The wild turkey is a great symbol of our hunting heritage. If Ben Franklin had had his way, it would be our national bird, supplanting that poser, the bald eagle. Each spring hunters from all over this great land head tot he woods in search of a longbeard. Some of us are motivated by a strong desire to spend time outside after a long winter. Others are after the thrill of the hunt. Me? I’m out for blood.
My string of turkey failures is long and glorious. It has left me with a rather skewed view of the birds. It started innocently enough a few years ago when I first hunted gobblers in Michigan. I knew squat about how to hunt them, but thankfully there were good articles out and I started to get the hang of it. One day during the season, I sat playing with a new call I bought because as we all know, a new call can sometimes make the difference.
I started goofing around, trying new things. I was across the road from where I’d been hunting, thinking that I was far enough from my spots to be safe. That was dumb, I know. Anyway, as I was calling away, I heard the magical thunderous gobble from an approaching tom. Now, I’m actually standing in my driveway when this is happening. It was coming from across an open field, some 400 yards away.
A quick peek with the binos confirmed that I had somehow managed to get not one but two big toms coming across 400 yards of open field as if on a string. I quickly ran inside, donned enough camo to get the job done, grabbed the shotgun and some shells and I ran around the house to get into something of a position.
I made it to a grass line that is roughly 250 feet from the house, on the edge of the field. The birds were still coming hard. I was doing a few short calls and they kept responding. This was awesome. When the lead bird got within range, he seemed to have held up a bit. I think he didn’t like the situation and he really didn’t want to get any closer to the grass. I didn’t care. I lined up and let fly with a tasty load of number sixes! And I missed him. I racked another and missed him again too!
So maybe I’m not the best at judging distance? It was a clean miss. The worst part of it came when I mistakenly told a buddy. Decorum dictates that he abuse me for doing so, even though he has yet to get even a shot at a turkey. I missed. I have to deal with it to this day. “How do you miss a turkey with a shotgun?”
Later, I moved to Nebraska to work for Cabela’s. Now Nebraska has a lot of turkeys. In fact, you can just buy a tag over the counter and go shoot one or two. Did I ever get one? Nope, but thanks for asking. It was either too hot when I went, or something would come up. A buddy when with me and he got sick right as I pulled up to park.
Jump ahead to Wisconsin. Again, there are turkeys everywhere. Surely I would connect in the cheese state, right? Yeah, the only turkey I got here was at the grocery store. I had guys walk through when I was hunting. I had down pouring rain when I didn’t have any raingear with me. The best was when I cut my hand making my wife dinner on her birthday and had my hand wrapped in bandages for turkey season and couldn’t even go.
Now back in Michigan and back on familiar ground, I knew redemption was in the cards for me this spring. I had drawn early season, which worked well due to an earlier than expected spring. I had good spots and lots of birds running around during scouting missions. I patterned my gun, set my blind, and done just about everything else I could do to get ready. And it finally came.
After a few hard hunts, I had a tom closing in. He was right there at 30 yards and I put the crosshair of the red dot on his head and squeezed the agonizing pounds from the trigger. The forest thundered with the shot and the turkey rolled over after tasting the lead shot. I stood, proud and triumphant! I had done it!
And then the turkey got back up and ran away.
Wait… What? I hit him. I know I did. He rolled over. I hit him!
I looked for two days never found him. My season was done. At least my wife was understanding.
“You couldn’t kill a turkey with a shotgun? I’ve killed four already and didn’t even use a shotgun!,” she said.
“You hit them with the car!”
“So!?! I’ve still killed more than you!”
She makes a point.
So hear me now, turkeys. It’s on. Next spring, it’s on! I hate turkeys and can’t wait to hate them all over again next spring.