Tag Archives: turkey

Thinking ahead to spring

February 10, 2014

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Only minutes into taking my dog for a walk yesterday, I knew it was a mistake. It was really cold, and the winds started biting into my face right away. I went ahead with the full 3 miles, but the last mile was brutal.

I needed a dose of spring after that, and I simply turned my thoughts to the upcoming turkey season. No doubt there are people who are worried about turkeys freezing to death in these sub-zero temperatures, but 30-plus years of turkey hunting have shown me that these birds are tough!

I have hunted after some of the worst winters we’ve had, and the birds always seem to be present in good numbers come spring. I once talked a wild turkey biologist, and he assured me the birds can withstand the coldest weather we face, as long as they can find food.

In the areas where I hunt, it’s not a problem. There’s always spilled corn and soybeans left over from the fall harvest, plus at least one landowner I know feeds the birds in the form of spreading manure on his fields. What I learned years ago is that there’s a lot of undigested corn in the manure, and the turkeys know it. In fact, one farmer I know says the birds always come running out of the woods when they see him spreading manure.

I think bird numbers will be just fine this spring. In fact, I expect a high number of mature gobblers when I get out in the field in May. The early and mild spring of 2012 put a lot of jakes in the woods last year. Those birds will be mature this year. And, the poor weather throughout the spring cut down on the hunting and resulted in fewer birds taken, which means more survivors.

So, I think it could be a very good year. Of course, it all depends on weather. I do NOT want another spring like last year, when there was cold and snow during just about every time period in Minnesota and Wisconsin. That made the hunting unbelievably tough. I managed to get a bird in Wisconsin, but struck out in Minnesota.

As long as we don’t have a nasty snowstorm in April or May, I think I’ll be fine. I have been working on securing permission to hunt my usual properties in both states, and am close to being all set. One more “yes” in Minnesota and I’m ready to go there. In Wisconsin, I’m good to go.

Sometimes, staying on good terms with landowners and getting permission year after year is a challenge. One guy I talked with brought up some bad experiences he’s had with hunters. A hunter one year asked for permission to hunt, then brought others with him to hunt. This landowner didn’t like it, and let me know that such a tactic will not work with him.

I’m grateful that he was honest in telling me about it — and was still willing to let me hunt. He’s got an excellent piece of land to hunt, and it is adjacent to another property I have permission to hunt. One of the best spots is right near the property line, so it’s good to have permission on both properties. Plus, this landowner has a great roosting area on his land. The birds roost there regularly, and now I can move in on them.

I have done a little practicing with my calls, but not much. Some years, I have practiced very intensely, which can drive my wife crazy. I’m going to back off on the practicing this year. I certainly don’t want to be rusty when I hit the woods, but I also have learned that there are many factors that determine success, and there are things every bit as important as being a good caller. In fact, if you focus too much on calling, you can end up neglecting other important factors.

My seasons in Minnesota and Wisconsin are almost exactly three months away. I cant’ wait!

 

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2013 Outdoors highlights

January 2, 2014

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As I look ahead to outdoor adventures in 2014, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look back on 2013 and recall the blessings of the year. There were many highlights, and I offer this list of the best ones:

Snow bird

It might seem tough to name turkey hunting in the snow – in May! – as a highlight, but May 5 will go down as both a unique and awesome day in the turkey woods. Just days earlier, the area I hunt in Wisconsin was blanketed by 15 inches of snow. It was very strange driving out to my hunting spot and seeing snow everywhere. It looked more like December than May.

I must admit, I had to fight off feelings of despair during my hour-long drive to Ellsworth the morning of my hunt. Would the turkeys be radically affected by the snow? Would they still be interested in breeding? Would they gobble?

Turns out, the birds were quite active indeed. In fact, I had a nice 2-year-old tom on the ground in less than an hour. He gobbled very eagerly on the roost, and I coaxed him in with some aggressive hen calling followed by some soft calling at the end. The bird was standing in the snow when I shot him, and I was sitting in the snow against a tree. It was the first time in almost 30 years of turkey hunting that I had hunted in snow that actually was accumulated on the ground.

