Thursday, April 19, 2012

Turkey Hunting - Part 1

My hand and Chuck Norris' hand.
It is called hunting and not killing for a reason.  Chuck Norris may go killing, but the only thing I have in common with Chuck is our hand size.  Hunting has a number of variables that you may never think will come into play.  Through scouting, patterning, and general species education and knowledge, you can put yourself in the best situation, but one moment of something completely unexpected can alter the outcome completely.

For the last few years I have sought the elusive Eastern Wild Turkey with the bow.  Up until last year, I had been the general proximity of a tom, but not nearly close enough to take one.  Then last year, I learned a valuable lesson while hunting the bearded bird.  Patience is a virtue.  If you have read my columns in the past, you may remember the story of my lack of patience causing me to miss getting a shot at turkeys on three different occasions.  I was determined it would not happen that way this year.
I usually miss opening weekend of turkey season.  My wife and my daughter celebrate their birthday that same weekend, so I usually will schedule a hunt the next weekend.  Of course, the birds a little more seasoned by that time, as they have dodged shotgun blasts and arrows for a week up to that point.  This season, my female family members headed to the coast leaving me to watch the boys.  It also gave me a chance to go out on a Sunday bowhunt.  Not opening day, but close enough.
Now the story that follows may at times seem far-fetched.  Much like the old fisherman that swears he had a 10 pound bass hooked until he tried to pull it in the boat, the story could easily qualify as an exaggeration, if it were not completely true.  By the way, when you hear the fish tale, the question is always asked “how do you know it was 10 pounds?”  The response is always the same…"Cause it has scales!"
The hunt began as planned.  I re-fletched some arrows earlier in the week and practiced with them through the week.  Groups were tight for 40 yards in my practice sessions, even after doing some long hikes before the sessions.  From distances of 50 to 70 yards, groups were not as tight, but were falling in a 6 inch circle steadily.  This is great for elk hunting, but I would never take that shot at the minute vitals of a turkey.  A turkey has two kill spots with a bow.  The first is the heart / lung shot.  The second is the neck.  The neck shot is usually done with a broadhead called a Guillotine.  The Guillotine is designed with extra long blades made for cutting the neck.  The heart / lung shot is performed with a regular broadhead used for any big game hunting.  I was using a regular broadhead.
Saturday I put my gear together, checking everything to make sure it was ready.  I cleaned my decoys consisting of two hens and a jake (a young male).  I made sure I had extras of my vital gear such as arrows, broadheads, bow release, and batteries.  I charged my cell phone and my two cameras I was carrying with me.  I sprayed my hunting clothes with permethrin to barricade my body from ticks, chiggers, and other insects.  I made a packed breakfast and lunch.  I would be there for the duration for this hunt.
Sunday morning I was on the road at 3:30am.  The hunting destination was several hours away and I wanted to be there before sun-up.   I met the land owner at the gate.  We drove about one mile into the area and he unlocked a second gate.  The path was well worn with numerous mud holes and wallows.  About 500 yards in was a box deer blind at a path crossroad.  He advised me to set up with the box blind to my back.  He had seen the turkeys use the crossroad in their routes from their roost to the fields.  He also informed me of a small path about 200 yards away from the blind where I could park the truck after dropping off my gear.  Both were good information.
After dropping everything at the blind and parking, I set up the 3 decoys.  I tried to set them up so 2 would be seen from each of the paths at all times.  The decoys were all set between 10 and 15 yards from my Ameristep Doghouse blind I had positioned next to the tower box blind.
Just after sitting, I hit the mouth call with two series of clucks.  I listened and watched.  No gobbles anywhere.  I glanced behind me down the path and watched a large tom flew down from his roost on the left to the path about 150 yards away.  This was going to be a good hunt!
Not 30 seconds later, a small jake joined in behind the big gobbler.  Both were making a steady walk my way.  They were not running, but they were keeping pace.  Two hens then exited the woods from the right about 30 yards behind them.  My first thought was the hens would likely turn my birds around.  Fortunately they did not.  I kept quiet and patient.  I would have a shot soon enough.
My blind was positioned where I could shoot to my left, front and right.  My rear had a sight window but would not offer a shot due to the box blind.  After videoing the birds, I set my chair to the right rear corner of the blind.  I moved into position on the right front corner allowing me to draw my bow and take an angled shot through the window opening as the bird came into range.  I counted the pace of the big gobbler, and so I figured he would be near the window around the count of 15.  I drew the bow at 10.  He never appeared.  I let off the bow and checked his location.  He had turned and headed back down the path.  After he and the group were about 100 yards away, I proceeded to hit the call once more.  They turned, and began their second approach.  This time, they turned about 20 yards behind me into the woods to the left.  I was not worried.
I figured with the turn they would likely come out to the right side of the blind.  I backed against the left wall and waited.  After about a minute the big one showed himself.  I took a deep breath, released about half the air, and drew back the 70 pounds of death.  Then they flew.  In an instant it was over.  The birds were gone.  In a millisecond I had several thoughts run through my mind.  Did they spot me?  Did they hear me?  What could have spooked th…e…m…
5 yards from where they were standing a large black bear made his way out of the woods.   This was only 20 yards from me.  I never thought about any danger from a bear / human episode.  All I thought about was this bear just blew my best chance I have ever had at a turkey with the bow.
It was ok though.  I had just witnessed 4 turkeys and a black bear in the first 10 minutes of a hunt.  There is nothing like nature.  This hunt was far from over!  And next week, we will cover the rest…

1 comment:

  1. I’m a lucky man. The wife agreed to let me call Backyard Rooms and build that hunting cabin I’ve been talking about. Glad they finance. Check it out at