about it this year for Minnesota, which now allows turkey hunters with an archery tag to hunt throughout the entire spring season, rather than just one seven-day period.

But, I applied for the first time period for firearms and got picked, so I plan to hunt the first season with my shotgun (though I might bring my crossbow and try it out if a bird comes in really close). Had I not gotten picked, I would have bought the archery tag. I likely will keep applying for first season, and there probably will be years when I don’t get picked. So, that’s when I might buy the archery tag and hunt with my compound bow. But, at age 54, I am only six years away from being able to use a crossbow for archery hunting in Minnesota.

I really think NAP has a winner with the Spitfire Gobbler Getter. Having these heads also makes me want to try to conventional Spitfires for deer. Chris said that the three-blade design consistently produces nice blood trails. He said it’s very rare that you get a poor blood trail on a deer shot with a Spitfire.

He believes that you can get great results with a two-blade head, which I have, but if the cut is more horizontal than vertical, you can get a lot less blood coming out of a deer.

I see his point. That exact thing happened three years ago on a deer I shot with a Rage two-blade mechanical. A doe came walking down a trail near my stand, and I took a 25-yard shot at her (I had measured the distance from the trail to my stand, so I knew it was 25 yards).

Because I had a lighted nock, I saw the arrow hit the doe right behind the front leg and in the vital area. I watched her run off with the arrow sticking out of her. I couldn’t tell how much penetration I got, but it looked like the arrow at least hit the right spot.

Unfortunately, I found a small blood trail that eventually dried up. To this day, I am convinced that I hit the deer where I was aiming and that it eventually died.

But, in that instance, I may have had the trouble Chris described. The good news is I have had some great blood trails since then, and I am confident in the Killzones I have in my quiver. I have six of them, three brand new and three with replacement blades. Plus, I also have three Killzone crossbow heads. I now see that, based in my conversation with Chris, I may not have needed to buy the Killzone crossbow heads. But, that’s OK. I killed a deer with one of them, and I am massively confident in them.

I would like to deer hunt with Spitfires someday, but to be honest, I am so sold on Killzones that I am reluctant to switch. I first tried them on a recommendation from the guys at A1 Archery in Hudson. These guy are serious hunters, and nearly all of them use Killzones and love them. They have always steered me right, so I easily chose to buy Killzones. Plus, one of the guys at A1 installed replacement blades on three of my heads when I bought the blades there. That’s customer service you can’t beat!

So, with all due respect to Chris, I probably will be taking my Killzones back into the woods this fall for deer. Now, if he wants to send me a set of Spitfires to try, I would be happy to do so. I’m sure they would perform admirably.

On the other hand, I’m not looking to fix something that isn’t broke. I have shot at three deer with Killzones and killed them all. One of them I did not recover until the next day, which was too late because the coyotes got to it first. That’s on me for not the greatest shot placement (a little far back that resulted in the deer jumping up and running when I went to track it).

So, if I just make sure to execute proper shot placement, I think my Killzones will do a great job. But, it sure is nice to know there are other great options, too. But, whatever NAP mechanical broadhead you choose to use, Chris wants to offer one CRUCIAL tip: Replace the blade after every animal you harvest with it, NO MATTER WHAT. Chris was emphatic on this point, and NAP offers replacement blades for both the Spitfire and the Killzone. They’re about $15 for a pack of three, and worth the money. To me, it’s like sharpening your hook after every fish you catch.

My Spitfire Gobbler Getters arrived in the mail recently. I’m excited to use them!

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Minnesota turkey lottery: I’m a winner!

February 12, 2016

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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!

 

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Sighting in new crossbow a breeze

February 11, 2016

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Got my hands on my new Parker Bushwacker crossbow last week. I didn’t wait long to put it together and sight it in.

I found it simple to put together and easy to use. I really like the way it feels in my hands, and it was amazingly easy to sight in. I started out at 10 yards, and it was very close. I moved back to 20, and it was just a tad low and to the left. A few clicks on the scope adjustments and I was dialed in dead center.

