Category Archives: Turkey Hunting

Kat’s Spring Turkey Hunt

I know… it’s summer.  But if you know me, I tend to be a day late and a dollar short.  So you are going to have to take what you can get and not read Turkey hunting stories in the right season.  It’s still a good story.  😉

This was my first year Turkey hunting and I have to admit I was feeling a little down-hearted about going out the second time after my initial experience. The first time around, we got to the spot where we thought the turkeys might be and heard them gobble right at daybreak so we hustled through a small ravine and up the other bank and got set up to be ready for them. They were talking quite a bit but I couldn’t see them. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of movement up in a pine tree and realized it was a big Tom. He was thumping and gobbling as he stood up on a big branch. I turned to my dad who was sitting behind me and pointing up, I quietly said. “They’re up in the tree!” He nodded his understanding and went on watching and calling. Well, now my first realization here should have been “dad can’t hear very well, maybe you should clarify.” But instead I assumed that since he didn’t react, I wasn’t able to shoot him out of the tree. Bob was back around on my left with a number of trees between us and I couldn’t see him to make him aware of it, so there I sat, for about a half hour, enjoying my view of this big ol’ Tom dragging feathers and gobbling away.

Bob around the trees

Suddenly the flock flew down out of the trees and went down the ravine away from us. We called and tried to bring them back, but they just took off out of there. We chased ’em all around the country and saw them a couple more times, but never close enough to get a shot. Turkeys are fast!

Wild Flowers
Saw some pretty flowers too.  Crocuses and Yellow Bells, my favorites!

Finally when we were in the pickup, heading home, Bob was saying something about how he thought there must have been one big Tom on the ground because he could hear him stomping heavy, or something like that. So I chime in to explain that he was doing it in the tree. Bob kind of turns to me funny and says “You mean you could see him?” And I was like “Yeah, I was watching him the whole time.” And both Bob and Dad exclaim “Why didn’t you shoot him?” Well, you all know why by now. So lesson learned, you can shoot a turkey out of a tree if you choose to. I think some people prefer not to, but it’s not illegal.

Turkey-on-road.jpg
Why did the turkey cross the road?  Because he knew we couldn’t shoot him…
Elk on the run.jpg
This was fun, we had this herd of elk cross in front of us on the way home.

Okay, so I wasn’t feeling super confident in my ability to get close to a turkey, but Bob dragged me out of bed at 4am anyway so I figured I would give it a try. If nothing else, it was a beautiful morning. We were hunting on a ranch that I had gone to a few times as a kid when my mom was doing some calving for them. I loved going with her, we would get there around 10pm and check cows, then nap in a camper before going back out again after a bit. We would listen to the overnight talk radio while we checked cows, it’s a good memory for me…

Ph Ranch at Sunrise.jpg

Anyway, I digress, turkeys. We walked past a dam and bellowing cows up to a stand of pine and quaker trees and started to hear the turkeys gobble. We thought about setting up near some brush but decided to push up a little further. We hunkered down in some dead fall and dad set up his hen decoy where the coulee came down in front of us.

Decoy in the coulee

We sat and called for awhile when all of a sudden we heard a funky sound (not 70’s music, just a weird sound…) We all looked at each other in confusion but we couldn’t see what was making the sound. Well a few minutes later, a muley doe crossed the upper part of the coulee and she was on high alert. She was the one making the crazy noise, sort of a whistly, nasal, snort, bark… I don’t know if she had a fawn down where we were, or what, but she couldn’t figure out what we were, but knew something was up. She crossed back and forth three times trying to sort us out and we figured that her alarm call pushed the turkeys up over the top of the hill because we couldn’t hear them any more. We sat a little longer and I did some arts and crafts with some pine needles and updated my facebook. (I no longer have the facebook app on my phone, because obviously I have a problem.) Then we decided to go looking for turkeys. It was starting to feel like that first trip out…

Pine needle bracelet

So we ramble up over the hill and sort of meander around the top of it when dad catches sight of a hen. He starts calling and we hustle along. Dad informs me that I need to walk further away from the edge of a hill so I can see over the edge but only my head shows to anything down below (learned something new…)

I was in the front and all of a sudden I see a Tom. He saw us, but didn’t know he should be worried yet. He had his head up and was looking intently my way, and pretty as a picture, right in front of me was a pine tree with a broken branch right at shoulder level. I set the barrel of my gun on it, got a bead on him, let my breath out, pulled the trigger and WHAM! I flew backwards! Well, maybe not that bad… But, son-of-a-gun! That gun kicked! Good thing I had it seated in my shoulder. For some reason, I didn’t think a shotgun with turkey shot would pack a punch like that. Oh yeah… You want to know if I got the turkey. I did. One shot to the noggin and he was done.

Turkey
Bob has been instructed to tell me if I have weird hair next time…

Bob tried to get a shot with his bow, but the other turkeys were taking off pretty fast. He said later he should have grabbed my shotgun rather than trying to get a shot with his bow on the run. But you don’t always think of that in the heat of the moment.

We tagged my Tom and I hefted him up to carry back to the truck. We meandered a little in hopes of running across the flock again, but they had cleared out.

Packing Out

Spring Turkey Hunting in Montana

The Spring Gobbler season ran from April 9th to May 15th and Bob was able to get out a couple of times.  He hunted in Central Montana near where these amazing birds were first introduced into Montana in the Judith Mountains in 1954.  He’s sharing about one of those times today.

