Scott ‘ Coach’ Stankowski
CWS Senior Outdoor Writer
After having the boys tag out during the youth hunt, I was looking forward to being able to focus on myself for my turkey season.
With the way Wisconsin turkey seasons are arranged, it makes it tough to hunt opening day. That is discouraging; unless you have a flexible job or are retired, it does not bode well for us who have more rigid work schedules. The beginning time periods start fairly late in the morning so I had about 45 minutes to an hour to hunt before work each day.
I had obligations going into the weekend and really didn’t get a chance to get out. On Thursday evening, after one of Austin’s baseball games, we drove to a property we have permission to hunt and CJ saw a black blob tucked way back in a field. I paid attention on my way to work the next day and sure enough on the other end of the field there was a tom strutting.
I had another place to hunt during the weekend. I typically like to only hunt the property close to home before or after school. I am not sure why as my friend Randy drove past the place on Saturday and the bird was out displaying to some lady friends in basically the same spot. I skipped it again on Sunday thinking my old timey honey holes would produce. I hunted the whole weekend from sunup to sunset.
I had a few opportunities but nothing solid. I did feel with as much time that I spent in the woods that the numbers of birds were down from previous years. I had seen a load of turkeys in the fall and wondered if perhaps all the standing corn remaining on the cob had anything to do with it.
The corn stayed up because it was too moist to harvest. As it thawed it would have a tendency to mold. Moldy corn kills turkeys. I did see some evidence of that in the woods.
Monday produced a rainstorm, and with limited time I figured the tom wouldn’t be in his spot till a little later, but I was wrong. On my way to work, he was in the same area feeding with the hens.
So it boiled down to the last day. I got up, left the decoys in the truck and headed out to the edge of the field where he had been. It was fairly breezy and on top of that there was a dusting of snow on the ground. It had not stopped snowing but for the most part it was melting as it hit the ground. Fortunately I was able to hear a bird gobbling on the roost twice about 300 yards away.
I heard another gobble on the ground about twenty minutes later but it seemed a lot further away.
I just wasn’t sure.
Then I saw a hen about hundred and fifty yards out coming down a logging road from his direction. I repositioned myself and waited. It did not take much longer for her sisters to come bustling silently down the trail into the alfalfa field.
I second guessed my position. I was sitting in an old deer blind on the end of a row of 20-year-old pines. The birds were about 80 yards away and should have just set up next to the trail. This is the story of hunting– always wanting to be somewhere just a bit different than where you are.
That notion held true for the next half an hour. As the hens made their way into the field to feed, the wily gobbler followed in full strut. He teased me constantly coming to within what I thought was range. My safety off, back on again and again.
I wrestled with myself. Should I take the shot? He is within 45 yards– or is he? I was behind a tree peering around the side. The hens were moving away. Should I get up and run towards him when he is strutting away from me? Why did I not sit closer to the trail?
I finally decided to call. I started with some hen yelps and switched to clucks and purrs, they heard me based on their cocked ears, but paid as much attention to me as a student on a spring day.
The hens began to walk back towards the logging road. Was I going to have to make a move? Then a hen started to yelp. I yelped back and she replied with greater vigor. We battled for about a minute, and I could tell she was getting agitated. The four sisters started to walk the edge of the woods my way. The tom stayed adrift coming in tow.
As the ladies stayed closer to the wood line, he kept his distance displaying in the field making a direct walk towards my position. He had heard my yearning and wanted to let his girls now he was in charge. He was in range for sure now as I slipped the safety off. 35 yards, 30, 25, 20. He was still in full strut as I ripped a tune on my diaphragm that sounded like something I worked on in the early 90s. He didn’t budge, 15 yards. I called again, and he didn’t move. I hate shooting at a bird in full strut but I had to, he was going to be in my lap. There was a hen to the right of me closer than 10 yards. I pulled the trigger and laid him out, not a whisper nor a kick came from his body.
His 22-pound frame boasted a ten inch beard and one inch spurs a neat 2-year-old that holds great memories every time I drive to and from work. I tagged him, got him home, dropped off the gun and changed. My ride past this time was a little bit faster as I made it to work just in time.
I love this time of the year.
Until next time,