Turkey season came quickly this year and passed quickly as it always does. But I did have a great time and opportunity to show a couple of new hunters how to chase the wiley birds known as thunder chickens. My first trip to the field this spring was with a new friend of mine who eventually became one of the field staffers for the UNJ team, we call him Red but his name is Dan DeFauw. Red lives in the same little community that I'm from and he wanted to learn how to chase the birds this year and I told him I would teach him what I know.
I did quite a bit of preseason scouting to pattern a couple of different flocks of birds since I had a couple of first timers along with my three kids to take also. After about a month of hard scouting I knew where I was going to take Red for his first hunt. It was on a Saturday morning and everything looked as if it was going to be a great day afield. Just as light was breaking the wind kicked up and the clouds rolled in! After three set ups and not even hearing a bird we decided to call it a day and spend the rest of it scouting for the next morning.
We followed the advice of a DNR officer we met up with and searched a nearby field to see what we could find. Looking things over we found an area that would provide good concealment along with what looked like a great spot for turkeys to frequent. We decided that this would indeed be the spot for the next mornings hunt. That next morning we rode to the parking area near where we were going to set up, as soon as we got out of the truck we heard them gobbling off the roost. Red's eyes got big and he said, did you hear that? We kicked it into high gear and hit the field to set up on them. They were still on the roost quite a ways off, so we huriedly set up on them and hunkered down for the show.
I was running the video camera and calling at the same time, try that in the field! I started calling softly and didn't get too much of a response, then I heard the birds pitch down on the ground and the hens started cackling! I heard the gobblers sounding off for them, it was then that I knew that they were henned up and the only shot was to call in the hens to us. If they would come the toms would follow. I started cutting off the hens as soon as I heard them cluck or cackle. It didn't take long until one hen came charging into the field to find us. She came within about 15 feet of our setup! She looked but couldn't find out where the sound was coming from and she exited the field on the other end as I could still hear the other hens going off.
I started cutting them off as well, another hen came charging in looking for us and she walked within 10 feet of where Red was sitting! Then came two more hens out! They didn't come over to our area though, they stayed about 60 yards out and we later found out why! 4 or 5 huge toms came charging into the field to start the show! They also locked up about 60 yards out. I figured that they werer goint to stay away and the only thing we would be shooting was video of them heading out.
I noticed that one tom started to break off from the others, so I called softly to him to see if he would come our way, sure enough here he came! Not only that, but the others did also. They walked right past Red within 30 yards what looked to me like single file. He never shot! I couldn't figure out why, later he told me that they were crossing in front of each other and he didn't have a clear shot at just one bird. They got right in front of me and something told them that they were in trouble so they turned and walked right back past him. He put the bead on the last one in line and pulled the trigger! BOOM!!!! Down he went!
Red & Me With His Bird!
The other turkeys scattered off and Red went out to claim his prize, a nice Double Bearded Tom! 9 3/4" and 9 5/8" beards! 3/4" and 7/8" spurs also. It was a pretty cool deal to be able to call that bird in for him! We caught it all on video also. You can see the footage of that hunt in our first episode of our new show called Beyond The Wild at: http://www.upnorthjournal.com/ .
I also got to take fellow UNJ staffer Chuck Parr out on his first turkey excursion. We almost pulled off the deal, but it wasn't to be. We set up in an area that was holding some birds and I got on some hot toms right at day break. We set up and before I knew it we were too close and they were on the ground right across a small watering hole from us. Two nice big toms with ground dragging beards! They couldn't figure out how to get around or over the water to where we were calling from. They eventually bugged out and we never saw them again.
I got to hit the field with my oldest daughter and youngest son this turkey season also. We never saw any birds but we did hear some and they got to see some deer up close and personal so they really enjoyed their own personal hunts as well. I managed to get one day of turkey hunting in for myself, but all in all I had an awesome time this season with my kids and two first time turkey hunters as well! It was a great time this spring chasing the birds!