3 State Spring

By: Marc Schwabenlander

A rolling hill hid the gobbling tom that I thought for sure was over the next crest. (Aren’t they all…) I had rounded the 10-acre woodlot in the mostly terraced agricultural landscape to get closer to this fella who was pronouncing his presence to all the area hens this late afternoon. Since I’ve never hunted this farm, I had no idea what lie around the corner of the woods other than more of last year’s picked crops and an Eastern tom. Without an encounter, the bird entered the woods as light faded. The next morning my plan would put me at a vantage point where my decoys were in full view of any fired up gobbler coming out of that 10-acre woodlot.

Sometimes adventures of hunting new places are what we strive for, but there’s also something to say about the comfort and familiarity of an old honey hole. The spring of 2015 gifted me with some of each.

Wisconsin hooks


WISCONSIN

 The family land in Wisconsin was essentially a gimme that I would see and hear turkeys. Well, except for that one year when we had winter until something like July and the birds don’t winter there, but that was an anomaly.

I didn’t usually hunt from a blind when I’m here, but this year I brought the Covert Triple Threat because I was going to make an effort to take a bird with archery equipment although shotgun was perfectly legal. But that didn’t mean I left the Mossberg at home. I loaded my self down with about 75 pounds of equipment and hiked up the bluff to a field where I saw birds every year.

As the sky lightened, the birds awoke, but nothing too close. There were several off to my right that I could tell had flown down and were coming closer. A large flock of hens, jakes, and a couple toms entered the field about 500 yards off. Their natural movement brought them in my direction and as I gave a few calls, the jakes began running. Running toward me! YES!

The birds were splitting up as they approached and I lost sight of most of them because of the field topography. I adjusted my bow and video camera tripod and waited. The minutes passed by. From the opposite direction, a lone hen walked into my hen, jake, and full strut tom decoy set. Blind luck or good calling? Don’t know, didn’t care. At the same time, a hand full of jakes and a full strut tom rolled over a rise about 60 yards out and walked into my set.

WI gobbler

The hen in front of me was good and bad all at the same time. She helped draw in the boys, but she kept looking at me. I couldn’t turn as the tom hobbled closer off to my right side. I finally got a moment to pick my bow up off the Bowstix bipod and drawback on the strutter. The motion unfortunately tipped my camera tripod and startled the hen, which spooked the whole lot of them. I had a bead on the tom and let loose an arrow that harmlessly flew over his back at 20 yards. He took a couple hops and stopped at about 35 yards. Remember that Mossberg I didn’t leave at home? Here’s why. Kaboom! Tom down.

MINNESOTA

Archery only. No saving grace of the “Kaboom!” this time. 2015 was the second year hunting this property. There’s one 20-acre field abutting a 20-acre woodlot, so the set-up choices are limited, but the birds are plentiful. In 2014, the first morning brought a coyote right into my decoys to deploy and a huge tom 30 minutes later. Easy as pie.

So I set up in the same place in 2015, right? Nope. I had better plans. The first morning, birds came into the field but had no interest in my decoys right away.   I patiently waited because I had nowhere else to go. A tom eventually flanked me about 20 yards directly off to my right in the edge of the woods. I could do nothing as he strutted his stuff and gobbled for about 30 minutes because there was a brush between us and he wouldn’t come into the decoys. Seemingly out of nowhere, another tom appeared from the left and the two of them met at the decoy spread. They proceed to destroy them and provide me with an awesome show. The camera was running the whole time capturing the entire splendor.

I wish I could say I capped it off by dropping one of them, but I blew it. Oh I got a shot off no problem, they were so preoccupied that I think I could have ran out of the blind and speared one with an arrow. Probably would have been better than the shot that I sent ricocheting off the back of one of those toms. Ruined his fun, I did. That’s what he gets for destroying my decoys…

Ok, the next morning that I was able to get out, I was going to set up where I did in 2014, right? Right. I did and the birds were gobbling like crazy on the roost just a hundred yards or so inside the woods from my location. This time I was ready to make a good shot and the birds were close and it was going to be just like last year and… Yeah. The birds got down off the roost in the woods and never made another peep.

I called every so often and waited. It was one of those mornings where there was really no gobbling. That always makes it hard to stay positive and stick with it, but I’m glad I did. Several hours after fly down, there was some movement coming from the inside corner of the woods where a mowed trail entered the field. The 4 jakes popped out of the timber in several stages of strut as they showed off to my loan hen decoy. I played with them as I purred and yelped and got them all kinds of excited. They put on their own kind of show like a group of teenagers that really didn’t know what to do at their first dance.

MN jake

As I filmed the action, I decided the opportunity was too good to pass. I picked up my bow and settled my arm in the Steady Form to keep the pin on the largest jake as he tried to breed his fake girlfriend. When he hopped off, cleared his cohorts, and gave me a good body shot, I let the arrow fly. This one hit home. He took off into the woods, but the other three just stood around confused. I eventually shooed them off and blood trailed my turkey into the underbrush.

 

NEBRASKA

 Nebraska brings me back to the story at the beginning of the article. I’d never hunted in Nebraska before, so this was a fun, new adventure.   A friend’s family let me have the run of their farm for four days. The farm was next to a state park and it appeared that most of the birds new where those safe areas were.

Nebraska sunriseThat tom came out of the 10-acre woodlot the next morning in the exact same spot he went in the evening before. He could see my decoy set up as I called to him at about 150 yards out. Apparently he had something else on his mind that morning because he set a course in another direction without the least amount of interest in me or my fakeys.

That set up was my last of the trip. I had to get back to the real world. If I had more time to hunt, I would have set up along the woods where that bird was going in and out. There’s the bad part about the out-of-state trips with definite start and end dates. I guess you have to take them for what their worth: exciting, new adventures with the potential to fill a tag.

 


The 2015 spring had a little bit of everything a turkey hunter could want (and not want). Whether it was home sweet home or a trip to new ground, there was a broadhead bloodied, the sweet smell of gunpowder in the air, lessons learned, and many mornings of watching and listening to the spring world wake up. No matter where you are hunting this year, good luck to you and keep those eyes peeled and ears open.