Just returning home at midnight from a trip to Mexico to be my dear friend’s matron of honor at her wedding, I was quickly shifting gears from my beach/wedding mind-set to my stealthy, sneaky huntress alter ego I’d been dreaming of for the past week. I kissed my husband and daughter good-bye, thanking them again for letting me head off on a hunt during Mother’s Day weekend, hopped in my already packed and waiting Jeep and wheeled it northwards to our cabin in central Wisconsin . I’d drawn a 5-day turkey permit for the 5th period and I had just two days left to fill my tag. After arriving at 2:30 am and unpacking, I decided to pull an all-nighter since daylight would soon be arriving and I was too pumped up to think about sleeping. I headed out early in the inky darkness, shaking my shoulders to fight off the damp chill that was invading my skin. It had rained lightly at 3:30 am and the mid 40 temps were a shock to my system after basking in humid 90 degree heat the previous week.
I headed to a high-point south of our new cabin, eager to shoot a turkey off our newly acquired hunting land. This was my first hunt since we bought our cabin and sure to be a thrill! I setup two Montana Decoys feeding hen decoys 20 yards away and then sat quietly snuggled up against a large oak and waited the arrival of the dawn.
The stillness and utter quiet surprised me and I began to worry as the sky lightened up. Only one turkey hunter out of seven that had hunted in our family had scored so far and the numbers began to wreak havoc on my confidence. After the first hour of daylight I still had heard no gobbles and more discouraging had no responses to my calling. I moved and called. Scanned the area with my Travelite 10x25 Nikon binoculars; moved again and called. I moved one last time, setup my Montana Decoys feeding hen decoys again, and called……nothing. I gave up. It was 8 am and I’d heard nothing even remotely similar to a turkey sound and I was fading fast from lack of sleep. I headed in early, and crashed on the couch.
I awoke suddenly to the sounds of the train rumbling along on the tracks down the road. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and glanced at the clock: 11 am . “Gheesh!” I thought……I had to get back out there! I headed across the road from our cabin onto our family-owned land and down a ridge where lonely Tom’s often surface late morning. The best thing about the Montana Decoys turkey decoys I was using were their compact size and light weight. I easily can carry them all over the place in my turkey vest and just as quickly set them up or take them down. I love these decoys! I setup two feeding hens again and plopped down, still dragging and not really expecting to do any good, and started yelping on my Primos Diamond yelper diaphragm call. Instantly I had two Toms gobbling south of me from lower ground between the ridge I was on and another ridge to my south. I let a few yelps go again, and again they responded, and this time I could tell they had turned my way. I waited a bit, and then released a few more, increasing their intensity. BAM! I got an instant response; they were close and on their way fast. I pulled up my gun and wiggled into position as I spotted a white head bob in the brush 40 yards away……dang! I hadn’t realized they’d arrive so soon…and yes, the Tom had spotted me and began to go on alert. He putted and turned away in the brush, taking the other Tom with him as they hastily exited my hunting zone. I continued to call, but it was no use, I’d blown it. I headed back in for lunch, then spent the afternoon hunting and searching without any luck. Day one was over; just one more day remained.
4:30 am : My plan was to hike down a long ridge to the east, to the very end of our hunting land, and settle against a tree for a couple of hours. This area typically holds a few gobblers at daybreak, and the brushed-out lot line is a fairly well-traveled path used mid-morning by turks on the move. I settled in amidst a light rain, got comfortable and relaxed into the tree. I was still deflated from lack of sleep and intent on hanging tight to this spot. I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm to be traveling much this morning. Much to my delight, before the skies brightened too much, I had 2 or 3 Tom’s gobbling east of me! I called, and they responded. This went on for nearly an hour as it became apparent they were not coming to me, despite answering my calls. Neither could I go to them, since they were located off our land, so I remained patient and confident I could eventually win them over to my side! I waited and daydreamed, thinking how it was Mother’s Day and what a gift it would be to score on a turkey today. My daughter, husband and I had just spent a nice week in Mexico together and I had my daughter’s “blessing” to head off on my hunt; even so, I still felt pangs of guilt for being separated from her today.
Six o’clock , then 7 o’clock I still heard gobbles in response to my calls but then the woods became silent. I sat there contented to enjoy the wet, spring day and content to wait them out. (Good thing I lacked the energy to move around as I usually tend to travel more!) Seven-thirty and finally a gobble rang out again, but closer. I let out a few soft yelps, and got a response. I waited. Another gobble, and I called out a bit more edgy, and again got a response. I smiled to myself, knowing I had one on the way at last! Very sparingly I called, trying to peak its curiosity and play this game of hide and seek better than him. I remained statue still, reprimanding myself after fowling up my chance yesterday. Suddenly, I spotted a turkey, but much to my surprise it was a hen, and headed right at me! It marched on towards me as I frantically swept the area with my eyes only, searching for the Tom that surely accompanied her. Just 12 yards to my left she walked parallel to me as I again scanned the area in front of me. A gobble rang out nearly on top of me and I nearly jumped out of my skin! The Tom was standing just below a small rise directly southwest of me, shielded by brush and limbs from a deadfall lying in front of me. It made for extremely good cover, which I needed in this situation. As the hen continued walking past and north of me, I began a slow “butt-inching scoot” to turn to my right ever so carefully so as not to alert the hen, but to get myself into shooting position for the Tom on my right-hand side. He was now turning and headed my way as I continued to butt-scoot and keep my 12-gauge Thompson Center Encore raised at eye level. As a right-handed shooter, never had I been in such an awkward and contorted position to take a turkey! My mind raced as I worried that my twisted body would throw off my shot line-up. Luckily he turned away from me, displaying his gorgeous luminescent feathers and allowing me to settle into a comfortable and somewhat un-twisted shooting position. In my haste to secure my position, I’d momentarily forgot about his girl behind me, and sure enough, my last movement, albeit small, was enough for her to let out a quiet “PUTT” behind me. I focused solely on the Tom, knowing I still had brush in my way, but also knowing that in a second I’d have a chance and that would be it if Ms. Hen continued her alarm. He popped up his blue head, and I didn’t need a moment more, as I quickly put my bead on his head and pulled the trigger. Kaboom! He was down and flopping and I burst out of my hiding spot exuberant at my success!! My Winchester Supreme 3” 6’s had done the job again! I let out a few whoops of excitement and smiling ear to ear, went over to inspect my trophy.
Though it was small in size (later weighing in at 18 ½ pounds) it sported a nice 9 ½” beard and ¾” spurs. But my success story this morning, was surely executing such a difficult shot in such an awkward position, and sandwiched none-the less in between two turkeys! What a thrill and what a great hunting memory for me to look back on. And it all took place on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2006 . I called my daughter and told her the news and as I could hear her smile through the phone, she congratulated me and said she thought it was a great gift for Mother’s Day.
**Special Note: I hunted by myself, and as you can see from my timed self-portraits, it’s not always easy capturing a photo after a solo hunt! You can see the progress I made as I attempted to frame my photo, then set the timer and hustled over to get positioned; fan out my turkey, hold my Encore, and “smile” for the camera, in less than 10 seconds. It made for another funny and memorable morning after the hunt!
Turkey Gear used:
© August 2006