Hearing, not seeing

April 13, 2011

Faith Outdoors

I had high hopes when I took my son, William, on the youth turkey hunt in Wisconsin Saturday and Sunday. Joining us were Chris Thompson, dean of the St. Paul Seminary, and his son, Pete.

Chris and Pete are new to the sport, and they eagerly awaited the gobbling of turkeys on Saturday morning. The scouting trip Chris and I did the day before was productive. We set up a blind on a small wooded point that jutted out into a picked corn field. There was good turkey sign, including a bunch of feathers on the ground, so we felt confident we would see birds the next morning.

Strangely, though, we did not see a single bird the next morning, or the entire weekend. We heard gobbling in the distance, but those birds never showed. We heard two more gobbles later, but again, no birds appeared. Even when we went driving around and hunting other properties, not a single bird was spotted. William and I went to the same spot we had hunted the previous year, when we had seen two young toms (called jakes), but saw no birds this year. Again, we heard some gobbles, but the toms didn’t come over our way, despite responding to our calls.

Surprised and baffled

I didn’t know what to make of it all. I called my friend, Steve Huettl, a turkey expert, and he said the cloudy and humid weather we had both days likely dampened the gobbling. Plus, our lack of turkey sightings on the first property caused him to think that perhaps the birds hadn’t spent the winter there, as he had originally thought.

I must say, it was discouraging. I had hoped to give Chris and Pete — not to mention, William — a strong taste of the sport I have become so passionate about. Instead, it got just plain boring. Turkey hunting can definitely get that way, but like muskie fishing, it often provides a dramatic thrill strong enough to help get through the boredom.

That didn’t happen this time. The good news is that William has another chance at a bird — tomorrow (Thursday), in fact. He will hunt in Minnesota, with his season running through Sunday. It actually started today, but the weather looked rainy, so I decided to wait until tomorrow.

I’m optimistic we’ll at least see something. We have three adjacent farms along a ridge near Red Wing to hunt. I have been hunting these properties for deer and turkey since 2003, and have always encountered birds. In fact, I and everyone else I have brought out there have filled all of our tags in that time.

After what happened over the weekend, I’m certainly not guaranteeing success. But, I think we’ll do better than we did in Wisconsin. I would like to have the experience of calling a turkey in for William. I would like for him to at least see it. Of course, getting a shot would be nice, and making the shot even nicer.

Steve is going to come with us for the morning. I’m sure his expertise will help us even more. I’m predicting the hunt will be funner for William than the weekend hunt. And, maybe, just maybe, he’ll take his first shot at a wild turkey.

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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.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek