Multi-State Turkey Hunt

Fortunately for us some of the bordering states are not too far from where we live, so we decided to do some out of state turkey hunting this past spring. And when I say “not too far”, I mean we didn’t travel 700+ miles to Kansas or Nebraska, although that sounds like a lot of fun! Even though we didn’t get to experience any mid-west turkey action, our nearby multi-state hunts were a blast!

 Merriam’s and Rio Grande turkeys 

                Merriam’s and Rio Grande early season birds with hefty beards

Hunting out of state can be tricky because often times scouting for game isn’t feasible due to the long travel times involved. So you can imagine our excitement when early the first morning on one of those turkey hunts, we heard approximately fifteen different turkeys gobbling in the distance! To be clear every single gobble did come from the private property bordering us on both sides, but we were confident that we’d be able to pull into our decoys at least one of those gobblers.

 two Rio Grande turkeys 

                            A little later Carson bagged his second huge tom

Spring had officially arrived just a few weeks prior so not surprisingly the mornings were quite chilly. However, the cold still of this morning made for ideal calling conditions as our yelps easily traveled the distance to the ears of those amorous gobbling toms. But call as we might, we never had a single turkey come to our calls during the first hour and a half of calling. Then just before 8:00 a.m. we noticed movement in the distance a few hundred yards off. Looking through my binoculars I spotted three turkeys running across the vast opening toward us. Silent in their approach, the turkeys were now closing in. Carson was determined to shoot a turkey with his bow and readied for a shot. The first two jakes began to arc around our decoys at 40 yards, but jake number three came running straight down the fence line to within 20 yards of us. The curious jake stopped to eyeball our decoys but before Carson could clearly see his beard, the turkey ran off to join his buddies; who in no time scampered up the hillside until the trio disappeared. If only the jake hadn’t approached straight on, his beard would have been as visible as it was as it ran off and Carson could have flung an arrow.


 deer decoy  tom turkey heads

                  The deer decoy almost worked                           Big contrast in head size of the two turkeys below

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful except for this one somewhat close encounter. It was about an hour after the jake incident when a turkey finally responded to our off-and-on calling. The loud gobble startled us as it thundered from the nearby hollow. Moments later the bright red headed tom stepped out from the brush 100 yards away! We ducked low behind our blind as the tom started toward us. Unprepared for this somewhat sudden encounter, Carson maneuvered his bow into position as I rustled around with my camcorder. Apparently we made just enough commotion to send the tom running back from where he came. Ugh.

Sunday morning we were up well before dawn, again attempting to locate turkeys gobbling from the roost. But unlike the day before, all was quiet. We decided to put some miles underfoot and hiked for several hours hoping to locate a turkey. While taking a much needed break, we sat glassing the opposite hillside when we spotted a turkey angling down the face of the mountain. Seconds later a gobble rang out from across the canyon, a tom! Being almost a half mile away, we beelined off the mountain as stealthily as possible, hoping to intercept that turkey somewhere in the bottom.

 diaphragm mouth call 

 Just heard a gobble, scrambling off shady side of the mountain

Sometime later we had practically given up. We had long ago passed the anticipated rendezvous point when Carson suddenly dropped to the ground in front of me, I mirrored his movement. There 100 yards ahead were three turkeys feeding. I slipped a diaphragm call into my mouth and softly called. The turkeys were at full attention instantly. A few more soft calls did the trick, here came the eager bunch! At 35 yards Carson, now carrying his shotgun, cracked off two quick shots and dumped two of the bearded three!

 two Rio Grande turkeys 

                                      Bagged two of the three that we called in

This next far-flung adventure found me companionless. Due to schedule conflicts I’d have to go at it alone. It was day one, it had taken all morning and most of the afternoon to finally reach the top of a small mountain. But all my efforts finally paid off when at 4:00 p.m. I finally heard a turkey gobble a short ways away. I strategically positioned myself within some nearby cover and began to call. Soon I was in a yelping match with a couple of hens, but the impartial tom never made a peep.

It wasn’t long before the hens were within 35 yards -- my heart was thumping! However, the cautious hens never did reveal themselves. They remained concealed behind a big clump of oak brush until they slowly moved off. After about 20 minutes of silence I decided to sneak toward their last location. I had progressed roughly 100 yards when I heard a bunch of hens yakking a little ways below me. I crept forward another 20 yards and there poking over the top of the sagebrush was five inches of a tail fan in full strut! I craned my neck to get a better view but within seconds the turkey waddled out of sight. Very tentatively I sneaked another 20 yards until I spotted a lone red head poking up through the sage. Slowly I raised my 12 gauge, aimed and pulled the trigger. At the blast six turkeys burst into the air, but the tom who’d been in my sights moments ago had taken a final dirt nap. Just like that, one tag filled and one to go.

 Rio Grande tom turkey 

          Finally spotted and tagged me the reluctant tom

On my way back to camp a squall moved in that quickly blanketed the ground with snow so I decided to call it a day, but a very successful one at that! The next morning I was up well before dawn. I had ventured up the mountain about a quarter mile from camp when a gobble pierced the silence from the oak brush maybe 80 yards away. It was still quite dark so I sat stationary until I felt I’d given the tom ample time to fly down from the roost. At that point I retrieved my glass call and softly scratched its surface with the striker. The tom gobbled, but he sounded quite a bit further up the mountain. Apparently I had waited too long so I began my pursuit. Thirty five minutes later I had circled in above where I thought the turkey might be. It was then that I heard a hen calling just a little bit below me. I scooted my way into the oak brush and waited. Minutes later I could hear the hen getting closer as she walked and called. My hope was that she’d lead those following right to me.

 turkey spurs 

            Long 1 ¼ inch spurs with a huge thick beard

Finally, a flicker of movement against the snowy backdrop, I slowly raised my binoculars. There amongst the dense oak brush was a hen weaving her way through the branches, with a strutting gobbler in tow! Anticipating their route forward, I could only see one very small opening 40 yards ahead. And if they didn’t pass through that smallest of openings, a shot wouldn’t be possible. Slowly I raised my shotgun and aimed at that void. At last the hen approached, entered and quickly passed through the narrow gap. The long beard was following her same route, but I wasn’t sure if I could make the impending instantaneous shot. With both eyes open I simultaneously looked down the barrel and intently watched the approaching tom. Seconds later a perfectly timed shot drilled the mature gobbler!

 big mature tom turkey 

                        Made the 'snap shot' on a big mature tom