By Bret Amundson
*Saturday morning update: I was able to call the tom into 30 yards this morning, but he didn’t present a good shot. He had 3 hens with him and two of them eventually busted me and they bugged out. No turkey recipes today, but that’s the closest I’ve come to getting the deal done. Baby steps!
Here’s my original story from Friday night:
So far my turkey season has gone as well as the Vikings did last year. There were some signs of promise, but only disappointment in the end.
So far. The game isn’t over yet.
Today may have been the pinnacle of my frustration however. I returned home short an arrow, a fiberglass sliver in my middle finger and only a few more days left in my season. The bow license allows you to hunt through the 29th, but I have a week-long trip planned before then so my days are getting numbered.
I entered this season with a heavy dose of optimism, as I do most hunting seasons. I’d gotten new bow, new decoy and had new land that was loaded with birds. Once the season arrived however, some of that land had been hunted and the birds were starting to feel a bit pressured. No worries though, as there were other toms seen strutting in the section.
It seems like each time I’ve been out, luck has not been on my side. From getting busted by birds to weather woes, my optimism is fading fast.
One afternoon I was slowly stalking my way down a thick shelter belt, with heavy pines insulating my movements and sounds. I’d stop and calling for a few minutes every so often. I’d be heading west down one belt until it ends and meets up with another belt that heads south. At the end of the south belt was a tilled field just across from a grove. My destination was the tilled field. I’d set up on the edge and try to draw the birds across the field. Just before I arrived at my left turn, I heard a loud flapping of wings from 10 yards away, just to the north of the pine row. I couldn’t see it, but I knew. Soon another set of wings took flight and then a third.
I’d just been busted.
I had permission to hunt the field that they were headed towards so I hustled back out to my truck, packed up and drove around the section. I quickly unloaded my decoys and snuck up the field edge, set out my fake jake and hen, and waited.
And waited some more.
I finally threw in the towel and decided the turkeys had won that round. I packed up and drove back around the section to where I started. There was the VERY NICE turkey right where they’d busted me before. And when I say VERY NICE, the computer autocorrected my original, coarse language that had been typed.
He was heading down the south shelter belt so I drove down to cut him off. I quickly grabbed my bow and sprint-crawled my way to the end. I set up in an old box stand and waited.
And waited some more.
He never came, but I did have roosters and hen pheasants dancing all around me, showing off their spring courtship rituals. A doe and two fawns passed by. But no turkey.
(Yes I know I suffered from vertical video disease on this. I only had one hand and I hadn’t planned on sharing it with anyone)
That was only one of the times that I’d been beating by these birds. I won’t even go into the sneak I put on two toms where I did exactly what I thought I was supposed to do, only to have the birds go in completely the other direction.
“They are acting funny around here,” said Cory Loeffler when I asked him for advice. “I can’t figure them out.” This, of course, coming from a guy who’s already put around 10 people on birds this spring.
“I’d suggest not using a decoy,” said Ben Brettingen. “They are becoming a little more wary.”
I’m not sure if turkeys are getting smarter or if it’s just that time of year. Birds have been hunted, they’ve gotten their share of the ladies and things are just slowing down.
“If you have a full strut decoy, do the scoot and shoot,” offered Tyler Scott. “That has killed the majority of birds this spring.”
They all went on to talk about finding the roost tonight and hunting them in the morning. In the morning…hmmm.
“Maybe that’s my problem,” I told Ben. “I haven’t hunted one morning yet this year.
“Oh for sure,” he replied. “I won’t even go out after noon to hunt turkeys.”
I’ve heard of some guys getting birds in the afternoon, but the more I’ve talked to successful hunters this year, the more I hear,”Found out where the roosted and then snuck in the dark the next morning. Got within 60 yards and waited for them to come down.”
So maybe, just maybe I could have avoided what happened this afternoon if I’d just hunted in the morning instead.
Last night I’d scouted a nice tom with some hens on the same section that I’d been busted on earlier. I decided I’d come back just a little earlier the next day and hope they’d reappear. I cleared my afternoon, packed up my gear and headed out. I crept slowly down the shelter belt, flushing pheasants at my feet. Two deer exploded from my right and bounced ahead, flashing their white tails back at me. This time, I’d set up where the two belts met in hopes of cutting off birds heading to the south grove to roost. I popped up my blind, tied it down and set up my decoys. In all, around 45 minutes had gone by since I closed the tailgate on my pickup. I settled in and was waiting for things to calm down before taking out my call. I’d decided that I’d call very little and very softly.
Just as I was about to scratch the slate in a short, counter-clockwise motion, I heard an engine. A big engine. Sounded like a tractor. Just about every farmer in the area was starting to plant, so that didn’t surprise me.
But this tractor was getting louder. Was he just driving down the highway nearby? No. NO. Tell me he’s not coming down my field. Just then, I peeked over my should to see the big, green rig come right down my field edge into the corner of my shelter belts.
I won’t complain about this one bit as this farmer has been gracious enough to let me hunt his property all season. Gotta make hay when the sunshines and today it was shining. But, my hunt was over. Another day closer to the end and it was over early. I packed up and retreated to my truck.
I debated finding a new place to hunt for the evening. But a flurry of text messages to my “support staff” of Brettingen, Loeffler, Scott and Brent Larson, yielded advice of scouting followed by a morning hunt. Besides during my rushed take down, I’d gained a nice fiberglass sliver from my ground blind.
Instead I headed to a field where I’d hunted a few days earlier. That hunt ended early as a thunderstorm blew in just after I set up. Frustrated, I’d decided to take out some anger on my old, styrofoam hen decoy. I smoked her at 320 fps or so, right through the boiler room. Then proceeded to fail in recovering my arrow. It was pouring rain at this point and I had my camera, my iPhone and all of my gear exposed. I bailed and planned on a return trip today. It was sunny and warm. But that didn’t mean it would be any easier to find my arrow. I left empty-handed.
There was still some good sunlight left and I pointed the Silverado to a nearby slough where I might get lucky enough to get some duck photos. It was a new spot so I was walking in blind. The slough was a large mess of cattails, but unlike any other slough I’d seen, the water snaked a narrow path through it, almost like someone carved a river into it, but there was no moving water.
Immediately I watched a brightly plumed green head bomb in and I headed for his location. There was a small stand of cedars right in the “river” bend and I snuck in next to it. I was trying to find cover but quickly noticed a wake swimming towards me. I hugged the contours of the “river” bank and laid as flat as possible. Soon a pair of blue-winged teal swam within 5 yards and had no idea, (or at least no care) while I snapped away. Unfortunately the sun disappeared behind some clouds just as they did or else I’d have been very happy with the resulting photos. I guess it’s not too bad, but I always want them better.
I did find one positive in the day’s adventure, but I did secure another piece of land to hunt on tomorrow. It’s a corner of the same section that I’d been on, but this one butts up to the roosting area. Hopefully by this time tomorrow, I’m sharing my turkey recipe with you.
Good luck and if you’re still trying to fill a tag, the game isn’t over. Don’t give up, as my football coach used to say, “Play 4 VERY NICE quarters!”