Monday, May 30, 2011

A goose egg for turkey season?

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

It's looking more and more like the only thing I'll be tallying for this spring turkey season here in Michigan is a big, fat goose egg.

Although I came close to pulling off a Memorial Day miracle, as I had gobbles off the roost while coming into my early morning setup at Dairy Farmer Dave's and then later in the morning when there were two, maybe even three birds, displaying in the field I was patrolling.

This is as much action as I have had this entire season. I just had a feeling it was going to be good with the angry electrical storm the night before and the game predictor on the GPS also saying it would be an "excellent" day.

Unfortunately, as with most of my luck this season (remember the "Kiss of Death" morel mushroom finding earlier in the month, posted May 17?), I can't seem to get toms to either break away from the hens or come in period.

The previous was what was going on today.

Really, it was also Spring Turkey Hunting 101, for had I been in the woods a half an hour earlier I would have had a better shot of working that bird off the roost and cut him off before he made it to the other side of the field.

But in this case, I was huffing and puffing to get the blind up and in a setup that wouldn't be too close to spooking him in the process, all the while he's gobbling at my footfalls.

Then as I crossed the drainage creek that divides the woods and the open corn field, I saw a hen in the foggy morning mist.

Believe me, at 50 yards I was looking hard for a beard but alas there was none.

Weirdly, she seemed unfazed by my presence.

The gobbling continued to the left of me where I know is a favorite roosting spot of theirs above a containment pond. And it also holds an awesome place to set up known in my books as "The Spot," where I shot the three turkeys the previous fall, including Mr. Big with the 13 1/2-inch beard.

To be fair to myself, I hadn't really had any luck there so far this season so it's unlikely I would have chosen to prop up the blind there.

But had I, I might be telling you all now how I slayed the wily gobbler instead of another excuse story.

At 9 a.m., my cutoff time for the morning hunt unless I was into action, I stood up to grab the decoy and boom! There were five birds in the field and two of which were vigorous displaying to the mostly receptive hens.

I sat back down of course, and began calling with a new-found enthusiasm since I hadn't seen nor heard them since around 7 a.m. I had been convinced they had moved into the next township after the initial morning hookup.

But there they were!

After another hour, though, it was clear they liked their strut zone and weren't coming any closer -- which at the closest was probably 150 yards from me.

I was left with a decision that every spring turkey hunter faces: to stay put -- where likely nothing will happen other than bird watching or make the daring move in risk of possibly chasing them away into the next farmer's field in hopes of getting closer for a potential shot.

The move would be a 300-yard jaunt across a soggy field in the blazing spring sun, which sent temperatures soaring into the mid-80s.

I knew I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror as a fervent turkey hunter if I didn't make the attempt.

So off I went, keeping my head down and trying to blend my profile with adjacent wheat field -- glowing green and a wavy four feet from all the recent rain in Michigan's Thumb the past two weeks.

It was a noble attempt.

And it could have paid off handsomely with a long, likely drawn-out victory march with a 20-pounder hoisted over my shoulder.

But when I checked the wood line after an hour of calling, only the two hens were seen 100 yards away frolicking around the field pecking at seeds and bugs in the dark black dirt.

I called off the hunt at 11:30 a.m. and still made a drawn-out walk, less enjoyable without an added 20 pounds weighing me down.

By the time I made it back to the Jeep, I was scorched.

Regardless, at least that was a good way to end the season. I came close. Damn close.

But wait, I have one more day.

Hopefully it will be magical. And I will be set up this time in "The Spot."

Not sure though about another trek back across the field.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Regrouping

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

I've been on rest duty the past two days to fight off a nagging hack while the torrential rains wash away the ark.

The lawn is beginning to grow elephant grass.

I'm coming down to that time in a season where I'm burnt out. I've put in all ... and have come up empty.

The experiences will live on.

I learned for sure not to drive down to the out buildings to park anytime soon at Dairy Farmer Dave's. That was an experience for the ears.

"It's too wet down there, nuthin's changed, park where I tell you," he chirped at me one day.

No problem. Totally a situation where I misunderstood what he meant when he first told me so. I thought it was a strategy thing since the birds sometimes roost near there.

It's gonna come down to the final weekend, starting on Sunday.

I won't quit. But it seems like I've got my work cut out for me.

In 2005, I did knock down a jake on the next to last day of the spring season in Michigan.

It can be done.

Another time, in West Virginia, I shot a bird in the last hour of my hunt.

Really, though, it just feels like one of those seasons. The opportunities haven't been there.

I didn't hear a gobble until the evening of May 22 when I was walking out of the woods. A perfect time to roost one for the next morning's hunt, unfortunately, I couldn't get there until after 9 a.m. because I had to put the kids on the bus.

Yep, it's been one of those seasons all right.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

High and dry

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

For practically the first time this spring season -- I'll be able to hunt first light for turkeys.

Not only because I'm not on kid duty this morning, but it also appears to be dry for a change, so I'm also motivated to move out.

Destination: Dairy Farmer Dave's in Sanilac County.

I also have a plan.

