Monday, June 14, 2010

Benjamin Franklin and Turkey Season

When most people hear Benjamin Franklin's name now days they think of the $100 bill with his likeness on it. After this turkey season I will think of Benjamin Franklin talking about why the wild turkey should have been chosen as the American symbol instead of the Bald Eagle in his letter to his daughter.

Benjamin Franklin

Why you ask? His two reasons were that the turkey was a true native of America and very courageous. I think of the turkey as looking like it is vulnerable but always in control of the situation. Just when you think you've got him dead to rights, he manages to elude your best tactical set up. He always seems to win no matter how the cards are stacked against him! Lastly at the end of the season he always seems to be the last one standing after the battle has been waged and he also always gets the ladies at the end of the day!

That is why I will think of Benjamin Franklin when I see a wild turkey strutting his stuff as I start to scout for next season's hunt! Everything I threw at them this year either seemed to not work or if it did, they escaped at the moment of truth! No matter what I did, those Tom's always walked away to live another battle.

My season didn't start out as planned. I should've scouted the month before my hunt, but as fate would have it I wasn't able to get out once! Instead I was left scrambling trying to get an Episode of Beyond The Wild edited. Every time I should have been out something came up for me to tend to that kept me from hitting the woods trying to learn their patterns. That is what happens when your trying to run a team of outdoors men and keep them on task to get the show on the air.

After scouting hard last season, I had a couple of places nailed down to hunt and I thought I would rely on my go to spot to hunt this year. Once again when that opening morning of my hunt came, I learned that my go to spot had been gone to by some other hunters! What to do, it seemed like this season was doomed to be a failure even before it began! I decided to try another spot I had scouted last season in hopes that it wouldn't be over run with hunters. Finally I caught a break!

I had my cameraman in tow with me on that Monday morning not knowing what to expect to see or hear. After donning my new war paint from Dead Down Wind, we parked and hit the wood lot and I hit my owl hooter call. Immediately I heard a Tom off to my left a couple hundred yards in, then one to the right bellowed at about 400 yards! My cameraman called right and I called left since he sounded closer. We scooted in to within about a 100 yards and set up quickly. I settled in and gave a soft call.....nothing! I waited about 15 to 20 minutes and called again....nothing! This went on for about an hour. Finally we gave up not seeing or hearing anything. On my way home I did drive by my first spot and set up for about an hour with no luck what so ever. So much for day one! But I will say this, that camo paint from DDW is simply awesome! It goes on very easy and comes off just as easy with only soap and water! No scrubbing and tearing your skin apart. I've always had problems with the grease paints breaking my skin out and not coming off without sand paper. But this stuff is well worth trying out!

Dead Down Wind Face Camo Paint

On day two my cameraman and I went back to where we started but came in what I called the back door. As we approached the back side of the wood lot we were going to hunt, I blasted on my owl call and immediately got a response! Problem was it was only about a 100 yards away! We sneaked in as quickly and quietly as possible only pushing into the woods about 20 yards or so. I knew we were close to the perched Tom, so I played it cool for a few moments. As light began to break on the horizon I began to call softly. The Tom screamed out a loud gobble! I thought to myself this guy is on top of us! I began to scan the tree tops for movement and there he was! Only about 50 yards away in a tree that didn't quite have full leaves yet I could see a dark ball moving around. He kept gobbling and then I saw him fan out on the limb! He shook his wings and feathers, probably to throw off any water on him before he flew down. My cameraman was right behind me and I told him if this doesn't get your blood pumping nothing will! He was rolling tape and got all the Tom's sweet renditions of I'm Gobbling For You on video tape! It was simply awesome to be that close and see him on the roost. But that was also a bad thing, because when he pitched down on the ground he went in the opposite direction never to be seen again! Or so I thought for a moment! I knew exactly where he was headed and told Art that we needed to pick up and run to another wood lot and set up. We hit the trail running and got into the next section of woods just before 'Ol Tommy Boy made his arrival. I made a soft call and he gobbled a song of "Fat Man in a Little Feather Coat" to announce his position! Game On Again! But as fate would have it again he played with us a while and then headed back in the opposite direction, never showing himself to us to even get a glimpse of him on the ground. It was a disappointing yet also satisfying day in the woods.

