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My First Turkey
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Old 03-14-2006, 04:38 PM
DUMI
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Default My First Turkey

Here is a story I wrote last spring after I took my first Turkey.

First TUrkey:
Thursday flying day, arrived around 9:30 pm and my host Jerry, picked me up at the airport. We did the preliminary how are you’s etc.
Friday am got up at 4 am and had a good breakfast, then headed out with Jerry to the black hills public hunting land for a Merriam turkey. We drove about 40 minutes to our first stop of the morning. Along the way there were a multitude of deer and we saw 12-15 elk in a field. One small bull was among the many cows, evidenced by the antlers protruding from his head.
Jerry had done some preliminary scouting the weekend before in this area and had heard several gobblers. The temp had fallen down to 10 degrees by the time we stopped and got out of the truck to listen for roosted birds. The wind was fairly calm at this point. We heard a few gobblers far away sounding off their morning horns. We didn’t find anything close enough to get excited about. There was some concern on my point as I hadn’t been able to get too strenuous of a work out since my last stent placement in November. We did some looking around, walking up a few points examining some potential spots for the next few hours. I checked the elevation with my GPS at one point as I started to head out and it indicated we were over a mile high. I could tell a difference, at home our elevation is around 460 ft or so.
Lunch time rolled around and after eating we took a little siesta. It was cold and now very windy. I must say I was feeling dismayed that the weather wasn’t as nice as I had felt it needed to be.
The mid afternoon found us atop of a rock outcropping overlooking a long valley with a ridge about three quarters of a mile or better away. I called using my new HS strut, all weather non chalking box call. After a few calls we heard a gobbler talking back to me. He returned the gobble a few times, enough for Jerry and me to get a bearing on where he probably would be. We then drove the truck down and around the valley to get closer without killing me from exertion in the process.
We got into position with a couple of decoys set out to put the icing on the cake and draw ol tom right up to us. We hadn’t sat down but a few minutes and a herd of elk came through about 110 yards away. I can’t say for sure but I guessed over a dozen elk came through over the course of 4-5 minutes. The snow began to fall pretty good about now too. The temperature hadn’t risen to above 27 all day and now had begun a rapid decline. The wind was rather brisk and chilling us through our clothing. I began yelping a lonesome song for my gobbler friend. Within a few minutes he thundered back. The wind was quite strong and picking him up each time he gobbled was not easy. After about 40-45 minutes of silence we then began to pick our stuff up and head back out to the road and drive down further to see if we could get closer to where we suspected they would fly up. Our intentions were to put this O’l boy to bed and have one marked for the next morning.
We drove about ½ a mile from where we had parked the truck and saw our gobbler standing in the middle of the road with about 6 hens. It was about 7:15 now with fly up around 45 minutes away. We backed the truck away thinking this would keep from spooking the birds and perhaps assisting them in roosting fairly near there. The drive back to Jerry’s house was getting hazardous as deer were coming from both sides of the road to and from the fields.

Saturday am, excitement filled the air as we prepared for the morning hunt. We ate a light breakfast and got an earlier start than before. We felt this would give us the edge on the hunt. It would also allow us first dibs on the hot spot. This morning’s temperature of 12 degrees was almost an exact copy of the day before with the added gusty winds. We were indeed first in the area as indicated by our tire tracks in the newly fallen snow. We drove into the spot where we last saw the gobbler and hens. Calling several times with a yelp, a jake gobble and a shock call produced no gobbles at all. It may have been a little early as we could see day light slowly invading the woods. We moved down several locations and tried locating a bird. Finally we hit pay dirt. We heard a tom that was 300 or so yards away. We struck up to the mountain ridge he was perched on. We stopped occasionally and yelped to get a bead on him. Fairly comfortable we were within 100 yards of his location, we setup the decoys and began a series of yelps and soft stirring noises. He gobbled again to let us know he was interested. There was a long silence, and then we heard a lone hen yelp about 200 yards away. Once daylight had surrounded the area we came to the realization that our boy wasn’t interested in playing anymore. We picked up and began heading toward where he had been. To our dismay we found a pickup about 100 yards from where he had been roosting. We put together the scenario that we probably heard the other hunter that we had originally thought was a hen. We trekked across the ridge and down to another area where Jerry and I had heard a gobbler the first morning. Silence only returned the yelps and clucks we produced from our box and slate calls. We setup a few more times and blind called to no avail. Except for the plentiful deer we saw, nothing seemed to be moving about in the frigid air. We drove around to numerous places and saw several hunters in the area.
