Evolution of a Turkey Hunter
Canada is not known for Her turkey hunting - but She's getting there! Turkey's were pretty much extinct here 20 years ago but thanks to the efforts of the NWTF and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, turkey's have been reintroduced and are now flourishing. Turkey hunting is difficult and demanding at the best of times - more so I think when you're starting from scratch. Those of you whose grandfathers and fathers taught you how to call, how to place decoys, when to move, when to stay put, when to call and when to shut up have an enormous advantage over those of us who are new to the game. It's like trying to read War and Peace before learning See Spot Run!
The first year I hunted I wore green pants and a brown coat and ran through the woods yelping furiously on a box call and never knew what to do when I heard a gobble in the distance. I saw toms on several occasions, but never closer than 150 yards.
By the second year I had learned to appreciate the benefits of camouflage, had several calls and a full bodied decoy. I had jakes approach my decoy but usually hung up - despite the fact that I threw every call imaginable in their direction (I now know the benefits of being silent sometimes!) but was still unable to score.
Year three found me ready on opening morning. My pre-season scouting showed me where to set up. The articles I'd read and videos I'd watched had me ready to produce tree yelps, fly-down cackles, purrs and clucks - all in their appropriate order. I had fiber-optic sights on my 12 gauge, I had an XXX full turkey choke, a gobble tube, 3 collapsible decoys, a crow call, an owl hooter, slates, diaphragms - even a wing from a road kill I'd come across a few weeks earlier! I was ready!
In the twilight between night and dawn I heard gobbling in the trees at the far end of a field I wanted to hunt. I crept as close as I dared, placed my decoys and set up at the base of a massive pine tree. I waited another 15 minutes before quietly yelping on a slate call, doing my best to imitate a sleepy but lonely hen. I was rewarded immediately by a gobble from the trees off to my left. GAME ON! I yelped softly a few more times just to let him know I'd heard and he responded vigorously. I waited a few more minutes then began beating the branches around me with the wing I had found and then clucked a little more enthusiastically on a diaphragm. Although he didn't gobble, I heard him leave his roost and crash through the trees on his way to the ground. My heart began to pound and I could feel sweat trickling down my back as I peered through the woods hoping to catch a glimpse of the bird I had pursued for 3 years now.
It felt like an hour but in all likelihood was only 5 or 10 minutes when I purred quietly on my slate. The tom double gobbled right behind me and I almost jumped out of my skin! I had never heard a gobble from so close before and I hadn't seen him sneak in. I froze and waited. I could hear him now in the leaves as he slowly circled my set up. Out of the corner of my eye I watched him come into view, in full strut as he tried his best to get my decoys to come to him. As he walked past a tree I raised my gun and when he stepped into the field I fired. I never felt or heard the crash and kick of my 870. I bounded across the 15 or 20 yards that separated us and looked in awe at the bird on the ground. My XXX full choke and load of number 4's had done their job. I had become a turkey hunter.
That was a few years ago now and the hook was set on that day. I have a pretty good collection of beards and spurs now (some from as far away as New York!) and have had some incredible hunts. I even took one with a bow last year. None however, are quite as memorable as that first turkey, on opening day of my third year.