I took a few more shots to make sure, and every one hit the bullseye. I am supremely confident about hunting with this weapon. And, my hat’s off to Parker for making a solid crossbow that I’m sure will take down some animals for me.

I plan to use it this spring for turkey hunting. There’s a place in Wisconsin where I bow hunt where the landowner only allows bow hunting. And, with crossbows being legal for any hunter in this state, I plan to try mine there.

Should be fun. I feel confident I can make a shot on a gobbler out to at least 20 yards, even though a tom’s vital area is only the size of a tennis ball. The crossbow certainly is capable of hitting the target.

But, a critical decision is what broadhead to use. After doing some research online, I plan on trying the Spitfire Gobbler Getter by New Archery Products. It’s designed specifically for turkey hunting, and it has features to help put the bird down where he stands or close to it. Many hunters agonize over birds they hit with an arrow, but run or fly off. My brother-in-law just recently told me about a friend of his who hit three turkeys while archery hunting last spring, but didn’t recover any of them. That’s definitely an outcome I would like to avoid!

I may also try archery hunting for turkeys in Minnesota with my compound bow. An archery tag is good for the entire spring, so that would give me lots of time to try for a gobbler. I applied for the first season in the lottery. If I don’t get picked, I’m seriously thinking about buying an archery tag. I consider getting a turkey with a bow to be the supreme challenge in archery.

I need to decide if I’m up to the task!

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Turkey talk proves fun

October 12, 2015

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I decided to buy a fall turkey tag this year. Part of the reason was to gain more woodsmanship and knowledge of the birds, which will hopefully bear fruit next spring when I chase gobblers.

Another reason is for food. Wild turkey is excellent to eat, and I don’t have any left in my freezer. I got just one bird this spring, so I want to get another one for the freezer.

I should be writing about doing just that, but the truth is, I blew two golden opportunities. It showed that I’m rustier than I thought. Despite getting a late start, I had a shot opportunity minutes in to my hunt at Spot No. 2. I was walking along a narrow cow pasture, then spotted movement just on the edge of the woods. I saw two hens walking into the woods, but thought they were out of range.

Looking back, I don’t think they were. I could have raised my shotgun and fired, and more than likely would have dropped one of the birds, but instead I pulled back and tried to circle around and stalk in on them. But, when I got there, they were gone. Fall turkeys move almost continuously in the fall, so you’d better take a shot when you get the chance.

I moved to another area of the property, and set up at the top of the ridge. The landowner said there were birds in the area, so I sat down and did some yelps and lost calls (called the kee kee run). To my delight and surprise, a hen yelped back. She was either at the bottom of the valley or up on the other side. I couldn’t tell.

We went back and forth for probably about 10-15 minutes, but she didn’t seem to get any closer. Then, she shut up. I figured she wasn’t willing to come that far, and that I would have to go to her.

That’s exactly what I did. I hoofed it around to the other side of the valley. Just as I got there, I heard a yelp. To my utter frustration, it came from right where I had just been sitting and calling. She came after all.

It was not a happy moment for me. I sure learned my lesson. From now on, I’m going to stay put. The flocking instinct is strong in the fall, and turkeys just seem to want to gather up with other turkeys, even if they take their sweet time. Now I know.

Hopefully, I will be a better hunter next time. I definitely want to get after fall turkeys again this season. I have until Nov. 1 to hunt. But, I want to save those last few days in October for bow hunting. That’s when the real fun begins!

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Don’t forget about turkeys this fall

October 2, 2015

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Hunting seasons are open in Minnesota, and I have been focusing my efforts on bow hunting for whitetail deer. But, a package that arrived in the mail yesterday pulled my attention toward another game animal — the wild turkey.

The fall season for turkeys opens tomorrow, and will stay open until Nov. 1. With a new call in my hand, I want to go after these birds. It’s a simple mouth diaphragm call, but it’s wickedly good at producing the full range of hen calls, including the kee-kee run they use in the fall.

