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umichjesse

Cast and Blast

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This was my second year giving turkeys a shot.  I invited two buddies down to the family farm to join me.  One buddy (AP) was a second year turkey hunter with a tag as well, the other (TS) has years of experience and offered to call for us if needed.  He would be knocking the rust off, getting ready for his second season tag.  TS called in big bird for AP last year, so first morning I got the pleasure of hunting with TS.  We climbed a bluff about a half mile to the south of the bluff that AS would hunt alone.  The previous evening we had heard a bunch of gobblers behind the house where AS would be hunting.  Our thought was he would get first shot at the known birds, and I would get the advantage of some expert calling skills.

TS and I hiked across the manure laden corn field and hoofed it up a steep ridge in the dark.  As the sky lightened, an owl hooted and gobbles started erupting from every corner of the vast valley.  The problem was that none seemed to be within a couple hundred yards of us.  There was plenty of gobbling going on to the north in the direction of AP.  Being that we were in the corner of our property, we were limited in chasing the birds that seemed closest to us.  From my deer hunting experience, I knew that our ridge was a turkey highway, so we elected to just settle down and wait for birds to come to us, rather than going to them.  We set out a jake and hen decoy at the intersection of some trails on the spine of the ridge and hunkered down. 

As the sun inched closer to the horizon, gobbles kept sounding off, but nothing close.  I got a text from AP that said his hill was going crazy.  He had at least three gobblers roosted within a hundred yards.  10 minutes later, he texted bird down!  A big gobbler flew down right to his spot and his season was done a half hour into it.  He took some pics and drug the bird down the hill and got his waders on for some opening day trout action.

TS and I were happy for AP's success, but we were thinking that we may have chosen the wrong hill.  TS continued to call occasionally and after an hour he was answered note for note by some yelping.  We thought that we had called another hunter because he would call and the yelp would answer right back.  Soon, however, it was apparent that these were real birds talking back.  No gobbles, but yelps, purring, and cuts were ringing through the woods.  A flock of hens was to our north, unseen, but close and getting closer.  After a noisy half hour, we finally heard a gobble with those hens.  Another ten minutes went by and I glance down the trail running off my right shoulder down the ridge and I see the sun shining through the fan of strutting gobbler a hundred yards away!  He is working his way up the trail right towards us with five hens!  He took his sweet time strutting up the hill.  He got to within 35 yards and I was frozen leaning against my tree.  He was within range, but I would have to swing my gun 90 degrees, with zero cover to block my movement.  I was afraid the hens would pick me off, and his path was leading up a trail that crossed 15 yards right in front of me.  Unfortunately, the hens left the trail up the spine of the ridge and started side hilling below us.  The gobbler followed them of course.  I was leaning against a shoulder width tree facing up hill.  They passed me just 10 yards downhill.  TS was hiding in a brush pile with no gun just watching them parade behind me.  He signaled that the gobbler was right behind me so I attempted to swing by gun around the tree, but the big bird took flight instantly and the gig was up.

With the ruckus, we ended our hunt on this hill and headed back to the house to regroup with AP.  He recounted the tale of his exciting hunt and urged us to head up that hill.  He was done and off the hill hours earlier and he was pretty sure things had calmed down enough.  This hill has a dug road going to the top, so we elected to drive up considering that it was so hot and sunny.  This saved a half mile steep hike lugging decoys and wearing our warm deer hunting camo.  We got to the top of the hill by 10:30.  It was flat out hot outside, and a nap in the sun was the action that I was envisioning.  However, when we shut the car door, two gobbles rang out of a ravine just to the east of us.  We scrambled to get our gear together and snuck down a lane through the woods that bisected the top of this ravine.  We set the decoys in the lane and took cover.  Our calls were immediately answered by gobbles, but they seemed to be moving farther away.  We thought that maybe we bumped the birds moving in.  They still were vocal, but they weren’t coming any closer.

We climbed out of the ravine and attempted to loop well around the birds, hoping they were circling the bluff we were on.  We called in a few locations but only got responses from birds on distant hilltops. Thinking that our birds we no longer gettable, we started back towards the vehicle.  We called again as we approached where we originally heard them and they gobbled right back!  Again, we set the dekes and hunker down.  We sat there for over an hour, talking back and forth with the birds.  They would not come up out of the ravine though.  We gave them the silent treatment, hoping their curiosity would get them to come out of the cover. Nope.  TS moved away from the birds with his calling while I stayed put.  That didn’t draw them out either.  We decided to loop around them one more time and call from the back side of their hidey hole.

I crept forward through the noisy crunchy leaves and brush as close as I dared, and TS hung back.  TS yelped, and immediately to gobbles erupted from the ravine below me.  Not two minutes passed and I saw two bright red heads bobbing through the trees.  Both birds started strutting side by side pushing each other back and forth.  They came towards us on a string.  I had to wait awhile for both birds to get behind trees and I raised my gun.  I held on the tree and decided to shoot the first one that gave me a shot.  One head/neck moved into an opening and boom!  I only saw one fly off so I sprinted down the hill hoping for the best.  My first gobbler was down at 12:30 pm! 

We took some pictures and had some celebratory beers and grabbed our fly rods to cool down in some nice trout water.  The fish were biting to cap off a perfect spring day.

AS's first light bird.

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My bird

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Beautiful little brown

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Edited by umichjesse

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