I’ve hunted turkeys for a long time. I used to go out with my Dad and my uncle each year and we had a lot of good times and made a lot of memories but I never had a chance to take a turkey. It was always something weird. My uncle would sit behind me about 10 yards and call. Luck would have it on our closest encounter we were in some pines near a forest road and had a nice tom walk behind me and in front of him. The Tom was so close but just no shot. This is where I ended up taking a break from turkey hunting for a while. My uncle had a rare form of cancer and he essentially went paralyzed over several years from the tumors and suffered a lot of chronic pain. He’d fight it as best he could to get in the woods with us, turkey hunting was his absolute favorite. He wanted so badly to get me a bird. Once he passed away we didn’t really go turkey hunting as much. I don’t know that Dad and I made a conscious decision not to, we just didn’t. It just felt different without him.
After only turkey hunting a few times here and there, 4 years ago I decided it was time to get a turkey and I’d somewhat recently started bowhunting. I started out still carrying the shotgun but eventually decided I wanted to only a take bow, purely a personal choice. As with any hunting scenario, time and access are key and I’ve always been short on both. While I’ve called birds in they’d get hung up with hens or just stop. The scenario that played out a few times; they’d come right down a forest road that happened to be 20 yards away but about 5 yards into the neighbors property so all I could do is watch.
As many of you know I recently moved to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota from Central Virginia and luckily I was invited to hunt with my friend Donnie Vincent on some properties over in Wisconsin. I’ve gotten to know Donnie over the last couple of years and when I told him I was moving out here there was no hesitation, I think he might have been more excited to take me hunting than I was to go! Needless to say the move here was a bit of a whirlwind and I obviously didn’t put in to draw early season tags in Wisconsin. A month or so ago I got a text from Donnie, “Get online and buy a 4th and 5th season Wisconsin turkey tag right now.” So I did! The anticipation of getting after some turkeys along with building my new Chill R has been almost unbearable.
My first tag was good for May 7th through May 13th so I took off Friday May 9th to get a long weekend chasing birds. We wanted to have plenty of time to get out there, find a spot and settle in because we were going to a new property with limited scouting. I got up at 1:30AM to pack the car and make the hour drive to Donnie’s. We headed out at about 3:30AM, we had to pick up a blind from a friend, then navigate to the new property. The property is a long hilly field that is basically a perfect set up for turkeys. There is great visibility for you to spot turkeys and for them to see the decoys. The bordering woods contain diverse food and cover as well.
The morning started slow. We’d gotten a monsoon-like amount of rain the day before and it was warm, humid and very foggy. We expected the birds to be quiet because of the weather. We both hoped for the best but had pretty low expectations although we were both just excited to be out there. We chatted in a whisper most of the morning and called a little every 15 minutes or so. There were a few distant gobbles but absolutely nothing nearby. As we talked Donnie spotted a hen a solid 100 yards out. We didn’t expect much but saw it as a good sign that they were on their feet and moving. We got our binoculars out and noticed she was heading right for us. About that time we saw five jakes, then a couple more hens and then three big toms all moving at a nice clip headed right for us. The blind was kind of a mess, there was about 4 inches of thick mud and standing water beneath our feet. We scrambled to throw on some dark face paint and get set up quickly.
The hen was first to arrive and made her way to our DSD breeding pair decoys. Not far behind the toms and jakes were juxting for position, as they got closer they saw the decoys and got pretty pissed off. The dominant Tom ran over, came to half strut and got in the decoys face. I slowly drew, aimed and released. Nothing but feathers. I aimed a tad low on purpose because they were at 8 yards and apparently I didn’t need to, because the arrow went much too low. The birds scattered off to my left but didn’t go far. I couldn’t see them because of the blind but Donnie could still see them and was giving me a whispered play by play. The lead hen never really left she stayed feeding and preening around the decoys.
All concept of time was lost but it was probably about 10 minutes before they made their way back to the decoys, this was the only time we heard a gobble. They slowly made their way over and the hen spotted me glancing down to nock another arrow. She clucked a little but never left, just looked a little worried. The other toms wanted to come over, walking in circles that slightly grew with each lap getting closer and closer. Finally they were headed in range and I drew again but I think they spotted my broadhead. They started walking away and Donnie whispered, “If you’ve got a shot you better take it.” The tom was about 20 or so yards out and walking away. I aimed slightly above center mass and released. He never took another step, he dropped right there and was stone dead in under 10 seconds. I sat there in disbelief as Donnie was slapping my leg excitedly whispering “You got him dude!'” over and over.
I’m not one to get all crazy and scream catch phrases when I’ve killed something. My successes tend to be few and far between and I usually just sit their in quiet disbelief mainly thinking., “Holy Crap, did that really just happen?” We sat there for several minutes quietly talking in excitement and texting friends, letting the birds slowly move away. In my fourth season of going after turkeys with a bow I had finally killed my first ever turkey. I made a shot that I was proud of and quickly killed my target. I wish my Dad was there to see it but I called him as soon as we got to town. Perhaps more so, I wish my uncle could have shared that time with me but getting to share it with Donnie was pretty amazing. I have a huge amount of respect for him as a person and hunter. I’m extremely thankful for his generosity.
Once the turkeys cleared out of the field we celebrated a little and took a load of pictures. Even though it seemed like forever, he was dead by 7:20AM. He had two beards measuring 9.75″ and 6.5″, weighed about 24 pounds and had 3/4″ spurs. After taking pictures we went to leave only to get my VW Passat stuck in the mud so we just hung around and had a snack while we waited for a friend to come pull us out.
I started the ‘Building a Monster’ series featuring my new Chill R with the hope of capping it off with a dead bird and honestly I’m pretty shocked it all worked out, especially on the morning of the first hunt. You don’t need all the best gear to get out there and be successful but I know that I definitely had some advantages. It all comes down to putting the arrow where it matters and luckily I did that, even if it took two shots. Upon cleaning the bird I found that my GrizzlyStik capped with a Silver Flame XXL broadhead had severed his spine and cut the heart completely in half.
There will be several more posts about this hunt with a few tips and lessons learned for hunting turkeys with a bow from a blind. Hopefully next weekend I’ll have some more pictures of a dead bird to post as I still have another tag!