Itchy Trigger Finger

Day three of my hunt I grabbed my oldest son Mikey to run camera for me. His school starts at 9:30am on Wednesdays so I knew I had about 2 ½ hours to hit the woods. We got to the same spot a half hour before day break and I used my locator call again with no luck! We sat and watched the sunrise waiting for a distant gobble to go and chase only to hear song birds waking up. I set up in the wood lot hoping that a straggler Tom would come by in the short time I had to stay out. Day three ended just as my first one did. Not seeing anything, but worse yet not hearing anything. My confidence from the previous day's hunt was now gone.

Gun Barrel Waiting To Thunder!

Day 4, 5 and 6 of my 7 day season were busts. Day 4 and 5 were torrential down pours and I had no cameraman to run with me even if the rain wasn't around. Day 6 was almost like we were in a wind tunnel to test for aerodynamics and wind shear! So needless to say I stayed home knowing that I still had Sunday to get the job done.

Tools of the Trade

Day seven, the last day of my week long season started with one of our Up North Journal staffers coming down to run camera for me on this last day. Dave and I headed back to the last spot I had seen or heard Tom's at. Once we left the truck we heard gobbling in every direction! This was going to be a good morning I thought to myself. Dave wanted to head in the opposite direction towards the closest Tom sounding off. I told him that where that bird was, was private property and that there was no way we could even get close to him. He reluctantly listened to me and we headed in the woods. I hit my locator call and got two responses immediately within a 100 yards or so. One to the left and one to the right. We also heard a bunch of hens cackling to the right with another Tom sounding off in the distance! This was going to get good quick!

I told Dave we were going to set up on the Tom to the left and he wanted to go to the right with the other nearby bird. My thinking was that the bird to the right was going to head to the hens which were further in to the right. This meant that we would have to get between him and the hens to cut him off. That was too risky so I chose the Tom on the left since he would come right through us to get to the hens on the opposite side of us. At least that was my thinking, yeah right! We set up and I gave a couple of soft calls and the old boy bellowed off the roost! After a few minutes I saw him pitch down to the ground to the left of the direction we were looking, great I can get a perfect shot at him as he walks past us since I'm a right handed shooter. I told Dave to get the camera ready and rolling. He was kneeling on the ground behind the huge oak tree I was leaning against. I caught movement to my left and there he was a beautiful white head bobbing in the undergrowth. He was about 30 yards out, when he hit an opening and I clucked once on my mouth call. He snapped his head around and puffed up! My bead was on his head and he was walking my way. I asked Dave can you see him. He told me, "Don't move we have a huge Tom strutting right behind me at about 20 yards!" What!!!! I can't believe this. I've got a bird staring down my gun barrel and now there is one behind me messing with me! Dave couldn't move for fear of getting busted by the bird behind us. I watched the Tom to my left start to head towards the other strutting Tom which now had a hen with him! Once I had the chance I rolled around on the ground being blocked by the huge oak tree and got to a position to see the other Tom and hen. I could have shot him left handed at about 20 yards but Dave was still pinned down. I then saw the bird turn and start to walk behind a tree, so I told Dave, "When I tell you to I want you to turn the camera and yourself as quickly as you can and get on that bird because when he comes out from behind that tree I'm going to take his head off!" I said go and Dave did just as I told him and I brought the gun up. The Tom just started to peak out from behind the tree and then turned and walked dead away from us never presenting me with a shot! He also took the other Tom and hen with him as well!

I told Dave to get up and let's go. He asked me to where? I knew that they were going to head the same direction as that Tom did on day two, so we started heading towards that other wood lot. Just as we got to within a couple hundred yards of it. I could see a truck parked in a nearby parking area. I had seen this truck before and knew that this guy was hunting turkeys as well. I simply turned and walked away not knowing where he was hunting at. I didn't want to ruin his hunt or walk in blind and possibly getting shot myself. It was hard to walk away knowing that this was how my season was going to end! But I knew that I could have shot either one of those Tom's that morning, but I wanted to get them on video for the show and I knew that wouldn't happen if I shot them without Dave being on them. If I let them walk, there was a strong chance one of my kids would get a crack at them the following three weeks they had to hunt, so with that we went home.

Quaker Boy's Guille Suit/Turkey Vest

Provide Great Concealment

With the way my week had went and what was about to happen over the next three weeks with my kids hunting, you will understand why I have given turkeys a new level of respect! In my next blog I will cover what happened during the late season hunts with my kids. Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Very good read Mike. The up's and down's are what keep us heading back to the woods.

Anonymous said...

Great camo Mike!