A close turkey encounter

April 12, 2010

Faith Outdoors

It was about 7:45 a.m. on Saturday and my son, William, and I were sitting side by side in a blind on a farm near Ellsworth, Wis. It was opening day of the Wisconsin youth turkey hunting weekend, and William’s first turkey hunt. We had heard toms gobbling on the roost at dawn, but none of them would come in to our calls.

Things changed quickly about two hours after we climbed into my blind. We had a hen cross the cut corn field about 7:15, and that got us excited that a tom would show up, too. That’s exactly what happened. We heard a couple of short yelps behind us, then I saw two birds to our right. At first, I couldn’t tell if they were hens or toms. The bird in front was mostly obscured by brush, except for the head and top of his neck.

I looked for a beard, but couldn’t see one. Then, I looked at the bird in the rear and thought I saw a short beard, which is what a yearling tom, or jake, has.

I figured they were both jakes, but I couldn’t see the beard on the lead bird. I didn’t want William to shoot unless I was sure the bird was legal. Finally, after standing in the brush for about a minute or two, the two birds turned and trotted off.

Eventually, they made a left turn and crossed the corn field. Finally, I got a good look at the birds and saw their short beards. I was bummed. We had them at 20 yards standing still. William easily could have made the shot. We had been practicing at that exact distance at the range with pop cans and William was hitting nearly every one.

Well, that’s the way turkey hunting goes. Unfortunately, we did not get another chance. Toms gobbled after that, but all of them were up high on the ridge, and we were down low. As my turkey-expert friend has said, gobblers just don’t seem to want to come down hill to a call. So, it’s smarter to hunt up high. In this case, I thought the cut corn field would draw birds, like it has the past two years. This time, the mature toms weren’t around.

My friend said that because of the early spring, the breeding cycle is significantly ahead of schedule. Usually, at this time of year, the hens still aren’t interested in breeding, so the toms are in more of a chasing mood. This year, the hens are already breeding and coming to the gobblers and staying with them. Consequently, the toms are very hard to call in. They have all the hens they want, so they don’t need to go looking for others.

The good news is, I get another chance to try for some birds. My two oldest boys, Joe and Andy, start their Minnesota season on Wednesday. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get on some birds. At least, the weather should be nice. That’s one blessing we’ve had this spring. And, another blessing I would like to experience is putting a nice, big wild turkey breast in the freezer.

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.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek