Friday, May 23, 2014

Chasing the Wiley Tom Turkey

Gander Mountain

Iowa has four turkey seasons.  The last one is the longest, lasting 2 weeks. I like to hunt the last one because the toms have most of the hens covered and they are more receptive.  Inclement weather and a spring cold have kept me out of the woods.  Both finally broke with some nice balmy days and a warming trend. 

My wife and I had been feeding the cattle with our grass cuttings in the wooded pasture.  In the past I had great success there.  We saw a few hens, a few jakes, but no big toms.  We did see a lot of Angus cattle following our truck around the pasture waiting for a hand out.  They remember our truck and we always say, "How can we eat beef again."
Click on the pic to price and buy from Gander Mountain.

The landowner told me the turkeys were all on the west side of the levees down to the river.  This is really heavy timber and will be tough hunting.  One evening I drove across the levee and entered their ground.  Following a road around the ground that ran close to the levee, the farm ground was to the west of me and the timber beyond that.  With the sun getting close to setting, the hens were thick, pecking and scratching in the corn field.  They saw the truck moving along and took off running into the woods.  Wow, the vision of these birds is so acute, and it does not take much to set them off.  I am still amazed how they can stand along the side of a roadway, pecking and scratching with cars and trucks speeding by and totally ignore the traffic.  They did not ignore me.
Click on the pic to learn more about this call from Gander Mountain.
I took special note of where they entered the woods and also noted that there were two different flocks.  One went straight west into the wood, the other angled southwesterly into the timber.  There was not one tom with them.  I could not make out any jakes, but I assumed they were there.  The road circled the ground and ended up right next to the timber.  What I would be up against just to get into the woods looked daunting.  Three years ago, this ground was all under water from the raging flood of the Missouri River and the majority of the standing trees were totally submerged.  There was a lot of trash to get through.
Click on the pic to price and buy from Gander Mountain.
Driving along, deer runs were spotted.  The deer always find good access into timbered areas.  The decision was made where to go to access a hunting spot.
This was part of the opening I was working.  It is hard to see much and the cover is all in favor of the bird.

Next morning the hunt was on.  I attempted to enter the timber carrying my folding chair, a sack of decoys, my game bag carrying my supplies, and my Benelli.  This was a nightmare.  Crawling over fallen logs, ducking under limbs, brush and weed and then more large logs, was turning into a bad idea.  I knew most of the trash from the flood would be deposited at the timber's edge where it was the thickest, but I needed to get inside the woods.  I set everything down and fought my way into a beautiful opening.  I could see through the fallen timber and there was room to set up.
Off to my left is a better opening.

With all my gear hauled in and everything set up, I finally found a place to hide.  Generally I wait 20 minutes to let the woods settle down, but this time the wait was 45 minutes with all the noise and crashing around I had made.  When it was finally still, the slate call was taken out and some clucks and purrs were made.  Then I made a serious call of a hen and waited.
There they are, Pretty Boy and Pretty Girl combination.  I have decoyed a lot of turkeys within shooting range with this combination.

Off in the distance to my right, the gobble of the tom was well pronounced.  Now, what I would like to believe is he was saying to her," I hear you my darling.  Wait there, for I am coming to find you and we will make beautiful music together."  After waiting ten minutes I made the call again.  I like to believe that she was saying to him, "Hey big boy, you are a fast talking man.  Come on over, and let's get acquainted."  He gobbled again, and this time it was much closer.  The gun was slowly moved to a better position and the call continued to cluck and purr, letting Don Juan know just where to go.
Click on the pic to price and buy from Gander Mountain.

The next call he made was 20 feet from me.  It was right behind a tree in my line of vision.  The sun was at my back, but the whiteness of the cottonwood tree reflected back into my hiding place.  I am positive he could not see me.  I needed the tom to step forward three feet and he was mine.  Something was not right, and he did not come into sight for a shot.  I heard nothing so I made the call again.  Unfortunately, he was done and  hit the brick for places unknown.

An hour later, a bird from the south came to the decoys, but not as close as the first one.  He circled to the west and stayed out of sight and shooting range.

After an analysis of my experience, I determined that my hiding place was too hidden for me.  I had no field of vision.  I should have picked out a better spot so that I could have seen Mr. Casonova when he came to visit..
Turkey hunting is really exciting!

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank.

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