2002 Spring Turkey Hunt

Joe Wood with a Turkey harvested in the Jog with his Parker EH 10 guage, damascus barrel.  It is the lowest serial number hammerless known to exist and was shipped from the factory on December 26, 1888.

I’ve been trying to think of appropriate words to describe our Spring turkey hunt Tuesday and Wednesday. About the only one that seems to fit is INCREDIBLE! Yes, it was incredibly hot, muggy and buggy.....and at times windy. But, more than anything it was an incredible adrenaline rush.  
We set up a simple summer camp
Monday evening in the Locust Grove.  No tent, just cots and bedrolls under the eternal sky.  Nice supper of steaks and baked potatoes (dutch oven), and a wonderful night--calm and peaceful, with ten thousand stars watching over us. Couple of songbirds serenaded us through the night, but that just added to the experience. And some turkeys had roosted in the trees not more than 100 yards downstream.  Every once in awhile, while tucked into our bedrolls, out of “meanness”, one of us would hoot like an owl and they would really gobble back.  Heh, heh.
Morning came and we decided to try for a tom with Mark's new bow. We went to the north side of the river and gobbled pretty loud down in Quail Highway--sort of a "locator" call. Several toms answered us on the opposite side of the highway, down low near the river bottom.  We quickly walked across and set up our ambush just where your ranch road bottoms in the trees.  Wasn't long before we had them all coming--and yelping.  The video camera was running. Talked them in pretty close and one tom sure wanted to make love to the rubber decoy hen we had set up about 15 yards away.  All puffed up and totally in love as he strutted around her.  Great video!   Mark slowly drew his bow and let loose and the arrow just missed by an inch or so.  The birds weren't really spooked but they knew something just wasn't “right”. So they slowly drifted back into the brush. End of round one. 
We decided to try the area up Whitefish Creek, where the trees are, so drove around to the north and moved into the timber. Soon we cajoled a tom to answer and moved towards him, setting up our stand--decoy, camera, cover, etc. He moved in fairly quickly but hung up just out of sight.  Oh, we could really hear him strutting around, brooming his wings, and gobbling away at us.  Probably not more than 50 yards away.  But he just wouldn't come on in.  We probably worked him 30 minutes and finally his gobbles were farther away.  He just wasn't comfortable with the setup for some reason that only "turkey college" trains them for.  

