Can't Win Them All

With the youth turkey hunt starting on a Friday we did our best to adjust schedules so that we could hunt opening morning, it wasn’t easy but we finally managed. As soon as my grandson’s baseball game finished on Thursday evening we headed for southern Utah. Exhausted we finally pulled into a familiar spot just after midnight. Not wanting to lose any more precious time, we threw our sleeping bags into the bed of the truck and slept under the stars.

 sleeping in bed of truck 

           Spent two nights sleeping under the stars

Before first light we had our decoys set and waited to begin calling until legal shooting time. After 45 minutes of silence we decided to move to see if we could locate turkeys elsewhere. We tried our locator calls as we sneaked along but couldn’t seem to turn up any turkeys. On two separate occasions we actually flushed a single turkey from the dense brush. It felt more like a pheasant hunt as both turkeys somehow hunkered down without our seeing them and didn’t flush until we practically stepped on them. Around mid-day we saw a couple of turkeys way off on a distant bluff, but they were on the move and weren’t interested in our calls.

 hen turkey 

                                                Called a hen in close and now she's headed out

For our final afternoon stand, we placed a couple of decoys near a line of cottonwood trees. It took some time but we finally managed to entice a couple of turkeys toward us. The first was a hen that came into within 25 yards. The second was a tom that came in from the rear but we only saw him for a few moments 70 yards behind us and then he vanished. It was late in the day when we spotted 4 jakes approaching from our right. As they closed the distance, we unexpectedly heard nearby peeps off to our left. Our focus had been so intent on the jakes that we hadn’t noticed the dozen turkeys that had sneaked in to within 30 yards! I looked over the bunch very closely and thought a couple of them could have been very young jakes from a late season brood, but I couldn’t be positive so we focused back on the obvious jakes to our right.

 flock of turkeys  jake turkeys

  Possibly a jake or two in the bunch but not 100% sure             Jakes wouldn't commit, barely out of reach

For whatever reason the jakes seemed wise to our decoys and they began to circle out and around us. They passed in front at 50 – 60 yards, too far, no shot. After a bit, the jakes continued their semicircle until they met up on the far side of the hens that had themselves moved away to about 45 yards. A couple of minutes later one jake closed in on the flock so it was a now or never shot opportunity. Daxton leveled his 20 gauge and took the shot, but it wasn’t to be, the turkeys were gone in a flash. Early the next morning we tried one last time before heading home for Daxton’s doubleheader baseball game but we were unsuccessful. Our next opportunity would have to wait until we headed out of state.

A number of days had passed, it was early May and Daxton’s baseball tournament up north gave us the opportunity to participate in an out-of-state turkey hunt. As soon as the Saturday doubleheader game ended, we headed into the foothills. That first evening we didn’t hear any gobbles but did see 3 turkeys just before dark sneaking across the hill below us. We were only able to identify one, a hen, but that was enough for us to choose this area for our morning hunt.

 Portable turkey blind 

                                      Daxton's view from behind our portable blind

Our alarm sounded at 4:35 a.m. and within minutes we were hiking up the mountain. For the first couple of hours we heard distant gobbles but none ever sounded as if they were getting closer. It was difficult to remain in one spot but we continued to sit patiently with our single hen decoy positioned out front. Then it happened, the sound of a nearby turkey. It was only a very faint peep, I guess technically a cluck, but the distinct sound was unmistakable, we had a turkey close. Staring hard in every direction, we searched for any type of movement. All of a sudden 2 redheaded jakes poked their heads up through a cluster of thick dead branches 25 yards ahead. But that would be the only look they’d give us. Moments later they slinked back into the thick cover never to be seen again. Of course Daxton was justifiably dejected by the missed opportunity. I reemphasized that patience was key and that we needed to stay the course.

 1st turkey hunt, first turkey  perfect turkey tail fan

    So excited - his first turkey!                  Tail fan before becoming rain soaked

We continued with our periodic calling. About 20 minutes later I noticed a red spot about the size of a .50 cent piece over to our left but within the blink of an eye it was gone. I whispered to Daxton to ready his gun knowing that a tom was lurking close by. Minutes later I spotted the tom sneaking across the hillside 35 yards below us. Being taller than Daxton, I could more easily see over our portable blind and was telling him to take the shot. But his view was limited, he couldn’t see the gobbler. It seemed as if the tom was going to get away, internally I was panicking. But as luck would have it the tom exposed himself to Daxton as the terrain’s elevation changed as the turkey moved further away. Clearly Daxton was ready because at exactly the moment the long beard became visible to him at 40 yards, the 20 gauge sent the gobbler flopping down the mountainside!

In the end patience was the key. As we experienced during the youth hunt, you can’t win them all. But as we persisted we proved that it is possible to win!

 flock of turkeys  jake turkeys

    Congrats Dax on 1st turkey, a mature gobbler                Rare double beard 9 ½ in. and 4 ½ in.