I’ve been recently reading a book, written in the 70s, by a well know outdoor writer. It’s about the most popular North American game and tactics to hunt them. In this book the author writes a section on turkey hunting and starts that section off by saying that he has never turkey hunted in his life. As a reader I have to say, it does not inspire confidence when the author has never done what he or she is writing about. That being said, I’m writing about turkey hunting. In the spirit of transparency, I’ve only shot 1 bird in the 4 years I’ve hunted them. So, what makes me an expert? I’m not. I’ve done it for 4 years now and I’ve got 4 years of experience on how not to do it. I’ve got 4 years to become completely frustrated and enraged, all while still being driven to keep trying.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you how or when to call. Nor am I going to tell you when and where to look. If I knew that information I’d be writing a different story. Instead I’m going to tell you why I keep chasing these insane birds.
The simple answer is because I can. The woods are beautiful in the spring and the fall. Turkey hunting simply gives me game to chase during that spring season. For me it started as a why not scenario when I was first invited to go. But once I heard that first gobbler erupt a quiet morning into a chorus, I was hooked. I’ve read a lot about the sport and talked to a lot of other hunters and the consensus seems to be the same. These birds would make a preacher cuss. Equal parts smart and dumb, predicting these things will drive you mad. They can’t be predicted.
Of course, that’s what makes them fun and, even more so, a challenge. They are so dumb they’re smart and they are unpredictable. My personal hunting land is mostly hardwoods which adds to the challenge. Instead of going to a field they eat in and calling them I have to figure out where they are going to be and catch them crossing. Again, they aren’t predictable so just when you think you’ve got a pattern figured out they’ll change their direction.
A great example of this is a story from my 2018 season. I knew where my birds were roosting and could not get them to come down to me. I decided try the evening and catch them going to their roost. First, I hunted the holler they cross and only saw them as they flew up to roost on the ridge above me. Next evening I set up a pop-up blind facing the direction l saw they come from. They showed me! Not only did they fly up directly behind me but, as what seemed as an insult, they roosted right above me. One hen, when she saw me, even moved trees to get a closer look. Enough is enough birds. They are now taunting me. I rotated the blind and my chair so that I could see both direction they came from and waited an evening before going out again. The next night I hunted 2 hens and a tom came down the way I expected but instead of turning my way they stayed just outside my range and went down toward the spot I was sitting in 2 nights prior. I chanced a Hail Mary shot at the tom but, as expected with a Hail Mary, I did not get a bird.
Did I learn anything? Yes! Am I giving up? No!
I always learn from my failures in the woods. That’s half the reason for hunting. Non-hunters don’t realize that hunters are after more than just the game. They are after the life lessons they learn during the season, and of course the game too. With as much failure as we actually experience there has to be more to it or it would be too easy to just give up and go to the grocery store. In this case I learned that my woods are better in the evenings for turkeys and that I was getting closer to finally getting my first turkey. More importantly, I learned not to give up.
I am definitely not going to stop. I’m getting too close to give up now. They are definitely taunting me but persistence and patience pays off eventually. Eventually did happen and with only 2 days left in the season. By then I had several “almost” encounters with some big toms but as the old adage goes “Almost only counts in hand grenades and horsehoes.” With only 2 days left in the season, and me hunting every opportunity I could get, I went out one morning to change things up. I’m happy I did. A group of 4 jakes (young male turkeys) came out and I got a 15-yard shot at the biggest. Was even able to use my wife’s GoPro to capture the hunt.
I took some old barn wood from one of my old barns and even made a special handmade mount for the fan, beard and spurs. Of course, I also got 2 large turkey breasts destined for the smoker. I had struggled for a number of years before I was able to complete my challenge. Did I get one of the toms (big mature males)? No. However, I got a good turkey and was able to finally break the ice on a new species. Like all of my trophies, this one means a lot to me and will forever be full of memories.
This story is not about my triumph over the brown peacock. (Although it was definitely nice.) It’s about how these birds can get under any hunter’s skin, causing them to go mad while chasing the birds. If you don’t hunt them now, go ahead and try it. Be prepared to buy lots of new gear, learn a new skill set and make mistakes. Also, be prepared to start using those words that aren’t nice. Cause turkeys aren’t nice.