The two years prior to this last spring's turkey hunt I had found an awesome place to chase turkeys that didn't require me to drive halfway across the state. In other words, I had it made. But that all changed when, on a late winter scouting trip, a landowner informed me that he'd no longer be allowing access through his property to the isolated block of national forest that I wanted to hunt. At that moment, I knew I had quite a few hours of work behind the screen of a computer scouting for alternate backpacking routes into the area. My easy, 25-minute-drive-from-home-hunt, turned into a 3 day backpacking hunt. Now, I got my fair share of laughs from people that thought I was crazy for bivy-hunting for turkeys, but results don't lie.
It was a good hunt, complete with adrenaline-filled gobblers, hung-up toms and rejuvenating views of the sunrise that only hunters know. I got my bird around noon on opening day. I got on the road right after I got out of one of my classes on Friday morning. It took me 4 hours to cover the 6.5 nasty miles to the area I wanted to set up camp. Upon arriving in the area I actually spooked a hen and knew my scouting had paid off. After setting up camp I even heard what I thought was turkeys flying to roost. "Sweet", I thought "looks like I won't be hiking too far tomorrow!" That couldn't have been further from the truth. It was a nice night that I am guessing didn't get below freezing thanks to the cloud cover. I woke up excited about my prospects of taking a bird so close to camp. It turned out that the ruckous that I had heard were dusky grouse flying up to roost. Darn it!
After restraining myself from blasting the darn grouse --partly from anger and partly from perceived threat; these birds sound like gunships when they spook-- I took off for the area I originally planned on hunting. After 2.5 miles I still hadn't made contact with turkeys. I decided it was time for some tea and made a little fire and boiled me up some moral-boosting-juice. I then got back on the trail, so to speak, and not long after got a response.
I first made calling contact with him with about a third of a mile separating us. He was down on the opposite side of a creek bottom about 200 vertical feet below me. I slowly made my way down calling occasionally to make sure he hadn't lost interest. I set up on a cut-bank about 15 feet above the creek. He was a little over 100 yards across the creek and out of site. Every time I yelped on my slate call he would gobble in response. I started cutting after every gobble and this got him all the more in the mood.
We went back and forth for about 15 minutes and he wouldn't budge. I then pointed the call in the opposite direction in order to make him think that I was moving away. Sure enough, his next answer was closer. He was coming! I then saw him strutting off the opposite hill coming in like he was on a string; his head red with passion. When he moved behind a tree, I laid down my slate and got into shooting position. He would have to come across the creek to be within range and I knew that when he made it to the edge and didn't see any ladies, that he would be suspicious. Luckily I had bought a push-pin call that attaches to the barrel of my Remington 870 (the ol' workhorse that she is) and allowed me to give him a couple clucks of encouragement. Sure enough, he reluctantly flew across the creek and I knew I had him. At a distance of 53 yards I let loose lead.
A few moments later and I was marveling at the wonderful animal in which I had just harvested. I cooked one of his legs over the fire back at my spike camp and it tasted like pure paleolithic majesty. Another opening morning turkey was in the books!