On the way back to town we came across 4 rocky mountain sheep with ¾ curls atop their grey and white heads. They were about 100 yards off the road and sitting idly as they chewed their cuds. They were beautiful, no magnificent animals. Jerry began to tell me of their plight. Seems there was a plague of sorts infesting the sheep. As many as fifty percent of the sheep population had already been decimated to a pneumonia like disease.
Lunch and a new plan were on the horizon for the afternoon. We decided to try an area that had no vehicular access. Parking at the gated entry we walked in about ¾ mile to a beautiful meadow. The road in had been littered with elk and deer sign. The temperature was in the low 40’s still a bit windy, but much nicer than the higher mountains we had been hunting. We strode over the top of the hill into the meadow. Jerry and I were discussing our strategy on the hunt. Just then a gobbler runs across the road in front of us about 35 yards away. My first instinct was to shoot. I shouldered my 870 Remington and began to prepare for a shot. It didn’t feel good…. I pulled up, deciding that I wanted my first turkey to be the right way, by using strategy and skills to take my first bird. After the bird had gotten out of sight into the pines to our right, Jerry began mooing like a cow. At first I wasn’t sure if he was just making fun of my not shooting the turkey. He then explained that he had just read in a magazine, Turkey Talk (I believe) that if you bump a bird you can try the mooing. This tended to calm the birds down as they would listen to the other animals around them. Cows are pretty common in most of a turkey’s habitat, so it was a good sound to put the birds at ease.
After the gobbler ran out of sight, Jerry and I discussed how to strategize to get either this tom to come back or another one to come in. We decided to setup about 75-100 yards from where we had startled the long beard. We were positioned in the meadow, slightly up hill from the ambush point propped against a medium sized pine tree. Jerry sat directly to my right facing slightly toward toward the wood line. The meadow was filled with a taller grass about 18-20 inches high and a lower variety beneath it. One decoy positioned about 20 yards away and soft sparse clucks and purring for the next 20-25 minutes and our boy couldn’t stand it.
I must say I thought quite a bit about the incident before and not shooting the turkey. I replayed the motions again and again, deciding finally that I wouldn’t change a thing if it were done all over again. It isn’t the kill but the hunt. This allowed a peace to come over me. I truly felt like I had been blessed to have seen him at all.
Jerry saw him first sneaking in toward the decoy. Tom was silently pecking the ground occasionally as he came closer and closer. His head was excited with vivid red and blue colors. He had made his way down to about 35 yards to my right and in front of Jerry as I quietly positioned myself for a shot. He pretended not to be interested in our hen decoy as he circled around it. I could see his beard sticking out and knew he would be the one. I readied for the shot, which came at just over 40 yards. Shooting through the taller grass my field of view was only about 6-8 inches of long protruding turkey neck. As I squeezed off the shot I knew it was good. The turkey rolled over and began flapping as if he were about to take flight. I ran (honestly didn’t think I could run that fast) toward him I wasn’t going to have any part of him leaving this meadow without me. I prepared for a second shot. Jerry came to the rescue and stepped on his neck until his writhing and flapping subsided. A wave of emotional joy flew over me. I had hunted hard on this trip and in the preceding hunts for this moment. I admired the beautiful colors of my tom. I digested the moments that led up to the kill and was elated that things had turned out the way they had.
