Last year, I went turkey hunting for the first time and I had a great experience, so I couldn’t wait for this season to get underway and to get out and chase some gobblers. If you haven’t read the post on last year’s turkey hunt, you can read about it here.
In anticipation of this hunting season, I reached out to landowners that surrounded the 40 acres that I have access to. I was able to secure access to a parcel of land that was adjacent to the 40 and I was optimistic that this land would provide me with a better opportunity to connect on a mature tom. The seasons in Minnesota are only five days long so you have to make the necessary preparations and be sure you can utilize each day to the fullest. I wasn’t able to hunt two of the days as they landed on the Minnesota Walleye Opener, so I hunted the first day of the season and the third.The first morning I went out, I invited my friend Ryan to join me. He is an outdoorsman and avid hunter but hadn’t had the opportunity to turkey hunt yet. We acknowledged that we were a bit green but that didn’t stop us from going out and giving it a whirl. We knew the general location of where we were going to set up as I had done some scouting and reviewed maps of the area.
We made it out early the first morning but we weren’t quite early enough. We struggled to find a good spot for both of us to sit and before we sat down, we heard gobbling in the distance. We setup as quickly and quietly as we could and began calling to the gobblers on the box call. The turkey was responding to us for about twenty minutes before he went silent. We were trying to figure out what was going on as we couldn’t see any turkeys and decided to take a break from calling and see if he was coming our way. We ended up waiting for a half hour or so before calling again. We tried a few calling sequences but didn’t get a response.
At that point, we were thinking that we didn’t have much time to hunt before we would have to leave for work so we packed up and started walking to the general location we heard the turkeys earlier in the morning. We were careful to scan the horizon with binoculars in order not to push the turkeys out and finally made it to a spot we felt comfortable setting up. We hit the box call and heard a gobble down the tree row. We tried calling for a bit and came to the conclusion that he must have been hanging out with a hen and was unlikely to leave her. That’s when we made a huge mistake.
We wanted to close the distance to see if we could get close enough to convince him to break away and come check us out. Unfortunately we misjudged the distance and ended up within 30 yards of the tom and hen. Before we realized our mistake, the two birds flushed and were long gone. We both had to get to work so we viewed this mistake as a natural time to end the morning hunt.
We only had one more day to get out, so we enlisted the help of my experienced turkey hunting friend, Levi, who has been hunting turkeys for about 16 years. He helped me harvest my first turkey last year and we figured his calling techniques and expertise would give us an edge.
We made sure to get out in the field earlier this time. We were set up well before legal shooting hours and relaxed a bit before we heard the first gobbles. We were spread out sitting about twenty yards from each other with Levi in the middle. We had the woods to our back and the jake decoy in a field to the front. This time, the calls were coming from behind us in the woods as we had predicted. We seemed to have a gobbler interested in us, but he didn’t seem to be closing the gap. Levi decided to walk down closer to the gobbler and call at him. This turkey seemed to be hung up in the woods so we talked about relocating to get him moving in a different direction. Just as we decided we should move, he gobbled. This time the call was much closer.
We quickly got back to our spots and did our best to blend in with the cover. Just as we got comfortable, the tom came out on the edge of the field in full strut and he had three other turkeys with him. At this point, the four turkeys were approximately 125 yards away. Levi called to the turkeys but they didn’t seem to be interested or concerned with us at all. I saw another turkey flying through the woods as he joined the group of four. They started walking perpendicular to us, straight out to the middle of the field. Even with binoculars, I couldn’t make out what the four turkeys were besides the one tom. They either had to be jakes or hens. They continued feeding in the field until one of the turkeys took notice of our calls and decoy.
The turkey stood still with its head up staring in our direction. I could tell from its body language that it was going to come and check us out. With my back to a tree, I raised my knees and rested my gun on top in a shooting position. I wanted to be fully prepared if we got the turkeys in range. The turkey dropped its head and starting coming our way; slowly but surely, two of the other unidentified turkeys followed suit and my heart started pounding!
Within a minute, three turkeys surrounded the decoy. The tom was still over 100 yards off and the fifth turkey was out of sight. It took a minute before I figured out what was happening, one of the turkeys had a small visible beard and was a jake. I couldn’t make out beards on the other two but they had the same head and feather coloring. All three were jakes and they didn’t particularly care for our decoy. They circled the decoy with an aggressive posture and even attacked the decoy by hitting it with their wings and pecking at its head. Levi was calling the whole time and I maintained my shooting position but kept my eye on the gobbler. He closed to within 80 yards but wasn’t coming any closer.
The excitement and intensity were overwhelming. The adrenaline rush was subsiding and muscle fatigue was starting to set in. At some point during this show, the fifth turkey came in range to check out what was going on. This one was clearly a hen and confirmed that the other three were jakes. The jakes continued clucking, pecking, circling, and flapping their wings at the decoy. This sequence went on for nearly ten minutes and I kept telling myself, “wait for the tom, wait for the tom”. It just wasn’t going to happen though. The hen decided she had enough and went back to the strutting tom 80 yards away. Levi was unable to see the Tom so he couldn’t tell how he should call to gain his interest.
Shortly after the hen left, the three jakes started to act nervous. While I’m not an experienced turkey hunter, I have hunted plenty of upland game and big game to recognize the signs. They became less aggressive, took a few steps away from the decoy, and raised their heads to survey their surroundings. They continued moving away from the decoy and I knew that this was our last chance. The gobbler wasn’t coming any closer and the jakes were about to disappear. At this same time, Levi spoke up and told us, “If you want to shoot one, take one now!”
I was already prepared, all I had to do was steady my hands and put the bead on one of the jakes. I took action and hit the safety at the same time I aimed my gun. Once on target, I pulled the trigger. The jake went down hard and the other two birds paused for a few seconds in confusion. Levi and I were yelling at Ryan “Shoot!” Ryan pulled up his gun and in one swift motion, aimed and pulled the trigger. He nailed one of the remaining jakes. We all jumped up in excitement and congratulated each other.
We took a few minutes to admire the beauty of the birds and relive the events that had just happened. All three of us were pretty amped up, high on adrenaline once again. Once we settled down we set up for a few pictures. We spent some time getting pictures before we walked back to the truck. Levi had to go straight to work so Ryan and I went back to my place to clean the birds.
Ryan and I had the day off so we took our time and enjoyed a beer and a cigar to celebrate. Ryan just shot his first turkey and I shot my second. While I was really hoping to put my tag on a tom this year, I couldn’t be happier to participate in a double. Sharing the experience with good friends really enhances a hunt. I highly recommend hunting with friends and family and encouraging newcomers to the sport.
For the second year in a row, I have to thank my good friend, Levi, for masterfully calling birds in range for me. I know I couldn’t have done it without him. Maybe next year will be the year I’m able to fill my tag on a tom!