It was a very unusual hunt, and a very cool experience overall. But, I NEVER want to hunt in snow again in May. Let’s hope this is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

I did continue to hunt after that because I had bonus tags that the state offers. The hunting was extremely difficult and the toms had lots of hens around. I believe this was caused by the fact that the snow destroyed eggs the hens had laid, so they went out to breed again. Thus, I had very little success calling another bird in. I had some jakes (young toms) come in fairly close, but they ended up not being in gun range. I fired, thinking they were, but they were too far and merely ran off at the shot.

The good news is I spent a lot of time in the woods and learned the properties well. So, i should be in fine shape this year. I look for it to be a good spring season. Two years ago, the early and warm spring caused a very good hatch, and there were lots of jakes running around during the 2013 season. That means lots of mature 2-year-olds this year. I can’t wait!

Buck for the fireplace

Just weeks after finishing my turkey hunting season, I got a call from Lee’s Taxidermy in Prescott, Wis. to let me know that my whitetail buck mount was done. It was the largest buck I had ever taken and I’m not sure if I will ever top it, or even match it. I took Joe, my oldest son, to the taxidermy shop to pick it up. Then, when I got home, I put it up on the fireplace.

Joe has a nice buck mount, too, and we discussed whose was better. Lee Schommer, the taxidermist, said his scored 151, and mine about 153. He did not take exact measurements of mine, but says whenever he tries to estimate the score of a buck, he’s usually within 2 inches of the exact score. So, bottom line is that our bucks are very even. The rack on Joe’s is thicker, but my rack is wider and has taller tines. Honestly, Joe and I are not competitive when it comes to trying to get the biggest rack. It was just fun to compare our buck mounts.

Claire’s first walleye

My 11-year-old daughter Claire caught her first walleye in June on Upper Red Lake. Due to a very busy schedule, we were able to run up to Upper Red for an evening of fishing. We contacted Bear Paw Guides and hired Tyler Brasel to guide Claire, my wife Julie and I for the evening. Just days earlier, the protected slot loosened to allow the taking of fish up to 20 inches, versus 17 prior to that. So, we were very optimistic about being able to catch fish to take home.

The trip did not disappoint. We had our four-fish limit for the three of us (12 fish total) in an hour, and Claire caught lots of fish, starting with her first-ever walleye. Tyler set her up with a bobber rig and it worked beautifully for Claire. Tyler has young kids of his own, so he is very good at helping children catch fish. He did an awesome job with Claire, and it’s a trip we will never forget. Hopefully, we can get back up there again this summer.

‘Tonka bass

I went out to Lake Minnetonka on the Fourth of July with my son Joe to try for some largemouth bass. He was home for the summer and wanted to do some fishing. I wasn’t sure how it would go, as I hadn’t been on the lake in years. However, I did very well on the lake when I did fish it regularly, and wanted to hit my old spots to see if they produced.

Turns out, one spot in particular was as good as it used to be. We caught several nice bass on it, including a feisty 18-incher, and I went home very satisfied. Joe got some action, too, although he was a bit rusty at fishing with plastic worms. Near the end, he started to get the hang of it, and pulling a bass over the gunwale put a smile on his face. I would definitely like to do some bass fishing in 2014!

Breakthrough with a bow

Of course, my top highlight of the year has to be getting my first deer with a bow. Everything came together on the morning of Nov. 6. A young buck with a small eight-point rack came walking by my stand at just 10 yards, giving me a perfect broadside shot. I drew back as he stepped past me and I quickly found his vital area with my 20-yard pin. All of my practice and preparation paid off with a perfect pass-through shot. Tracking was easy in the snow and I found my buck about 100 yards from where I took the shot. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of finding my deer after the shot. I had hit about a half dozen deer previously, but didn’t find a single one, including a small doe that I hit in late September. Ask any bow hunter, and they’ll tell you that failure to find a deer that’s hit is a very sick feeling. Hopefully, I’ll be able to duplicate my success next year.

