South Dakota Turkey “Experience”







I headed back out to South Dakota for a second go round at the “Gobblers of the Missouri Breaks”….seeking vengeance after the last trip’s shortcomings. This time I had my girlfriend Sara in tow for what hopefully would turnout as a short, successful trip. 

We arrived at our destination with time to spare on a absolutely gorgeous Friday afternoon. No wind with a bright sun-perfect turkey conditions as we roosted a pair of Jakes, a great white merriam tom, and a smattering of witches.

The next morning couldn’t have been 100% opposite of the night prior. The Missouri River whipped as waves broke over the shoreline with ferocious intensity. Simply walking into the wind was a daunting task, as it was peeling out of the northeast at 30+mph. It would be the calmest morning of the trip. The ground blind required all 4 stakes plus 3 ropes tied off at the hub.

The birds hung in the safety of their roost far past sunrise, seemingly dizzied by the driving wind. We sat 150 yards from the draw, as they pitched down and the gobbling drew near. I broke the silence with a sharp excited cadence of yelps and clucks. Finally the bird broke our plane of sight and puffed up like a piece of popcorn. A mere 70 yards away, he wouldn’t move. 

Finally, he slinked away as I pleaded with a one-two punch of the slate and mouth call. 

Back down out of the breeze he went down to the bottom. We snuck out of the blind as the gobbling drifted further away. 

SD_Hunting_C2_300x250Down the ravine we ended up getting 40 yards away through a pile of thick cedars. It would be the closest we got to the tom and two jakes. We followed from afar, as I told Sara we needed to cut them off at the pass (I’ve always wanted to say that). The pass never came as they crossed the plains at miraculous clip, better suited for the tumultuous terrain than us.

It was the only birds on the property, as they crossed far into a neighbors land. The wind at this point was downright brutal. It was the strongest sustained wind I could remember. Driving back into town, visibility shrank to less than a quarter mile as dust blew from the exposed fields. You’d swear there wouldn’t be any topsoil left as the drought-strickened fields rose to the skies. 

We spent the afternoon searching out a new spot and found a bird wandering an old farmstead near a long finger of a ravine that eventually spilled back to the Missouri River. The bird was near the middle of a long tree row working it’s way towards one end. 

We quickly got into position sneaking into the line of trees. The bird slowly worked down, coming in and out of full strut numerous times. It was a difficult situation as Sara was facing out perpendicular to the tree line and the bird was coming no more than a foot off the edge. It would make for a close call. The bird drew closer, and closer and closer until it was right on our doorstep. No more than 10 feet away. I kept whispering shoot, shoot, shoot! As the bird turned and disappeared into the thick cedar tree we sat in, less than 5 feet away.

I was perplexed, as from my vantage point, the big tom would have been dead 6 ways from Sunday. It turns out she couldn’t contort her body enough to get on the gobbler, and then followed by saying “If I don’t feel completely comfortable with a shot, I don’t take it”. What do you say to that? It was very ethical of her!  But I thought of another quote from the Great One. “You Miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I never said it out loud but it described my frustration to a “T”.  Another great opportunity missed. 

We spent the evening sitting on the porch of the old landowner, as he fed us cocktails, and relished in the company. Soon he invited a pair of his Hutterite buddies over, bringing some of their homemade wine. We did have a grand old time, making some new friends. Even if it wasn’t how I expected the trip to go down. 

On the ride home Sara was beaming, as she thanked me for such an amazing trip. It took me awhile to realize, she couldn’t care less about shooting a turkey, and I didn’t have to feel disappointed for her.  It wasn’t about the hunting, but the experience.  And sometimes that gets lost in the moment.

However, I still harbor some anger for the turkeys of the west.  Joel and I are headed for a combo SD & NE turkey trip as we pursue retaliation, and of course, the experience.

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