Snow Strutter – Oh so Close…

“Did you hear that turkey right behind us?” Daxton asked. I hadn’t heard a peep. For the past hour and fifteen minutes we had attempted to call a turkey to us but hadn’t had any luck. Now we stood overlooking a canyon bottom 40 yards from where we had set up an hour and a half ago. A turkey loomed somewhere below us. We knew this because we had periodically heard his answering gobbles for the past hour. Obviously the tom wasn’t interested enough to approach, so we abandoned our decoy setup to come look for him. Interestingly, my grandson just whispered that he had heard a turkey back through the trees from where we had just come.

idaho turkey hunt tracks
                                                 Just missed them...examining some of the tracks

 

Ever so cautiously we decided to sneak back. Being quite skeptical that a turkey could so quickly occupy our vacated site, I decided we should cover new territory rather than backtrack. We began to circle the 30x60 yard patch of oak brush. Roughly ten minutes later we entered the meadow from the opposite side…and there to our bewilderment were fresh turkey tracks in the snow!

idaho turkey hunting snow
            Little too late...flock wandering to left with strutter closest to us on the right

 

Without a single turkey in sight, we began to follow the tracks. Sixty yards later the meadow came to an end at the edge of a steep slope. The drag marks from the wings of the strutting gobbler had left their imprints in the snow across the entire meadow, so I anxiously expected to surprise attack the strutter as we peered over the edge. But that wasn’t to be, the entire flock of 20+ birds were already feeding 65 yards away. In a feeble attempt I tried calling to them, but they clearly had another destination in mind. A light rain began to fall. Feeling a bit dejected we headed back to camp.

big cedar tree
                                Big cedar tree was the perfect backdrop

 

Just as we reached camp it really started to pour, so we settled in for the long haul. During our wait, the boys convinced me to hunt the opposite side of the canyon. 2 ½ hours later the rain subsided. We donned our waders and set out across the roaring creek. We were only about ¼ mile from camp when we came to a large depression where the boys wanted to try calling. The earlier rain had completely melted the overnight snowfall, so we placed our decoys, leaned against a huge cedar tree and began calling. Within seconds my calls were answered by a thunderous gobble! Carson, the only youth-hunt tag holder, positioned his 20 gauge in the direction of the gobble and waited. After a minute or so I called again. This time the gobble was obviously closer than before. Moments later two big red heads appeared from across the way. A couple of very soft clucks from my glass call, along with a little movement from our decoys, caused the shooters to come running. At 25 yards the turkeys separated just far enough to give Carson a clear shot, he took the opportunity and dropped the gobbler in its tracks! The second turkey only flew off a short distance, so I began calling aggressively. The calling worked, the jake came back to check us out. While Carson had 2 tags to fill, he opted to pass on the shot and instead watched the curious jake prance around for the next five minutes. Once the jake disappeared, we cleaned his bird and headed back to camp.

called in turkeys  turkey down

          Separated just enough to get off a shot                                    20 gauge smokes a turkey 

jake merriams turkey  boys with Merriams turkey

         Boys were intrigued by the jakes curiosity                        Boys with a nice Merriam's turkey

 

The next day was stormy. Just before noon we headed out during the only small break we got from the rain. We had a location in mind and were only about 100 yards from where we planned to set up when we saw turkeys feeding out onto the edge of the clearing 200 yards away. With absolutely no way to move more than a few feet from our current position without being spotted, we decided to call from where we were. The calling worked like a charm. The flock quickly began closing the distance. However, our position was horrible since the only shot opportunity would be a narrow spot directly in front of us. A few more soft calls and the turkeys were on top of us at 10 yards! The only problem was that the strutting tom lagged a little behind and remained a few yards off to the side. After several minutes of bobbing heads and darting bodies, the flock became nervous and quickly disappeared in the direction of the tom. We attempted to sneak through the brush but never saw the turkeys again. A light misty rain began to fall as we headed back to camp for the remainder of the day. The general turkey season would begin tomorrow, we were ready.

heading back to camp with turkey
                              Splashing along on our way back to camp with gobbler

 

Early the next morning we sat over the decoys, which were set up very near the spot where we had experienced the close encounter the day before. But this time we had a clear shooting lane 180 degrees from the edge of the oak brush. Daybreak came but no turkeys were to be seen or heard. About 30 minutes later we spotted a flock of 50+ turkeys just over a mile away in a big open meadow. Through our binoculars we watched for hours as several turkeys strutted for their flock as the entire group slowly made their way up the mountain side. At noon the turkeys were barely visible at the top of the small mountain. It was then that we decided that our best chance for a shot at those turkeys would be to catch them coming back down the mountain later that evening. As quickly as we could we gathered our gear and made our way across the valley. We finally arrived. The GPS showed we had come 1 ½ miles and up ahead we could see the meadow where the flock had been earlier that morning. Just then we noticed movement ahead. Apparently the turkeys had beaten us to the punch because we could see a few turkeys feeding downward through the oak brush 70 yards away. As we inched closer, the flock spooked and flew. We had blown it. With few other options available, we headed straight in their direction. After about ¼ mile we came upon a dozen turkeys down off the ridge. I threw up my binos and could clearly see a long beard in the mix. Being caught squarely out in the open without any brush within 50 yards, we decided to stay put. Lying flat on our backs, our play would be to call them up over the crest of the hill close enough for a shot but before they could clearly identify us.

turkey hunting
                                                           Odd hunting position but it worked

 

Lying there while straining to see past my upright feet, I began calling. And just like magic several turkeys suddenly appeared. As they crested over the skyline, I could see a couple of bright red heads and knew that jakes were leading the charge. Even though I knew a long beard was somewhere down off the hill, I wasn’t going to pass on this opportunity…I drilled a jake at 25 yards! We quickly jumped to our feet to get a better look and to possibly get a second shot at the scattering turkeys and spotted the big mature long beard running away at 40 yards. Carson managed to get off a quick shot, but the tom took flight and was gone. I pulled out my phone, it was just after 2:00 p.m. We took a few pictures, cleaned our bird and headed back to tear down camp and headed for home. Even though the weather was a bit rough, the hunt was an absolute success! With the Utah turkey hunt starting soon, our plan is to come back to Idaho in the fall to try to fill our remaining tags…that might be quite the challenge.

I finally scored on a turkey

                                                           I finally scored on a turkey