Waking up at 4:15 in the morning is hard when you are going to work or needing to start traveling, but for this morning it was easy.  Henry, my father in-law came in to the room to wake me up, but I had already had been up at 4 and was just waiting for him so I could get up, get dressed and head into the woods.

We drove about twenty minutes to pick up the 3rd man of our party, Henry’s cousin Benny.  As we pulled up to his house, he came out the door and we were on our way.

The hills we were hunting were only a couple of miles away on a dirt road, something familiar to those of us in Montana.  We all know that dirt roads lead to the best places.  The places where we are able to watch God’s beautiful creation and in privileged moments, harvest the animals he has provided.
As we pull up to the first spot, the anticipation is high as the previous week there had been turkeys around.  However, in the past week there was over 6 inches of snow in the area and it had only melted two days prior.  We let out a gobbler call that was given to me in a prior year turkey hunt by a very good friend ( Primos The Gobbler Shaker Call). We waited.  Nothing.  On to the next spot.Turkey tip 1

At the next location, as the sound of the third call died away, there was an answer down the coulee.  I grabbed my 12 gauge shotgun, the old sportsman 58 given to me by my dad and passed down from my grandfather.  Time to go.
Turkey tip 2
We started down the ridge, staying amongst the trees, to try to get ahead of the bird when further down the ridge we heard a couple of toms gobbling.  Since we had two tags in the party we moved down towards the two gobblers.

There was an open field below us.  We crossed the open part of the field by using a hill for cover to get to the edge of trees so we could see them coming.  During this whole time we were listening to the turkeys gobbling and the hens purring and yelping.

We set up the decoy behind Benny and myself.  Henry setting up behind the decoy.  We started calling.  The turkeys were in the trees beyond the open field.  With the yelps Henry was making on the box call and me with my mouth diaphragm,  they were coming.

Check out this podcast to learn more about calling Turkeys

This is where the story gets interesting.  We were calling for what seemed like forever (probably only about 15 minutes or so) and then all of the sudden, quiet.  The birds were not talking.  Then the woods around us erupted.  Coyotes, all around us.

As soon as we heard, we knew we had to go get close to the birds to get them started again.  We got up and left the decoy with Benny, who said he would stay and call just in case they decided to head up toward where we were calling earlier.

Henry and I moved back into the woods and walked along edge of the coulee.  When we were about 200 yards from where we last heard the turkeys, we yelped a couple of times.  Success!  A hen yelped back from the other side of the coulee.  Then ahead of us, the gobbles came.  They were talking again.

We moved forward trying to make it seem like we were trying to get together with the birds and then yelped again.  They answered back, much closer this time.

I moved down 10 yards in the opening leaning my back against the tree.  I also rested my elbow on my knee and my shotgun in a ready position.  Henry set up behind me about 10 yards against another tree to my right to pull the turkeys up the opening of the woods.

Turkey tip 3

Henry called again, a bit quieter this time and they answered about 100 yards away, down and back the other side of the coulee.  I signaled Henry to keep calling.  When I turned back I saw the two toms getting to the bottom of the coulee and then they started at a run, coming up the hill towards us!

When they hit about 50 yards away, they stopped and strutted.  Henry kept calling, in a soft yelp, but the toms were hung up.  That’s when we got some help.

What we didn’t realize is that along with the two toms,  there were three younger hens. They were following behind the toms, and when they hung up, the hens kept moving up the hill.  Not wanting to lose the hens, the toms reluctantly followed.

However, this presented with a unique problem. The hens are now in front of the toms.  Henry was calling lightly to keep the hens coming and keep them interested.  While coming up the hill, I moved, slowly to keep the shotgun trained on the toms.

The hens blocked a clear shot all the way, but then the tom in the back let out a gobble. At that instant one of the toms and the hens moved to my right and I let the shotgun ring out, harvesting the tom which was in the back, away from the others.

He flopped for only a couple of seconds and then he rested.  Henry and I got up and shook hands, knowing it was a good harvest and that we had done it right.

Turkey tip 4.jpg

We took some photos, met back up with Benny and took the best photo of the day.  Then Benny while taking the photo, looked at the clock and discovered that it was only 6:30 am.  We had only been out for about an hour and 45 minutes.  We took the bird roughly three quarters of a mile back to the truck and then drove to another couple of locations to try and get Benny his bird, to no avail.

We ended the morning hunt with coffee back at Benny’s house and after a bit, hit the road to finish getting the turkey processed.

After measuring the turkey had a 9 inch beard, and his Spurs were rubbed down to almost nothing.  A good bird to take.

Bob Turkey Benny Photo

Gear List:

12 Gauge shotgun – Remington sportsmanship 58
Size 4 bb’s – 2 3/4 inch shells from Estate
Vortex Optics Diamondback 10×42 Roof Prism Binocular
Primos The Gobbler Shaker Call
Made in Montana Box Call
Hunters Specialties Raspy Old Hen Premium Flex Diaphragm Calls

Things we did right:
Stayed out of sight until necessary
Moved on the birds to their last known location when they went quiet.
Moved slowly and set up where the caller is behind the shooter ready to go

Things done wrong:
Forgot the camera in my pack – would have made some great video.

 

Sources:

http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/planahunt/huntingGuides/turkey/brochure.html

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