As the morning progressed we set up for him twice more.  And twice more he repeated his performance--coming in, gobbling his brains out, but refusing to present himself in the open.  One smart bird.  We began to take it personal, sort of a grudge match was forming.  But on our fourth setup he decided he was tired of the game.  After all, he figured he'd won three sets fair and square.....what more did he have to prove to us?   He gobbled from the top of a hill, a long way away and then drifted off.  Sort of humbling to realize that a turkey has more active brains than two reasonably intelligent (debatable) humans.  Guess it proves the old adage: "It isn't what you've got between your eyes, it's what you do with it." 
Lunch, and a time to cool off.  Thirty minute nap did wonders.  Piddled around till about 4 p.m. and then headed for Lake Creek.  Wind was really howling and didn't have much success getting the toms to answer.  And they couldn't hear far with the wind.  Later on, about 7 p.m., we did get a tom to answer alongside the creek.  As we prepared to set up our ambush, I picked up my flintlock rifle and Mark's bow stayed in the car.  He did the videoing and I was the "shooter".  The tom was interested, and from the direction of the gobbles as he came in, I figured he'd show himself nicely in a clearing about 20 yards away.  So, I positioned myself for his appearance and waited.  Closer and closer he came, gobbling every time we clucked.  Then, all of a sudden there he was about 10 yards away from me in plain sight, having completely fooled me and come straight in through brush.  Mark was much closer than I, probably not more than 5 yards.  I slowly moved my rifle--all 47" of barrel--and leveled it on him.  It was a frontal shot and I was concerned about tearing up the breasts; so, I pulled the sights up and aimed high on him.  With the shot all I could see was smoke, the wind having died momentarily.   But, there were feathers flying in the air all over the place.  I was congratulating myself at having made such a good shot as I walked over to pick him up.  Passing Mark with the video running, I gave him a macho "got 'em" expression.  A few feathers still floated down as I reached the spot where my bird was supposed to be laying dead.   Instead, it was bare ground and looked like a kids pillow fight had just ended.  We searched for the bird a long time with no luck and finally gave up, disgusted and sorry to lose him.  Something kept nagging me though, and I went back to look at the feathers.  I gathered a lot of them up, and looking at each one I couldn't find any blood or flesh.  The base of each feather was clipped off as neatly as a barber could have cut it.  Then I realized that I hadn't hit him at all but the bullet had flown high and run a channel straight down his back, never scratching him.  "Of course", I thought, "that explains why the feathers exploded all over the place.”  So, there is one very well educated tom now with a new Mohawk haircut. 
That pretty well finished the evening and by the time supper was cooked, eaten, and cleaned up it was past 10 and a beautiful night enveloped our sleep.  I haven't slept so soundly in a long time. 
We were up early and the coffee was boiling by 6 a.m.  Mark skipped my world famous breakfast (sausage and eggs, with tortillas) and took the video down near the roost to get some neat shots of the birds still on their roost.  He came back thrilled, saying he had three toms on one limb and sure hopes the shots come out.   I believe he also videoed them leaving the trees.
We loaded up into the Bronco and headed east, thinking we'd try Quail Highway again, since we hadn't really hunted it the day before.  However, about a half mile east of the Locust Grove, on the brow of a gravel hill (just above where you used to have the "Lab Crossing" sign) we stopped and, standing beside the car, I gobbled a couple of times.  Sure enough, several birds quickly cut back at us.  We put our packs on and headed into timber for our ambush.  Mark was again videoing and I was using the old 1888 Parker shotgun again.  It was a beautiful morning, cool and fairly calm, and the turkeys were sure in the mood.  We had birds gobbling from every direction.  I was sitting beside some really thick, low brush, watching ahead of me in a clearing.  We knew one bird was really close, you could hear him scratching the ground and brooming his wings.  Well, sitting there and my hearts’ pace picking up with the excitement, I noticed a movement immediately to my right and turning my head ever so slowly, there is the tom not more than three yards away, having squatted down to come in under some low branches.  I looked at him in that instant and he stared at me--his eyes getting as big as quarters.  That bird instantly took a step or two backward and then just exploded in a great leap as his stubby wings propelled his huge bulk into the air at warp speed.  
Well, other toms were still interested and hadn't been spooked so we continued our hen talk and had more coming our way.  In a few minutes I saw the head of one tom racing towards us in a dead run.  I was in no mood to be gracious, and didn't even remember our desire to get good video footage.  At about 15 yards, before he fully cleared the brush, I brought the old double to bear and let loose.  The tom dropped in his tracks.  We both got up and walked over to where he lay and, as we did, not less than a half dozen other younger toms scattered in all directions.  He was an absolutely beautiful bird--long beard and spurs well over an inch in length.  Mark commented on how old the tom was. About this time, Richard, the game biologist doing research for the Wild Turkey Federation, came walking down--he'd watched most of the event.  He looked the tom over closely and decided it was the oldest bird he'd seen on the ranch.....probably five years, very old for a wild turkey.  He thought it was incredible that after all the time he has spent watching them and trapping them that he had never seen this bird.  We weighed him back in Amarillo and he topped out at 21 pounds!  He was definitely the dominant tom, which explains why all the younger birds had held respectively back. 
About an hour later, not too far away we began chatting with another tom.  This time Mark was carrying his shotgun and I was assigned calling and videoing.  He and I were in a scratching area, in some timber.  Mark was leaning against a tree, facing west and I was about 10 yards away, angling towards him. I had the camera running and I clucked an cajolled away.  Each time the tom would answer and was closer.  Again, we figured he'd come out in front of us and we'd have an easy shot and some great footage.  Then it became very quite.  I'd cluck softly and there was no answer.  Five minutes went by.  Then, only a few yards behind Mark, the bird just materialized out of nowhere.  Standing there, in the wide open, he puffed up and began strutting around, doing his big bad boy stuff.  I've got the camera on him, and watching the viewfinder with one eye, the other was watching Mark.  He wasn't aware of the bird.  In desperation I softly whistled a Bobwhite call.  Mark slowly turned his head towards me and I cautiously pointed a finger towards the tom.  He slowly nodded and began watching ahead again.  I knew he didn't understand that he had a bird not more than 5 yards away from him, who just might stick his red head over Mark's shoulder any moment.  Something had to give.....and quickly.  This time I hissed, and as emphatically as one can do with a finger, pointed again at the bird.  Mark seemed to catch on and slowly turned to look behind him.  At first he didn't turn his head far enough—those face masks really cut down on the vision.  Then I think he heard a rustling of leaves and turned further.  In an instant he rolled onto his knees and spun around, bringing the shotgun to bear at the same time.  What a nice bird! A good two year old as fat and sleek as any you'll ever see.  We made our way back to the Bronco, retelling and reliving the hunt as excitably as kids.

Later in the morning, since we'd already taken two birds, we started just fooling around.  Driving along, Mark spotted four Jakes resting under some trees.   Drove a bit farther and stopped, waited, and then slipped into some other trees and set an ambush.   (We were getting pretty good at this).   Thought it might be some decent video.   I took the old Parker along—just in case, and Mark carried the camera.   I couldn't find my facemask--both of us were constantly losing stuff.   So I pulled out an 8' mosquito net and just draped it over all of me.   Got out my call and proceeded to make turkey love talk.   Quick answers from all four.   Chatted away and within five minutes we had them all strutting around us--in the wide open.   At times they were not more than five yards away.   Neither of us moved.   I could have shot any of them but never even entertained it—too much fun just tricking them.   And, under the cover of my netting, I was able to continue making love talk, varying the calling to see their reaction.   Sorta had them confused--the hen decoy was over there, but the calling was coming from this "clump".   What a hoot!   After a few minutes , thoroughly confused, they began to amble off, gobbling as they went.   Mark and I just grinned at each other and packed up for the walk back.  That's fun!
So, with two beautiful birds down, and the wind beginning to beat itself into a hurricane rage, we headed back to camp for a bit of lunch.  We had intended to stay for an evening hunt but with the heat, humidity, wind, and totally drained of adrenaline we decided that no hunt could be ended on a finer note.  Packed up and said goodbye to the Locust Grove and one of the greatest turkey hunts ever. 

The elusive Moby Turkey in the Jog.

Turkey Study, Quail, Wildflowers, Colorado wildlife, Spring Turkey Huntmule deer, hog  & aoudad huntingelk in Colorado, Texas Wildlife; Swamp hunting, White-tailed deer.