A Turkey Tale; My first Turkey.
I’ve tried turkey hunting before but as you know, turkey are either on private land or headed towards private land. Unpressured Toms on public land are seldom unpressured for long.
May 1st. This was the day the Wasatch Front was battered by high winds. My power was out so we gathered up the family and were headed anywhere the wind wasn’t blowing. We grabbed some picnic grub and a spinnin’ rod. At the very least we’d explore some new camping areas and cast a little. Once the road dwindled to dirt we stopped. I made a few casts and landed a couple of the meanest Brookies around. Also a large “butter bar”. Fun but not part of the turkey tale. Evening was looming so we collected our stuff and headed out, but not before looking at the last few campsites in the area.
That’s when I saw him. He was a mature Tom with about an 8” inch beard. He wasn’t alone, a thin Hen was nearby. What a sight, the kids were thrilled. I butchered a gobble at him and he immediately stretched out his neck and answered. As if on cue, everybody in the vehicle began gobbling the best they could. It sounded ridiculous. I hadn’t intended to turkey hunt this year but that changed even before we saw another Tom further down the road. I hadn’t realized it but the “youth hunt only” was nearly over and nobody was there. That meant the statewide general season was opening the next day.
May 7th. What a long week! During the workweek I made plans for a camping trip with the hopes of harvesting a turkey. I purchased my Turkey tag and the 2015-2016 Upland Slam Card just in case it happened. We had some rain during the week and had to use 4wd to pull my trailer into camp. What a muddy mess. Anyhow, the creek was a torrent which was disappointing because one of my meal plans was a trout dinner.
The creek was loud. Turns out this was a good thing. On Saturday morning, with shotgun in hand, we, meaning my lady and the house dog, headed up out of the creek bottom in a half hearted turkey hunting expedition. We hadn’t gone 50 yards and heard a gobble. All I had was a year-old mouth call. I had to blow extra hard to get a sound out of it. Turns out it had a little tear in the edge. I did the best cutting I could and the roar of river required even more volume than I could manage. He never answered. Realizing that I need to be more serious we backed off and enjoyed a nice hike. I secretly made plans to hunt alone that evening.
Saturday evening. Camo’d up, I slipped out of camp, so I thought… short story; she saw me. After putting my foot down, I climbed up from the creek bottom so I could hear more than the roar and right away heard a gobble. This time I trucked it straight towards the bird. I used the sparse trees and waist deep brush to conceal my approach and get as close as I dared. I set up and did the best calling I could. He’d answer me most times. I was ready and he was coming to my call. But suddenly silence. Did he see me? But I didn’t even move. The next time I heard him he was farther away than when we started.
The ground game. I low-crawled through the wet grass, brushed against wild rose bushes and over slippery logs to close the distance and set up again. We talked back and forth for a few minutes. And then silence… Maybe he saw me this time? Eventually he answered from a distance. I dropped my daypack and low-crawled again. By now I was at the edge of the creek and caught my first glimpse of him. He was on the other side of the creek beyond shotgun range. Again I called to him. Now I could see him strutting, puffed up, fan spread wide and snood fully erect. It was a short visit because he quickly slipped further into the trees. Surely he saw me this time? I thought so anyway. I stood up disgusted and went for my daypack. Only one problem, its camouflage. I circled and circled for a few minutes looking for it as if it was a prized mule deer buck. Turns out it was right where I left it.
I still had some daylight left and wasn’t going to give up yet. I walked up the creek a few dozen yards looking for a crossing. I settled on a slippery tree top laying across the creek. Needless to say I should have walked across in the shallows because I might not have got so wet. I was wet, and so was the gun, but that’s what happens when you submerge it trying to catch yourself from falling. I tipped it a few times and snuck up the creek bank looking and listening for that Tom.
Once nicely situated with some shooting lanes I called. He answered. I called again. He answered even closer, only to my direct right which was a complete surprise. He might of snuck away undetected if not for that last gobble. Now I had him. I stood up, took a rest on a young and spindly quakie and waited for him to cross into the next shooting lane. As he entered it I stopped him with a crappy cluck. He stopped, stretched his neck straight and peered in my direction. I was ready and squeezed the trigger of the 870. I saw him react but immediately lost sight of him. With a wide smile I walked over to him but he wasn’t there. Turns out he was leaving on an old overgrown ranch road that disappeared over the next hill. This time it was me stretching my neck looking hard for feathers. He was a tough bird, he made it 100+ yards before dying in the new grass on that old ranch road.