Sons come through

It was also a good deer hunting year for my two oldest sons, Joe and Andy. Joe got a small whitetail doe on the last day of our hunt in Montana over Thanksgiving week, and Andy ended up taking a doe in Montana plus a doe in Minnesota. So, our freezer is full, plus we were able to give venison away. Our family has been feasting on venison in the last few weeks, and I’m sure our supply of meat will last into the spring and summer. There’s nothing like venison steaks on the grill!

One intriguing possibility for 2014 would be taking Claire turkey hunting. She has expressed interest, and I have said I will take her if she wants to go. She turns 12 in April, and that would be very fun to chase gobblers with her. She’s not sure if she actually could pull the trigger on an animal. But if we go out and call a bird in, and she decides not to shoot, that’s fine with me. I like going out into the woods, especially in the spring, so she won’t disappoint me if she decides to hold off on the shot. We’ll see what she says as we get closer to the turkey season.

The next thing I’ll do is contact landowners after the Wisconsin turkey lottery. I have been blessed to have several landowners who continue to let me hunt, and I can’t wait to get after those birds in 2014!

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Wisconsin turkey lottery deadline is today!

December 10, 2013

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For those thinking ahead to spring, it’s time to act if you want to hunt gobblers in Wisconsin. Today is the deadline for applying in the Wisconsin wild turkey lottery. Those who go to the wild turkey page on the Wisconsin DNR can apply online as well as learn all of important details about the spring turkey season.

I have gone every year since 2007 and have failed to tag a tom just once. Six out of seven years isn’t bad! Even last year, when a monster storm hit right during my season in early May, I managed to take a nice mature tom. It was a very unusual hunt – in the snow in May. But, I happened to set up near where a very eager gobbler was roosted. I started walking toward the woods at about 5:15 a.m. and had my bird just a little before 6. It was my fastest hunt ever.

I firmly believe this year will be excellent. There were lots of birds around last year where I hunted, but very few got shot. I think the cold spring turned many hunters away. And, with good reason. The birds were not very cooperative overall, and lots of hunters went home empty handed.

That just leaves more turkeys for this year. Not only that, the hatch was very good the year before, which should mean lots of 2-year-old toms gobbling in the woods. Last year, I saw a group of seven or eight jakes (young toms) on one of the properties I hunt, and none of them were taken, even though I shot at them several times.

So, those birds should be back this year – and I can’t wait!

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Tired of leftovers? Try this banquet of joy

November 30, 2013

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laughing girl

Photo/Cristiano Betta Licensed under Creative Commons

The end of one Church year and the beginning of another shouldn’t pass without a celebration. A feast even.

I know we’re still finishing up the Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m talking about a feast of joy, not food.

Before we get too far into the new Church year and into the penitential season of Advent, take a few minutes to sample some great verses and quotes about joy. There are no calories and absolutely no guilt!

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.
–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Let us therefore both praise and sing; that is, let us praise with cheerfulness and joy.
–St. Augustine

…for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
–Neh. 8:10

Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.
–St. Teresa of Avila

Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When our heart is pure and united to God, we feel within ourselves a joy, a sweetness that inebriates, a light that dazzles us. In this intimate union God and the soul are like two pieces of wax melted together; they cannot be separated. This union of God with His little creature is a most beautiful thing. It is a happiness that we cannot understand. . . God, in His goodness, has permitted us to speak to Him. Our prayer is an incense which He receives with extreme pleasure.
–St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars

There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth, and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.
 –G.K. Chesterton

Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.
–C.S. Lewis

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.
–St. Gregory Nanzianzen

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
–John 15:11

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Families are Messy…

November 25, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

As we approach Thanksgiving and our opportunities to be with extended family, there is one thing we need to remember – families are messy.

