"Cat Napper" Wisconsin Turkey Hunting 2002

A wave of nostalgia poured over me as dozens of wide eyed faces turned to see who we were. The smell of manure... full udders and hay in the gutters. I was transported to my grandpas old barn in Northern Minnesota where I spent summers as a kid. Where I would sit on a milking stool and try to figure out what made the "let down" reflex of a cow work, and where I would duck down quickly if a soggy tail whipped near my face. Mechanical milking machines soon replaced the manual method, and we kids then spent more time swinging by ropes in the hay mow until we itched like flea bitten dogs.

"So youre turkey hunting?". I was snatched from my spell, and reached out
to shake the milk-sticky hand of our host. My friend Dale and I were paying our respects to the first of several landowners who had given us permission to hunt their properties. We were archery hunting on this trip, and having just bagged my first 25 pound longbeard with a shotgun in Kansas two weeks before, I was ready for the added challenge of archery gobblers. Dale was shooting a recurve, and I brought my Jennings compound bows. he had arrowed a nice gobbler with his compound bow here just two years before.

After walking the woods all afternoon, we sat on a log halfway up a steep
wooded hillside with our crow calls to roost birds as the sun set. Between the relentless 30 MPH wind, and having symptoms of possible Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a Kansas woodtick bite, I was chilled and happy to get back to my truck to warm, head to my motel and hit the sack.

-DAY 1-
In the morning, we took stands several yards apart and watched jakes and hens feed for half an hour. For the rest of our trip, Dale and I hunted on different parcels, and since this was my first year turkey hunting, figuring out the critters and their habits was a real challenge. I set up a T3 Double Bull blind on the same field early in the afternoon. I had glassed turkey groups there from my truck and decided to stay put. That old Kansas Woodtick Hoodoo still had me feeling pretty sick, so I cleared a spot on the ground and decided to lie down and rest for a bit in my blind before the afternoon hunt. I have never been able to nap, even after the birth of my children. However, I had never tried a nap in a ground blind either. Lying there, maybe it was the smell of the dirt and crushed foliage, the bird songs, the sun and being out of the wind, or maybe it was just the nitrogen given off by the Spring soil, but I actually fell asleep for an hour. My hunting nickname is "Catwoman". Later, Dale said his nap nature was rubbing off on me, and I was really a cat now. A "Cat Napper".

Later, I had the thrill of calling in a big gobbler who went into full
strut at about 35 yards. The winds were howling up to 40 MPH, and when Mr. Big Boy got to 30 yards, a gust caught my hen decoy and spun it like a top. It was a perfect gun shot, but still too far for the bow I was now holding at full draw. Deeming this damsel to be a bit too frisky, the gobbler called off the foreplay, turned and departed. Right there, I decided to carry both my Benelli Camo M1 Field shotgun and my Jennings bow.

-DAY 2-
It was cold and raining hard for the morning hunt. Nevertheless, another big gobbler came ambling out of the woods at 8am, preening himself and shaking the water of his wings at 80 yards. He ignored my decoy, but then, if I was cold and wet all over, I wouldn't be in the mood either. Heading back to my truck, I found my bum of a hunting buddy contentedly asleep in the back of his rig. I almost socked him, but given how lousy the weather was, he was the smart one. After a quick snack, I went right back out to the blind at 1pm, saw nothing the rest of the day, but did execute another 15 minute nap. I was beginning to feel a sense of power with this napping business. Being a born again baby was heady stuff. Later that evening, I crept to another corner of the same field, huddled against a huge oak tree with my back to the sharp cold wind, and bleated on my crow call, hoping for some gobbles in response.

-Day 3-
Finally, with a beautiful sunny day, I decided to spend all day on stand. Seeing nothing in the morning, I spent half an hour at my truck grabbing a snack and plinking on my guitar. Of course, that was when I glassed that same huge gobbler as he sauntered across the field, gobbled hello in my direction, and exited out the far corner... right where my Double Bull blind was set up. Between that, and a farmer running his dog near the blind, I took it down and constructed a natural blind out of branches and foliage at the base of a pine tree where I had seen turkeys crossing the field each day. The evening hunt was uneventful, and the noon turkey was the only one I saw.

-Day 4-
What a perfect ground stand that pine tree blind was! The sky was again threatening rain, but the turkeys were gobbling by 5:20am anyway and I was coyly calling back to them with a slate call. I had both my loaded 12 gauge and my bow with knocked arrow at the ready. At 7am, I spied seven birds entering the field out of my right peripheral vision. Two big gobblers, four jakes and a hen. This was IT ! My hen decoy was set up 16 yards from me and I figured I had about one minute where I could see the birds before they could see me. I knew they would come at least within 30 yards on their current path, but I needed them to be 20 yards for a bow shot. My fingers bicycled the air and my eyes darted back and forth between my gun and my bow. Gun. Bow. Gun. Bow. DANG.... I hate pressure decisions! My hand oozed through my bowstrap as I gingerly lifted my favorite killing machine and slipped my release on the string. Doing a slow motion turn, I melted into full draw. Totally focused, I watched my Steel Force broadhead bob imperceptibly to the throbbing of my heart. My every muscle was strung tight and I was ready. The birds never saw me, but I think they had gotten wise to the Leafy Wear blob in the bushes with the one lone decoy. They all stopped at 30 yards, staring at it, and decided to cross the field going the other way. I let down on the bowstring, gave out a silent sigh, and was suddenly in the aura of that familiar hot blush that follows a close call or a kill. "I should have grabbed my gun" I chided myself.

The weather went from bad to worse, so I decided to head back to Minnesota.
I didnt catch up with my hunting partner, so I rang him up on my cell phone as I hit the highway. I relayed my "Seven Birds" story to Dale, whos response was simply "Thats why they call it hunting". He is a quiet man of few words, the antithesis of me with my Chihuahua nature and motor mouth. I thought for a moment and realized, his words were just what I needed to hear. I could easily have harvested gobblers on several occasions had I been gun hunting. But I chose my bow and felt a great satisfaction with that decision. We are already hatching plans for next years Wisconsin and Minnesota hunts after getting a hand written invitation note from the owners. I have a lot of homework to do for archery gobblers, not the least of which is to get more decoys and to become accurate to 30 yards!
© June 2002