We took pictures and tagged the gobbler before heading back to the truck. After arriving back at Jerry’s house he coached me on the finer points of cleaning a turkey. The gobbler had an 8” beard, beautiful fan and spurs that measured just under an inch. I was proud to put my tag on this beautiful bird.
We finished the evening by going to Chili’s to celebrate with some good south western table fare.
Sunday am, Sleep was a priority for the morning. We got up and Jerry wanted to scout out some new areas for him self and some relatives that were coming up in a few weeks. We traversed through the black hills treading our way from east to west. Deer abounded at every turn in the road or in each field. We passed a hen as she crossed the road and skirted up the mountain to my right. Soon after this there was a gravel path that screamed for us to explore it. The trek was an advanced one for me. The hill was steep, the distance longer than I thought I could make. Jerry was patient with me though, when I needed to stop, he was ok with this. Panting, huffing and puffing I felt as if I had been a smoker for most of my 43 years. The higher elevation, my weight and lack of long hard exercise were the only main culprits however. None the less we made it up to the first high ridge. The road was heavily used by turkeys as evidenced by the droppings along our route upward. It was snowing pretty heavily at this point. I pulled out the hand dandy box call and proceeded to yelp a few love lorn notes. We then proceeded to head up another side of the ridge along the road. About then I saw a turkey almost running toward us about 125 yards ahead. We pulled back and I set up the decoy. Jerry got into position as did I. I was positioned about 20 yards into the pines. Jerry was closer to the road. I heard a noise that sounded to me like a dog barking, Jerry later told me he was yelping and clucking. I quietly scratched a few soft clucks and purrs to ease the turkey. The bird came within 15 feet of Jerry. As Jerry eased into position the silver slide on his shotgun attracted the turkey. Then he began spitting (that is what it sounded like) and circled behind me at about 15 yards. I clucked a few times but he eased away. Jerry told me later that he saw the beard on him but wasn’t interested in taking the jake.
Again, another great hunt. We got to dance with him for a few moments and I must say I have fallen in love with hunting turkeys.
We passed by a herd of rocky mountain sheep standing in the driveway of a neighborhood. There were about 8-10 ewes and young rams assisting the homeowner with trimming their grass.
Our last attempt of the day was on a gobbler with a 10 inch beard. We rounded a bend on a road and there he stood. He eased over the side of the mountain. We scaled above him and down a ways to try and lure him in to no avail. Upon investigating where he had been the snow laden tracks indicated he had walked up the road for 30 or more yards and was heading toward a ridge. Jerry and I proceeded to go down the road to see if we could encounter him again. One thought the bird may swing back around and proceed again up toward the ridge. Another prediction would be that he would scale down the mountain to a meadow and road below. We headed down toward the meadow and planned to circle back toward the ridge. We both saw him about the same time. He was at the edge of the meadow about 120 yards from the road. We drove past him acting as if he were invisible. Jerry got out and proceeded to go up the mountain to try and circle around him. I was to meet him at a spot down the road past where we had just seen the big ol tom. I drove past where he had stood moments before and found him ½ way up the mountain side toward the road we had seen him earlier.
I waited for Jerry hoping that he too would score on a tom. This would have been a great one to take too. Jerry made his way back to the truck without the tom. Seems the bird probably went straight up and wasn’t interested in his calls perhaps being a bit shaken by our presence.
Our last afternoon was spent in the same location where I had harvested the day before my tom. We setup in several meadows trying some blind calling to no avail. The final attempt was in the same meadow I had shot my tom. The sun was just above the tree line as we set up. We heard a lone hen circling through the pines to eventually walk behind us. We called for about 45 minutes before giving in to the oncoming dusk.
On the walk out we called a few times to no avail. About half way back we did come across three bull elk. They were sporting new growth upon their heads. The velvety antlered bulls were certain to be trophy’s in the coming fall.
That pretty much completed the hunt for the great Merriam Turkeys. The adventure was awesome, the company was great and the results were excellent.
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