I have tried and tried to do this call over the years, which is a series of short, high-pitched whistles, but have failed miserably. That is, until I tried a mouth call from a company called Tom Teasers in Georgia. The company makes one called Cracked Corn, which I got several years ago and hadn’t gotten around to trying yet. I picked it up earlier this summer and decided to try it out. I gave the kee-kee one more try, and to my surprise, I did it beautifully on this call!

What’s more, I was able to do all kinds of other hen sounds really well, too. Just like that, I found my new go-to call. I decided to call the company to say how much I like this call. I ended up on the phone with Tommy Walton, the owner and founder. We talked for a while, then he generously offered to send me some more Cracked Corn calls, plus several other mouth calls. He even threw in two beautiful box calls!

I felt like I was in heaven. When I got ready for bed last night at 11:30, I couldn’t resist trying out the new box calls. I worked them softly, then decided I would really fire them up this morning.

In a word, they’re awesome, too. So, thanks to Tommy for getting all of these great calls in my hands. We talked about turkey and deer hunting over the phone, and I told him he should come up here to hunt sometime. It’s a long way from Georgia, but we have some good opportunities up here.

Maybe he’ll take me up on that sometime. If he does, I know what calls I’ll be using on our turkey hunts!

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What place does hunting have in my life?

September 14, 2015

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I have been reflecting quite a bit about my passion for hunting and the place it has in my life. With the archery deer season right around the corner, it’s a good time to take a look and reflect on the sport I have enjoyed since childhood and am getting ready to enjoy yet again.

What I have learned from my reflections is that the practice of taking to the woods in search of a game animal runs deep. I shouldn’t be surprised, given my background and lineage. My grandfather, Lawrence Kramer, prowled the woods and waters of Meeker County west of the Twin Cities and near his hometown of Litchfield. He fished, hunted and trapped, not just for sport, but to put food on the table. He and my grandmother, Ruth Kramer, lost their farm during the Great Depression, and he had to find ways to feed his family of eight children. My mom, Eunice, was the oldest.

When my mom married my dad in the 1950s, Lawrence Kramer took my dad out and taught him the skills needed to be a good hunter and fisherman. Those skills eventually passed down to my brothers and I. We got to fish a few times with Grandpa Kramer before he died in the early 1970s, and I feel proud to continue his legacy today.

Like him, I like to put food on the table, and I have been fortunate to do so many times. I never tire of a meal of venison wild turkey. And, I like to throw in a few meals of pan-fried walleye. In addition to hunting, I also like to go fishing, and I have had many great adventures on the water.

I’ll be honest, as much as I enjoy the sports of hunting and fishing, they wouldn’t hold much meaning without the table fare that comes as a result. That is why I will never consider myself a trophy hunter. Don’t get me wrong, I like a big buck as much as the next guy, and I have mounted two nice ones. But, I experience a deep satisfaction when my family is able to partake in a wild game dinner.

To me, nothing beats the enjoyment of knowing I harvested what our family is going to eat. That is a big reason why hunting is so important to me. Oftentimes, when our family is eating a meal that I prepared, I will stop during the meal and look around the table. When I see my wife and kids enjoying it, I am filled with pride.

I also have served wild game to my friends, and I try to invite my parents over, too. My dad loves it, my mom tolerates it, but she is willing to at least try everything I make.

With my birthday coming up next Tuesday, Sept. 22, my thoughts are turning to the potential outdoor adventures coming up this fall. I won’t be able to get out for the archery opener this year, but I hope to be in one of my stands when the whitetail rut kicks into full gear in late October and early November. That is prime time to be in the woods, and it’s a beautiful time to be up in a tree, even though the leaves will be down by then.

I would do well to appeal to St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters. I ran across a good article on him on a website called The Catholic Gentleman. There is a story about his life, plus prayers hunters can pray.

Asking the intercession of St. Hubert could be as important as tuning your bow or placing a new tree stand.

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