Last year I embarked on a new venture. A friend of mine from work, Levi, is in love with turkey hunting and convinced me to go out. While he didn’t actually have to convince me, he gave me the nudge I needed to head out and chase gobblers.
I started from absolute scratch. The only thing going for me is that I already had camo clothes, a shotgun, and luckily, I had some private land to hunt locally. Levi set me up with a box and diaphragm call. I scoured the web to watch videos so I could learn how to use them. With little time remaining before the season, I focused my efforts on the box call and left the diaphragm call at home.
My anticipation leading up to my first morning in the woods was building, but I had some reservations. I didn’t really know how to call, when to call, or if I would even hear a gobbler. I pestered Levi at work daily for tips and tricks, but there is no way you can learn everything you need to know by asking questions. What you really need is hands-on experience.
On the first day of my season, I woke up early and loaded up on coffee and drove out to my hunting spot. With all of my gear loaded up in my pack, I made the walk across an open field to the strip of trees I was going to set up in. Up to this point, my mornings in the woods were spent sitting for deer in the fall. I never sat a morning in the spring and I can now tell you that there is nothing like it. I waited until the break of dawn before I let out my first call. I didn’t hear anything at first, but after patiently waiting and calling again, I got a response and heard my first gobble. I think right then and there, I was hooked!
I continued calling not knowing if anything was working. For a while, it sounded like the gobbler was getting closer, but then he went silent. I sat for a couple of hours before I decided to move around and check things out. I walked out to the corner of the tree line and to my surprise, a tom took off running. He had been heading in my direction and I had no idea. Needless to say, I blew that opportunity. At this point, I decided I better head to a different part of the property. I did some walking, scouting, and calling to no avail. I was scanning the fields and happened to look back in the direction of where I sat in the morning and couldn’t believe my eyes, a turkey was walking across an open field and he was heading straight at me.
Now I had some decisions to make. Do I stay out in the open exposed, or do I back up a bit and seek cover? I decided on the latter. The main problem with my setup was that I was on top of a hill and once the gobbler got closer, I lost sight of him behind the break of the hill. I tried calling at him a few times, but never heard a response. I ended up standing up and walking around and never saw the turkey again. Unfortunately, I had some other commitments later in the day so I decided to head home and try again the next day.
On the second day of the hunt, Levi was kind enough to recruit his dad, Tom, to come out and guide me. I had never met Tom before, but I was excited to have an experienced turkey hunter show me the ropes. Tom is a turkey hunter through and through. He showed up at my doorstep, decked out in camo, wearing his seasoned vest adorned with a nice cushioned seat and a plethora of calls. He was also carrying a really nice looking subordinate jake decoy that would surely increase our chances. Tom and I shook hands, introduced ourselves, and hopped in my truck.
We set up in the same spot I had the day before and started calling. We heard some gobbling so Tom continued his calling sequences. Before I knew it, the biggest tom I’ve ever seen was heading our way. He was fanned out, strutting, and on a direct line towards us. It seemed to me that this guy meant business and was going to continue coming in. Words cannot explain how intoxicating it was to watch a gobbler cut off your calls in his excitement. I was sitting at the base of a tree, had my gun propped up and aimed in the turkey’s direction. What we failed to realize was that there was a patch of low ground between us and the turkey and it happened to be filled with water. This turkey was not about to get wet and he eventually headed in the other direction. Although we weren’t successful that morning, it was thrilling to have such a close encounter and a mentor to show me the ropes.
There were three days left of the season and I wasn’t able to get out the following day, a Monday morning. Levi and I both got approval to take Tuesday and Wednesday morning off work to try our luck. The plan was to head out early in the morning, hunt for a couple of hours, and head into work by 10am. Tuesday morning came early and we stuck to our plan. We heard some gobbling and even saw a few hens, but we were unable to draw any gobblers in by the time we had to head back to work.
On the very last day of the 2013 MN season, we gave it one last hurrah. It was shaping up to be a quiet morning when we spotted three jakes crest a hill. Levi let out a flurry of calls and all three jakes came running straight at us. The jakes caught me off guard and I wasn’t quite in position and had the gun lying in my lap. Before I knew it, the three jakes surrounded our decoy and were less than 20 yards away. I waited for the jakes to look the other direction before I slowly raised my shotgun. Once they separated, I picked one out and took aim. I placed the bead right on his neck and pulled the trigger. The jake hit the ground immediately and started flopping. Levi and I faced each other and gave a high-five. Next, I did the only thing I knew from watching TV, I ran out to grab him and admire the beautiful bird.
Unfortunately, we still had to go to work, but we took our time to reflect on the hunt and take some pictures. I owe all of the credit of my first bird to Levi for calling the birds in and teaching me his ways. I think we both had a hard time keeping our eyes open for the rest of the workday, but we have a memory of the hunt which will last a lifetime.
The hunt was stretched over a period of five days and the action that we did have was fast and furious. I was lucky enough to have the help of experienced turkey hunters, but I believe that if you do some research and preparation, you can go out, have a good time, and if you are lucky, have the opportunity to get within range of a gobbler! Even if you don’t have the chance at a turkey, I assure you that you can still have a good experience. The sights, smells, and sounds of the life around you are truly uplifting and let you know that even if it’s still cold, raining and snowing, spring is here and once again, life has returned to the woods.
I’m excited to have the 2014 season right around the corner. I have my calls out and have been practicing up. This year, I am going to attempt calling birds in on my own and setting my sights a bit higher, pursuing a tom. Stay tuned for further updates!