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Spittin’ and Drummin

By Linda K Burch, copyright May 2012, Minnesota

Spittin’ and Drummin’. It sounds like a male bonding ritual where metro-men sign up for a woodland experience to reconnect with their inner savage through drumming or sweat lodges. And where spitting and scratching where it itches, are okay, if not encouraged. Drumming is of course, mantra-esque. But I digress.

For me, spittin' and drumming is something I had never heard before. Until May 10th.   I have harvested many wild turkeys over the years. Being a fairly decent turkey caller, I can usually call in the most timid gobblers. This year, I didn’t make the cut with the DNR lottery, meaning I was relegated to buying over-the-counter for the 5th turkey hunting season.   Turkey hunting in the Mille Lacs area can be a crap shoot. Last year, I arrived all bright eyed in mid April, only to find that the frost was not even out of the ground for the turkey season I had won by lottery. It rained last year too. That would put a damper on any gobbler with romantic inclinations.    

This year, totally different story. We had an unseasonably early warm spring and with that, turkey romance was early. But, I didn’t get pulled for an early season turkey tag this year.

Early season gobblers are usually stupid but they get educated quickly.    Even the mature birds don’t have a brain big enough to remember that a year ago, humans dressed in leaf pattern clothing were stalking them in the spring woods. I had to buy “over the counter” for the 5th week of turkey hunting and I fully expected to sit for days and see nothing.   I got up at 4am, and hit the woods right on schedule. However, the moon was very bright as the dawn was rising. I already heard gobbling as I walked to the ground stand that I had prepared the day before. It was time for Plan B.

Since the turks were between me and my set-up, I had to improvise. I found a basswood cluster, hunkered down there and started to call. I was wearing a gillie suit this year, so I looked like a walking bush. In a small field of mud, water and weeds, I put out one hen decoy and hoped for the best.

I first used my slate call, and the gobblers immediately called back to me. They were close by. I switched to my mouth call to avoid getting busted by movement. The gobblers went quiet and I thought they had left the area. I heard some strange noises behind me. At first I thought it might be a deer, but deer don’t make those kinds of noises. The noises moved from behind me, and to my left.   I leaned forward slightly to see a large tom turkey in full strut. The noise I had heard, was the “spittin and drumming”. Wild turkeys drum their wings, and then spit as part of the mating ritual to both attract a female and ward off other suitors by appearing dangerous.

In this case, the female was my hen decoy. I leaned forward a bit more, and there was a second tom turkey, also in full strut. They were competing for the silicone hen. The lead turkey was the biggest. My heart was thundering in my chest at this point. I took some deep breathes. There is NO adrenalin like that which is right before shooting a wild turkey. I waited till the bird had his backside toward me and all I could see was his fan, at which point I shouldered my 12 ga. Shotgun and held tight.

The gobbler turned to face the hen decoy, giving me a clear shot of his head. I aimed and fired. He flip flopped and ran away toward the woods. His buddy folded and ran off to the north figuring no woman was worth losing his head. I fired off a second shell and my turkey was down.   I was pretty sure I hit him in the head initially. However, like I witnessed at my grandpas farm growing up, poultry can be dispatched, and still run around without their gray matter intact, which was the case at this moment. Soon the flapping stopped as I ran to claim my prize. I have a field scale for turkey and he weighed in at 22 pounds with a nine inch beard.

The moral of this story is: Even if you don’t get picked via the DNR lottery for the early seasons of turkey hunting, there can still be lots of good hunting left in our Mille Lacs area.   In retrospect, I realized that most of the hens had probably already been bred, but the gobblers were still feeling romantic. With fewer available girlfriends, my lone hen decoy was just the ticket to bring in a couple of tom turkeys looking for love.

This was the shortest hunt time of my turkey hunting career too. Legal shooting time was 5:21 am and I shot my bird at 5:34 am. I text messaged my husband three minutes later to let him know. I have worked a lot harder for a lot less in the past. This year I just got lucky. And this year I had the thrill of hearing Spittin and Drummin for the very first time.

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