I am not talking about Uncle Bob who never does the dishes or the spilled gravy at the kids table; I am saying that family relationships are messy.  Some families have a no politics and no religion rule on conversations at their family gatherings.  That may help with the tension of hot button topics like same sex unions and abortion, but as people of faith we cannot put on and take off our religion at will like a sweater.  We wear our faith all of the time!

How do we deal with some difficult situations this Thanksgiving like -

Your sister and her boyfriend, who are living together,

Your uncle who is in a same sex relationship,

Your cousin who complains about the church’s teaching on contraception,

Your nephew who has left the church because of the current Clergy abuse scandal in the news…

Jesus had the answer – He loved more!

Since I have a fondness for food and mentions of food in the bible – I am taken by this quote every Thanksgiving…

Matthew 11:19, The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

I think the most important thing to remember in this passage is that WE all are the sinners.  If our church only let perfect Catholics in – the pews (and the pulpits) would be virtually empty.  I am so grateful that Jesus (and my family ) eats with me!

So set the tone with a prayer of humility and gratitude and respect and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your messy family and LOVE MORE!

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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First a turkey, then a ring

July 23, 2013

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Most turkey hunters I know are single-minded when it comes to chasing gobblers.

Lee Zeman is cut from that zealous cloth. But, he got very distracted during a turkey hunt this past spring. On his birthday, April 17, he took his girlfriend Ali out to try and get her a bird. He captured the hunt on video, which ended with her pulling the trigger on a nice 1-year-old bird, called a jake.

But, it’s what came after the gun shot that caught my eye – and captured my heart. As the two were admiring her bird, he turned to her and got serious. Very serious. He pulled a box out of his pocket and popped the question.

How’s a woman going to say no to the man who helped her get a bird? She freaked out more than a little, but finally gave Lee the answer he was hoping for. The wedding is set for June 21 of 2014.

I found the whole story heartwarming. I met Lee while at the headquarters of Zeman construction. Lee works there as a project manager, and I was there to photograph his uncle, Chris Zeman, who is one of this year’s Leading With Faith winners. Shortly after I got there, Chris said I had to meet his nephew Lee.

I’m glad I did. Turns out, he is every bit as passionate about the outdoors as I am. He is also enormously talented and highly energetic. At this time of year, he is chasing muskies, which he does up north on Lake Vermillion. Turns out, it’s a fabulous muskie lake. He has caught fish longer than 50 inches, including a giant that he caught several years ago that measured 56 inches.

Like most muskie maniacs, he puts in hours on the water in search of these giant predators. He admitted that Ali doesn’t join him on the water. Most likely, she would just fall asleep in the boat, he said.

I wouldn’t be surprised if their honeymoon involved some fishing. Congratulations Lee and Ali. May God give you both many happy years together!

Note: to see more about Lee’s hunting and fishing exploits, visit his website at True Calling Outdoors

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Final thoughts on 2013 turkey season

June 4, 2013

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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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Finally, flowers bloom!

May 16, 2013

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FlowersSeems like we have waited forever for spring to arrive this year. Less than two weeks ago, snow covered portions of southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. And, on May 5, I walked through a snow-covered field to turkey hunt near Ellsworth, Wis.

Now, things are finally greening up, and I’m seeing the first flower blooms of the year. It’s a very welcome sight! As I was walking past the Cathedral on my way back to the office the other day, I spotted some flowers in the Cathedral courtyard.

Naturally, I pulled out my camera and zoomed in on the splashes of pink in front of me. Taking in the scene definitely put a smile on my face.

With the heat we’ve had this week, leaves on the trees have popped fast. Just a week ago, the trees were bare. Now, we’re near full foliage. With green as my favorite color, this is a beautiful display, indeed.

It also will be very helpful next week when I go turkey hunting during Minnesota’s final season. The H Season starts on Friday, May 24. The foliage will help conceal me so that I can move in closer on birds. That always helps.