I'm going to employ a decoy for the first time there since the second half of Michigan's spring gobbler started on May 2.

The last birds I saw at the farm on the Saturday before I was washed out were headed for the northern-most woods.

I know, they likely have moved all over since then, but I have constantly watched them come in and out of there and into the recently plowed field that adjoins it.

So I'm thinking, that woods is where they roost.

I'll stick the deke out, oh, say 50 yards to the east into the field and wait behind the blind for the dawn to burst ... with sunlight, not rain.

And Mr. Big will stroll over for a look, and boom! It's hang another on the wall time.

Well, that's how it goes in my head anyway.

Now if just one tom will cooperate with the plan I'll be in business.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Not without some excitement

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

Even though my Michigan spring turkey hunting vacation was not topped off with a bagged bird, I still had some action.

And in an unlikely spot ... by my St. Clair County house.

Seems the birds have come back to roost along the river ravine where it held some decent turkey numbers a few years ago.

I wonder if it has anything to do with hearing fewer coyotes howling at night this past winter?

Hmmmm ... maybe.

The closest I got to a shot was during a midday gig Friday, May 13.

Thing is, I let my guard down by not expecting much out of this spot.

Everything went as planned: the two jakes silently appeared from around the scrub brush to my left about 15 yards away and would have walked smack dab into the primary shooting lane for where I was set up.

But in my excitement, I made a rookie mistake and dipped my shoulder just slightly while reaching for my bow ... well, that was all it took. They whirled around, hit the downside of the ridge and their bobbing red heads were out of sight in an instant.

I guess that's why they call it turkey hunting and not turkey killing.



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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kiss of death to the turkey season?



Has finding this morel mushroom doomed my 2011 Michigan spring turkey season? Only time will tell.

MAHFS photo by Zac Arnold


By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

Well, I've made my triumphant return from the turkey woods and I am sad to say I'm empty-handed.

For the moment that is, because I still have two weeks left. I will go down fighting until the last day, as usual.

However, my Michigan 2011 spring gobbler season may be in vain at this point.

On Saturday, I was dealt what has become the dagger to seasons in the past: a lone morel mushroom.

Which was strange, I thought. If I stumble upon one, it usually turns into a gold mine of the tasty fungi.

Nope, just this one all by itself. Perfect in its form. Without any glitches.

And possibly snuffing out my chances for a tom.

Don't know why it is but if I fill a pack with morels, I don't get a bird. It's just as simple as that and I've talked about this before on this blog and in my hunting magazine. So some readers will already know of this tale.

Trust me, I will not accept this fate gently into this good season.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Made it out anyway

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

A little action is better than no action.

After hemming and hawing on whether I should go out Friday -- amid intermittent showers and light rain -- I decided on the short trek by my house in St. Clair County where I can be set up in nearly 10 minutes.

Of course, that is if I'm in mid-season form, which I'm not at the moment.

The house spot has been relatively quiet the past few seasons.

Four or five years ago, it was hot. Real hot. Then the coyotes moved in.

Still, gobbles can be heard every once and awhile. And the other day in the field about 300 yards from where I usually go, I saw a pretty big bird making the rounds.

After an hour of calling without success at the first sit on the edge of the river, I moved over to a second spot higher up on the ridge.

Sure enough, I heard turkey sounds, but not the gobbling kind.

I challenged the hen's calls in hopes of maybe luring in a tom within earshot -- a technique that worked nicely in Michigan's 2008 spring season -- but she ended up walking off without a companion.

It did help me practice with the mouth call and trying to replicate her sounds so I'll be ready to make the right ones when it matters most.

***

On a side note, I wanted to say that though half of my hunts this season so far have been with the recurve, I could just as easily bag one with the shotgun.

I didn't want to give the wrong impression that I am a traditional-only guy -- which there's nothing wrong with -- but I like being successful with all the different hunting methods, so the instrument I use from one day to the next can change with what I feel like doing on that given day.

The bottom line for the season is putting a nice-sized bearded turkey down.

(Go to www.macshuntingmag.com to see a tom my buddy Tom shot in West Virginia this season.)


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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Opening Day Spring Gobbler 2011

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

I hunted hard during the May 2 opener for Michigan's Spring Turkey 2011 Season but was met with a chilly silence at my spot in Sanilac County.

Usually I hear a gobble here or there no matter how faint it is but not Monday on either three-hour sits.

Seems I have encountered a bit more pressure at Dairy Farmer Dave's. He opened his fences to a couple more hunters in the first season and also for this May stretch, and it proved itself by the quietness ... well, the turkey part. Dairy farms always have something going on machinery-wise and are non-stop loud.

The old Army adage "we do more before 9 a.m." could also apply to dairy farms.

Anyway, I'm not discouraged although Dave seemed bothered that no birds were answering my calls, probably thinking that I might not come back from the lack of action. He doesn't need to worry at all on that part.

I've been there a few times in early May the past three seasons and had days like that before so I know Dave's words, "They'll come back, I'm sure," are truthful ones.

It was really just fun being out again despite the cold, cloudy weather. And I even got in a nap.


I'll be back. It's a long season.
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