Turkey Hunting Takes Patience
Turkey hunting takes patience. I can’t stress that enough. All hunting out here in the woods, where wild game is scarce compared to other states, takes patience. Winters have been hard on the local rafters and the numbers are down. We’re not hunting for them here for two reasons – it’s almost easier to find unicorns, and leaving them alone to repopulate is the right thing for us. We’re hunting no less than 20 miles from home and after an incident with two hunters, we’re no longer hunting in that spot. I walked a half-mile down the pipeline, in clear view for at least 20 minutes, yelped for 30 minutes, and two hunters appeared out of the trees on the other side of the pipeline. They knew I was there but didn’t whistle or call to let me know their presence. That’s dangerous because we’re head to toe camo and I couldn’t see them, and it’s creepy. One whistle would have clued me in and I’d have turned around. I’m uncomfortable knowing they were watching me. Public land. Not a fan.
We’ve been set up before sunrise and called, driven for hours in search of these big birds, and set up in early evening. We can make them gobble now and then but nothing more. “We need to go to central Maine where there’s a big population,” Steve said, but we don’t have land to hunt on there. Oh how turkey hunting takes patience.
We’ve been scouting a few evenings, looking for turkeys going up to roost. We found them Friday evening, in the back of a posted (no hunting) field. They were making their way toward the woods. Steve knows the area well so he knew that if we drove back to a Y in the road, swung a right and drove a few miles we could get to an area behind the farm to land owned by someone who welcomes hunters. We followed an old road, walked through the woods, down a ridge, crossed a stream, climbed a ridge and found the trees we thought the birds would roost in. We had a plan. There were two large toms and two large birds that didn’t lift their heads and remained unsexed. Steve has one tag left, I have two. Steve shot a 16 pound jake on Thursday, a bird that provided five generous-sized meals. Why do you hunt, we’re often asked. We hunt to eat.
Saturday morning, all set up, waiting patiently for the woods to return to normal after our intrusion. The sun was coming up when Steve made the first yelp. We waited, hoping for four gobblers to answer. Nothing. Not once. The sun rose and 40 minutes later the fog rolled in fast and furious, and we lost sight of the decoys 50 feet away. The end.
We moved on, saw one hen (only males can be harvested during the spring hunt), and called it a day. We had breakfast at a diner and headed home. Erin, Brent and their son were nearby so we had better plans for the weekend. Maybe next time. I’ll be hunting again this week.
We moved on to these fields to search for a tom we worked for a while on Wednesday. I yelped, he gobbled. He liked the tone of my box call better than Steve’s so I continued to call, and occasionally I’d get a gobble back. The tom would come just so far…and nothing more. He stopped gobbling. He wanted the “hen” (me) to come to him. Obviously I couldn’t do that…
“I’m moving. If he comes out you shoot him, don’t wait for me!” <— Me…running out of patience. Turkey hunting takes patience. We knew the tom was with four or five young hens that haven’t starting sitting yet. He wasn’t going to leave them easily. We also knew he couldn’t see me through the woods. It was safe to move. I walked 50 feet along the edge of the woods. “Yelp” got a “Gobbbbble.” I walked 50feet again and yelped. No answer. I walked 100 feet this time, yelped and he replied. He thought I was coming to him and got excited. He gobbled to me even when I wasn’t calling. Useless. He wasn’t leaving those tender young things for this middle-aged hen. 😉
Turkey Hunting Tips
- Scout. Find the turkeys. Make sure they’re on land where you can safely and legally hunt.
- Use decoys.
- Learn the calls. Know how and when to use them. YouTube has great videos.
- Turkey hunting takes patience. My sister Tammy heard the first gobble from the roost at 4:55 am and didn’t shoot her 22 pound tom, a hell of a nice bird for her first turkey, until a half hour later. She had to sit patiently as it came close enough to the decoys to have a responsible shot. She waited, got nervous and excited, and patience paid off.
- Know the pattern of your shotgun. We are always aiming for the head, a target smaller than a baseball. What’s the spread at 20 feet, 50 feet, 20 yards… A head shot is a quick death and doesn’t put pellets in the meat. I’ve seen a lot more breast shots lately so it’s certainly becoming more popular. We pick pellets out of partridge meat. There’s nothing wrong with doing it with turkey.
Turkey hunting takes patience, skill and knowledge. It’s more often frustrating and disappointing than not, but it’s time well spent. Watching spring move in and enjoying the scenery in this incredibly beautiful state we live in is its own reward.