And, hopefully, the hens will be done laying their clutches of eggs and will be sitting on their nests. They lay one egg a day up to about 15 or 16, then sit on their nests to incubate their eggs almost round the clock. The first few days this happens, the toms are actively cruising for hens and can be very eager to come to a call.

That’s what I’m hoping for. Eventually, their excitement will fade, but I’m hoping it will last into the H Season. In a normal year, the toms are more subdued by this time, but still have some interest in breeding. This year, they may be far more active, making Season H perhaps the best season of the entire spring!

Originally, I was going to hunt Season E down near Cannon Falls. But, that didn’t work out. So, I called the landowners of the two adjoining properties I was planning to hunt, and asked them if I could switch to Season H. Thankfully, both of them said yes.

Although you can buy the tags over the counter for Seasons E through H, and there is no limit to the amount of tags the DNR will offer, I think there will be fewer hunters in the woods, especially for Season H.

Generally, once fishing season opens, people put away their shotguns and bows, and pick up their fishing rods. I understand that, as I used to do the same thing. But, I have discovered in recent years that turkey hunting can be good in May. And, the fishing season goes a long time, so there is plenty of time to wet a line after my hunt is done.

So, starting next Friday, I will take to the woods in search of a nice gobbler. To me, there’s no better way to enjoy spring!

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Snow bird

May 8, 2013

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A snowy landscape made for an interesting backdrop for this Wisconsin turkey hunt.

A snowy landscape made for an interesting backdrop for this Wisconsin turkey hunt.

As I arrived to my hunting spot near Ellsworth, Wis. on Sunday morning for a “spring” turkey hunt, the landscape was radically different from previous years.

I just finished my Wisconsin season, which ran for seven days. On the first evening, snow started to fall where I hunt. When it was finished the next morning, there was 13 inches on the ground. So, I did not hunt for the next three days.

I went back out on Sunday morning. Some snow had melted, but there was still lots on the ground. I hunted a very nice piece of property where my sons and I have killed birds over the last six years.

Turns out there was a fired up tom roosted just a few hundred yards from where I parked the car. The snow didn’t seem to keep the toms from doing what they like to do in the spring – court the ladies.

Making my move

It was tricky to slip in close because there were no leaves on the trees, and the blanket of snow added more light. I couldn’t get in as close as I would have liked, but I got into the section of woods where this gobbler was roosted. I ended up sitting down against a tree in a blanket of snow, which I had never done before.

The tom was gobbling hard on his own, then I heard a hen yelping. I mimicked her a couple of times, then she shut up. I was hoping he would fly down before she did, which is exactly what happened.

He was hot to trot and flew down into the field and continued to gobble. I called softly, then quit. He kept working toward me in the field, and I was convinced I would see him in an opening in the brush on the edge where he was walking. I wanted to sit right along the edge, but felt it would be too risky in terms of him seeing me from the roost. So, I tucked in around the corner, about 30 yards from the edge.

The moment of truth?

Had he walked right along the edge, I would have had a nice 30-yard shot. But, as it turned out, he walked about 20-30 yards out into the field. That put him at about 50 yards or so. Had he stopped in the opening and ran his head up, I would have taken the shot. Instead, he walked right through it and continued toward the corner. I did not shoot because I wasn’t sure I could knock him down.

He reached the corner, but there was a lot of thick brush between me and the bird. I turned to the right hoping he would round the corner and come on in. He only needed to go another 25-30 yards and I would see him again.

What did he do? He stayed right at the corner and continued to gobble. I waited, then did a little more soft calling. Over the years, I have used soft calling to lure the bird the final steps into range and into a clear spot for a shot. He gobbled right away, but stayed put. More than likely, he wanted that hen to come out and show herself.

Time to wait

I’ve played this game before, and knew it was time to shut up. A lot of guys can’t stand it when a bird hangs up, so they keep calling. I have learned that staying quiet usually causes a bird to get curious and come in looking.

