I started my 2015 season in Idaho on April 17 and I have been chasing turkeys every available day.On days when I worked the late shift, I would get up at 3:30 am and hunt until noon, only to drive two hours back, start my work shift and work until after 9:00 pm.When I worked early, my work day would end at 4:00 pm, then a 2 hour drive, hunt until dark, back in bed at 11:00 pm. Working with only 3-4 hours of sleep, for days on end, really started to take its toll on me but I could not stop.I don't have to set an alarm to get up that early, because I am like a little kid on Christmas morning. It's hard to sleep if I know I am going to be turkey hunting.
The weather for this hunt has been rainy to say the least.We have only had 1-2 days of sunshine and the rest was between drizzle and downpour.Dark storm clouds were my constant companion and I began to question my sanity driving miles back in on dirt/mud roads with heavy rains forecast.I walked through grassy meadows that were so wet I may as well have been wading.Being soggy, soaked to the bone and cold was the norm for this season.
I bought an out of state tag In Idaho, and my Utah tag.I am afraid of looking at what my diesel fuel bill will total, suffice is to say I put more than 5000 miles on my truck this season.I know that I could have purchased at least 30 butterballs at the grocery store and still come out money ahead.
So with all of that why do I still hunt turkeys?It is for the early spring morning in the woods, listening to nature wake up, song birds singing to attract a mate, squirrels chastising me ask I walk under their tree. The green of the mountains in spring rival any gemstone ever pulled out of the earth.I have seen: countless deer, a few elk with the bulls just starting to grow antlers, a momma moose and her calf and even a mountain lion, the first one I have ever watched in the wild. I hunt for sunshine peeking through a sucker hole in the clouds, sunrise and sunsets, being where my cell phone won't work. When a Tom finally appears in view after hours of sitting my heart beats so hard I feel like it is going to hop out of my chest and keep pumping in my lap. I am more alive as a predator, my senses are heightened, I hear the faintest sounds, plugged in, in tune.
May 30, 2015 sunshine and 75 forecast for today, another 3:30 am departure, another stop at the fuel pump, eyes blurry from lack of sleep. It's a Saturday my two sons are out of school and joining me on the hunt.They are 14 and 11 years old.We arrive at our spot, it is still pitch black and the two boys don't want to leave the warm truck. Wanting this hunt to be more fun for them we wait.I am getting antsy, it is now light enough for the turkeys to see us from their roost.The boys are willing to start hiking down into the aspen lined meadow where the turkeys have been strutting lately.Out of the truck, loading our shotguns, pump a round into the chamber, GOBBLE, the tom shock gobbled from the sound of the shotgun.
It's on we are trying to get to the meadow before they fly down.Wanting to be quiet, but not being successful at it, twigs snapping the tom gobbles again and again.Short of our destination we bump the tom off he goes, silence follows.Hoping there are more we set up deep at the base of a pine tree, we make a few yelps from the box call, SILENCE.We wait one hour, nothing, not one sound from the turkeys.My youngest tells me that he is freezing and cannot sit one more minute.Dejected we need to hike to warm up.
We move deeper into the mountain and hike long enough to build up a sweat.Another set up, start the box call, a yelping hen in reply.She is aggressive yelping over the top of my box call.45 minutes go by hen yelping but no gobbles.Finally, a gobble from behind us then another up the hill.Things are looking up.I see a hen she is 100 yards out but going the wrong way.I call, immediate gobble from both directions.A few minutes later 3 turkeys appear off to my left and behind me. A hen and two strutting toms, are putting on an amazing display.With the speed of a glacier they move towards us.Waiting, watching they make it to 50 yards and no closer.
Dejected again, we trek back to the truck and go to town for breakfast.After trying numerous other unsuccessful spots we head back to the meadow where we started the day.We set up, my 11 year old son right next to me, my 14 year old 70 yards off to my left.I am not very hopeful at this point it is 4:00 pm.Yelping on the box call my 11 year says "dad I see a turkey."Sure enough 70 yards out a hen appears from thin air.She does not care for my calls and starts to feed away.A gobble from 300 plus yards away gets my attention.I know he is long way off but maybe.
Things progress rather rapidly for the turkey woods.The tom is getting closer gobbling 3 times to every set of calls.I am afraid the hen we can see, will join the tom and she will take him away.She doesn't care for his gobbling either however, and picks up her pace down the slope away from us and the advancing tom. Finally I can see the tom 140 yards out his red and blue head staring directly at where we are sitting. I whisper for my son to not even blink.The tom makes his way towards us and jumps up on a fallen aspen tree.He is 60 yards away. For 15 minutes, he struts back and forth on the aspen.I want to call but I cannot move.His head goes behind a tree trunk. I give him 3 soft yelps from the box. Off the aspen he is coming straight at us, finally in range, a hen yelps from our left, he turns and is going towards the new hen.
BOOM barks the shotgun.My 14 year old tells me that I stole his turkey.He was the hen to my left. His calls sounded so much like a real hen, I was fooled too. 44 days into a 45 day season, my hunt was over.What an amazing spring.The picture of my two sons hugging while posing behind this awesome turkey will be a favorite of mine for years to come.
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