The Silent Approach

The spring turkey hunt here in Utah was surprisingly difficult for me. The Fish and Game said turkey numbers were down due to the drought conditions that Utah has experienced for the past couple of years, so apparently that contributed to my struggles.

 predator killed turkey  wild turkey eggs

      Some predator did some damage, there were nearby bear tracks           Several eggs had been eaten too

It seemed that none of the areas I’ve normally hunted held turkeys or if they did, the hunting pressure was high and turkeys were scarce. I even scouted the same desert area from last year and didn’t see, hear or find a single turkey track or any droppings.

 desert wildflowers blooming  desert wildflowers

          Awesome bloom of wildflowers down the two-track                          Close-up view of some

After days and days of failed attempts, I finally had some luck. I got an early start and was up at 4:30 a.m. Just before daybreak I had turkeys gobbling from a couple different sets of trees on either side of me, so I set up my decoy in between them both. In the low light I could see turkey droppings, this patch of open area looked like a probable strutting area. However, just before fly-down, hens from both roosting areas became extremely vocal, vying for a mate. I tried to match their calling in hopes of luring a tom to me, but after about an hour everything went silent and none of the gobbles ever got closer.

 assortment of turkey calls, diaphragm mouth call, box call, crystal call  strutting tom turkey

   My assortment of turkey calls, mouth diaphragm, crystal, box             Really thought both would commit

At this point I figured I was now wasting time in this location so I gathered up my calls, grabbed my backpack and stood up to go retrieve my decoy. I glanced down the path to my right and there a ways off was a strutting tom! Bewildered I remained motionless; I couldn’t believe what I just saw! He hadn’t come from the direction of either of the gobbling turkeys, so his emergence caught me totally off guard. Slowly I sunk to the ground. Quietly I retrieved my calls and made some soft clucks. It took about 10 minutes until two toms popped into view and strolled closer. Then at 80 yards they diverted off their path and headed toward the thick oak brush. A few soft clucks and purrs from my call were of no interest to them, they vanished.

 big spurs on turkey 1 ½ inch spurs 

       My biggest yet, just over 1 ½ inch spurs

For thirty minutes I periodically called, ever so softly, often staring hard into the brush where I last watched the turkeys disappear. Then I noticed something odd, maybe out of place or an inconsistent coloring of sorts. Slowly I raised my binoculars to get a better look. And wouldn’t you know it; there a few feet back in the thick oak brush was the red head of a tom! Maybe the curious tom had been there all along, who knows. Anyway, I made a few very subtle calls and the tom popped out of the brush and began the silent approach in full strut! In no time at all it was over, I had scored on the biggest tom of my turkey career!

 huge Rio Grande tom turkey 

                                 Apparently I needed a cameraman to capture the entire bird