I knew he didn’t have any hens with him, and he already had come this far. Plus, there was absolutely no obstruction between him and I, so there was no reason for him to hang up.

Then, he went quiet for a bit, and that’s usually when the bird is moving. So, I got my gun up and ready, then took the safety off. He gobbled again, and seemed a bit closer, but still had a little ways to come. I kept my gun up, and finally took the safety off.

The final steps

Only about a minute later, I caught movement to my left. He walked out into the field about 20 yards and finally cleared the brush and reached an opening. I should have done what my friend suggests and made a call to get him to stop and raise his head.

But, in my excitement, I put the bead on him while he was walking and fired. With his head pulled in toward his body and not raised up, I ended up putting more pellets into the body than I would have liked. In fact, I broke his wing. But, the end result was good – the bird went down! My shot was about 30 to 35 yards, which was well within the range of my shotgun.

I was worried that that the breast on the side facing me would be riddled with pellets. That happened last year on a similar shot. Amazingly, when I breasted out the bird, I didn’t find any pellets on either side.

The two breast halves are now in the freezer. The only tough part was I sliced my thumb when I was breasting out the bird. I had just sharpened the fillet knife, so it went right into my thumb. I went to the Urgency Room and they actually used some type of glue. Oh well, a small price to pay.

Another bird in the snow

Steve Huettl sits in the snow with the bird he took in Wisconsin last week.

Steve Huettl sits in the snow with the bird he took in Wisconsin last week.

My friend, Steve Huettl, hunted the same season and went out into the snow like I did. However, he did not wait until Sunday. He went out Friday afternoon and actually stalked in on a nice gobbler that had hens with him. He snuck in close and shot the bird.

That’s not the way the game is usually played, but you have to adapt to varying conditions. Last year at this time, the trees had leafed out, and the hens were sitting on their nests incubating eggs. With the ladies absent, the toms were left lonely in the woods.

This year, Steve says the birds are “henned up” right now in the areas hit hard by the snow. He believes the snowstorm wiped out all the eggs the hens had laid, meaning they had to start breeding all over again.

That makes for very tough hunting. So, he told me to count my blessings that I was able to get a bird to come in, and come in without any hens around.

I say “Amen” to that. God is good, and I give credit to him for helping me get my Wisconsin “snow bird.”

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It’s turkey time!

April 29, 2013

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My wild turkey season in Wisconsin begins Wednesday. I will be hunting with Bob Guditis, who is the father of my first wife, Jennifer, who died of cancer in 1995. I still call him my father-in-law. That’s what he’ll always be to me.

We went out scouting yesterday and enjoyed a fabulous afternoon, with temperatures in the upper 70s. I’m sure the warmth will get the breeding going strong. I talked to one of the landowners, and he says he has been hearing turkeys gobbling along a ridge regularly. I’ve got my blind close to that ridge and near the edge of two large agricultural fields that have some waste corn from last fall.

An area like this is excellent for turkeys and I have killed several birds in this spot over the last six years. I’m confident that there will be birds around, which is what you want.

Another good sign is seeing a few turkeys tracks, plus wild flowers blooming, a sure sign that spring is here. We did see a few patches of snow as we drove around, but it will be gone soon. I think we’ve seen the last of the white stuff.

Bob, meanwhile, got excited when I showed him the piece of land he’ll be hunting. It’s got a nice trout stream running through it, and he’s an avid flyfisherman. So, he’ll have both a shotgun and a flyrod with him. If the turkeys aren’t active, he’ll head to the stream for some trout fishing.

I just hope the weather is decent for at least part of the time. It’s looking like we won’t see the 70s during our week-long hunt, but I would be OK with 50s. After all, turkeys are not nearly as temperature sensitive as humans are. In fact, the most gobbling I ever heard at dawn came on a very cold morning in early April when the temperature was 22 degrees, and only warmed to the low 40s.

This gobbling fest took place on the same property Bob will be hunting. I hope and pray he can get a nice tom to come in close enough for a shot!

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