Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mother's Day Massacre

OK, so it wasn't really a massacre.

Just sounds better.

I probably experienced my best turkey action yet in the woods May 10.

Yes, that's right, on Mother's Day.

It was only the third time out for me in Michigan's 2009 spring gobbler season.

Usually, I struggle until the bitter end having encountered one to two flubs on toms before I score, and that's even I do end up taking a bird.

And, believe me, I came close to blowing this perfect scenario.

Two misses before I dropped the gobbler on the third shot. I guess it's true, "Third time's the charm."

Anyway, as I said in a previous blog entry and in an article on Mac's Online Hunting Mag, this Lapeer County farm I was so lucky to have permission to hunt was a potential gold mine. It didn't disappoint.

This venture to the farm was more of a scouting trip.

Dave was going to show me where I could cross the "forbidden" hay field to a woods where I could hopefully intercept the birds who were apparently reluctant to leave their preferred strutting grounds.

On a previous time out on the morning of May 5, I never did catch a glimpse of them from my setup below the ridge in a cluster of pines. Boy, were they hot then, gobbling at every crow caw and hen yelps.

But I knew I was in for a long day when a hen, which got between us, yelped back at me in the early light and headed straight for Mr. Gobbler.

So, for this Sunday gig, I was expecting to see where they were roosted for the night and little else.

I was way off.

Just before 6 p.m. Dave met up with me behind the farm's four giant blue silos, and pointed out which woods was legal -- I grunted from the weight of the loaded turkey vest and headed out -- skirting just inside the closest woods.

It didn't work. The toms were already in the back hay field strutting and carrying on and heard my footfalls. Often, the crunching of leaves will make birds think that's a hen coming over for a date.

And that's what was happening this time as well. I scanned the field and saw the pair were 150 yards off looking in my direction ... gobbling with every few steps I took.

I nearly finished my slow approach to the northern tip of the piny cluster of trees without being seen by the willy toms, when it all blew apart. Two does bounded from the conifers and into the field. When I looked out to field's center, the toms were gone.

That changed the game all over again back into a recon. I supposed the gobblers wouldn't be back for a long time if at all.

As the sun began to sink slowly behind the woods, mottling the green field with dark hues, I began to make out three hens eating what it appeared to be insects by the way they were darting around like they were chasing something.

I eventually called one in ... real close, like 5 yards, with my periodic yelps and clucks.

That would turn out to be a key in turning this gig into a success because it would later bring the toms within shotgun range.

She eventually spooked but only bounced back into the hayfield a few yards away most likely pacified by my clucks from the diaphram call. Let me tell you something else, that Raspy Hen call I got from a H.S. Strut video last year, was the winning call this season. It had the birds swooning every time.

Not longer after she made her temporary getaway, all the girls congregated out in front my blind, probably wondering what all the racket was about.

And approximately 7:30 p.m. the toms began answering, and not only that, but moving in up and over the ridge on a line to the hens out in front of me.

Then I thought I was hearing something. Is that gobbling from behind me? Naw, I thought, must be the echo from the old boys out in the field.

Not more than 5 minutes after that thought, there was a gobble and white head ... no, two heads sticking above the tall grass in the field adjacent to where I was sitting in the pines.

I slowly tried to turn to the left so I could get ready for a shot. I was in pain from being twisted in knots like a contortionist. The contact in my left eye would come in and out of focus from my eyeball being set as far left as it could go. But I still had a clear shooting eye with the right.

Then something I've never witnessed live before happened right in front of me: toms fighting. But this was a gang fight. The two in the field abandoned their prospective dates came across the ditch to chase away the new suitors on my left. For a minute or so they were whirling around the field on one another's heels, er, spurs, in a mad dash to be the next in line for my offerings.

One bird putted and seemed to have caught some of my movement while trying to remain comfortable for a potential shot.

I let out three soft yelps and two came crashing in like gangbusters weaving in and out of the scraggly pines. Almost too close ... maybe even inside of 5 yards. I ripped off a shot on the front bird and missed, but without any time to get upset, I then pulled the trigger again on the 835 Ulti-Mag Mossberg and again inexplicably whiffed.

I got my senses as the smoke cleared and the birds had jumped out into the field. They were about 25 yards away. That's the right distance, I thought to myself. One was obscured by a dry-rotted apple tree but his buddy was in the perfect line of sight.

Ba-boom! Down he went and I let out a sigh of relief. The time was just before 8 p.m. I had less than 15 minutes of legal shooting time left. It would have been hard to live down that botched effort. But, alas, it didn't matter now.

I had my trophy with a 9-1/2 inch beard and inch spurs slumped over my shoulder and en route for Dave's inspection who "wanted to see what I got."

After I told him the story, he said, "Now you got me wanting to go."

I apologized for not taking him out and offered to call for him when he did go.

He declined and said, "Nah, can't be that hard."


(For video, keep scrolling down past the empty blackness. Yes, it's there.)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Back at it again

So there I was crouched back to a maple along a grassy field watching two toms fan and strut 150 yards away and thinking, How cool is this?

What I really couldn't believe was that it was 8:30 in the evening of May 4. I've never really hunted turkeys this late in the day, let alone had action. Yet, there they were twirling around in a set area, and unfortunately for me, unwilling to check out the tom and decoys I set out in front of my setup.

Regardless, I was excited just for the opportunity to see such a show. It had been nearly three years since I was privy to such a display.

And seemingly, I was the only participant on the field. Whoa. How did I get so lucky?

I merely asked the dairy farmer whose spread borders along the Lapeer-Sanilac counties in Michigan if he had any turkeys he could put me on. This was the same stern, but open-minded gentleman, who let me "guard" his wheat fields last goose season.javascript:void(0)

"I might have a few," he said. "But don't bring nobody."

Fair enough.

I knew if it was as good as the goose action I was in for a treat despite being the only one who would be enjoying the gig.

I think it was more related to me having my 5-year-old son along during the goose hunts. Think it unnerved him little. However, when I first introduced myself, I asked for permission for "a place where my son and I could go to goose hunt without a big hassle" -- so I didn't purposely deceive him.

And now here I was, taking in the gobblers in strut, but stymied by their lack of travel plans.

When Dave first showed me where the turkeys flew down every morning and their routes around the barren fields, I told him it "should" be a slam dunk.

Yes, a slam dunk, but with complications.

I've been here before. The plan of attack now must be to get over to where they want to go and intercept them.

I believe I have them figured out pretty well. On the morning after the May 4 opening day show, I listened to them again on a set display ground on the other side of a ridge. They never showed their white globes above the grass the whole morning.

I knew they were going to be over in the patch of woods to the east. But I was under a farmer directive, which was, "Don't cross the field."

Yep. Been here before as well. Frustrating, but I was in turkeys all day. Which is pretty typical for me because if the birds are in the area I can just about be assured I'll bring them in ... eventually. Except for the stubborn ones. Those types have to be maneuvered on.

When I told Dave about how they hung up, he informed me that "there IS a patch of woods over there you can hunt."

Now we're talking.

Unfortunately, I made the plans for him to show me the woods on Mother's Day. A major oversight on my part. (Gulp!)

I'm still going. Told the wife so as well. Didn't get much of a response. I guess she's used to it now.

I mean, it's spring gobbler season, what does she expect? Why do the powers that be mix up Mother's Day with the spring gobbler season anyway? Poor planning in my opinion.

(Look for video clips on this site and Mac's Three Favorite Spring Gobbler Tactics in Mac's Hunting Mag at