Letting an opportunity slip away

April 20, 2010

Faith Outdoors

The wild turkey will humble those who hunt them in ways they could never imagine.

Well, I certainly can imagine because it has happened to me many times. Saturday was yet another occasion for me to sigh in frustration. I was out with my son, Joe, to try and get him a Minnesota bird.

We got to the property about 5:30 a.m. and set up my portable blind. Joe had hunted the same spot two days earlier and had heard toms gobble, but couldn’t get anything to come in. This time, they sounded off again, with some of them sounding pretty close.

I gave them the same calling sequence I had used with success three days earlier with my son, Andy. The birds reacted the same — they gobbled hard. After they flew down, I hit ’em hard with some aggressive hen calls and two started coming almost immediately.

Everything was working according to plan. We had our blind on the edge of a field with the windows open toward the field and our jake and hen decoys. I figured the birds would come out and strut for the decoys.

I was wrong. They stayed in the woods and went behind us and sat there gobbling for at least a couple of minutes. Joe wanted to open the back window and see if he could see the birds. I said no.

The birds eventually continued on and the woods fell silent. With so many birds in the area, we decided to stay put. After about 45 minutes, a crow called and we heard a gobble in reply. Maybe the toms hadn’t left after all. It sounded like they were out in the field to our right and over the hill. I decided to try to call them in. I took a different call and did some aggressive yelping. They answered and started coming our way.

If I had been smart, I would have anticipated that the birds might come back into the woods and move in behind us like they did the first time. Then, I could have opened the windows of my 360-degree blind in the back and position Joe for a shot out the back of the blind.

But, I was so sure that the birds would come to us in the field that I left the blind windows the way they were. Unfortunately, just like the first time, the gobblers came in through the woods and stopped at the exact same spot that they did the first time. I peeked through the back window and saw one of the birds standing only 25 yards away. I didn’t have Joe try a shot out the back of the blind because I thought we would spook the bird.

Unfortunately, I found out later this thinking was erroneous. I have a friend who’s a turkey expert and he told me in an e-mail that he has done this many times  without spooking the bird. All you have to do is close the windows in the front, then open them in the back. He said most times the turkey doesn’t even react. And, even if he does, you still have a few seconds to shoot before he leaves.

I’m certain I will remember this lesson and apply it to future hunts. It proves my theory that there is always more to learn when it comes to turkey hunting. I hope to apply this lesson and everything I’ve learned thus far at Camp Ripley, where I’ll be guiding a World War II veteran on a special hunt later this week. I really hope I can help him get a bird. At least the weather’s looking good.

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