Let the Grind Begin.
One of the most mind boggling things about hunting for me has always been how dynamically different it can be from season to season. 2017 was lights out. I was blessed to take four turkeys in two different states and only hunted a total of about five days. This year… not so much.
I knew things were going to be strange this year as everything seemed to be late. Winter just hung on for what seemed like an extra month. Early spring brought some massive temperature swings and weather conditions changed on what felt like an hourly schedule. By the time turkey season actually came around, it was going to be a complete toss-up as to the pulse of the season itself on the property I hunt.
At first light the second morning of season in MO, things were pretty typical. Turkeys were gobbling and I was hoping for a quick hunt so I could get to work. At fly-down, a tom started gobbling at my calls. Most of the turkeys I had killed at this spot in seasons past would strut through the field and work their way almost to the fence where I could get a shot. Not this tom. He would stay about 80 yards from the fence and would make a brisk walk past my calling location to a draw about a hundred yards down the field edge where he would disappear. Then, when I would set up to ambush him in the draw, and make a call at first light, he would go a completely different direction. He did this to me and my hunting partners three different times throughout the season.
My third time out, I was able to harvest an 18lb jake after letting the same pair of jakes walk the day before. At this point, the season was waning and so was my patience. Up until then, I had two different occasions where hens would be within only a few yards calling like crazy and zero toms would even respond to them.
Moral of the story; A plethora of 4 plus year-old toms on their own schedule not responding to calls, makes for some long sits and poor hunting stories. I hunted seven days, and had zero toms come within shooting distance.
From Initiation to Graduation
In spite of the struggle, I was able to witness a cool dynamic this year. I hunted with my brother for the first time in several seasons. Normally, his work schedule wouldn’t allow for him to do much scouting, so our hunting typically consisted of me finding some turkeys to try to hunt and then it would be more like a guide scenario than a team effort.
This season was different. While I was guiding for a friend, my brother connected with his first tom. Calling completely on his own on a different part of the farm, he harvested a great two year old gobbler. For me, this was a beautiful part of the season. I’ve been taking him hunting since he was about ten, and we were blessed to harvest turkeys every season together. This kill was a graduation of sorts.
I was also able to take a dear friend of mine out for his first turkey hunt ever. We did it up right. This was the initiation. We camped for two nights on the front end of the property we were hunting. Tent, campfire and all. The strong wind and rain the first night weren’t a deterrent, even though it would have made some great You Tube fail footage! After things finally got set up, all we seemed to do was talk about how nice it was to unplug and step away from the world for a while.
The first evening, because of dwindling rain, we sat in my pop-up blind and listened for turkeys to fly up. A bobcat came to within a few yards as she made her way toward a group of hens on the other side of the ridge. It was first for both of us. We sat until dark and eased back to camp. It was a cold camp that night because everything was soaked fro the earlier storms.
The next morning, we tangled with “Big Boy”, the gobbler I mentioned earlier. He did the exact same thing he had done to me twice before. He put on a show at about 250 yards, walked past us at about 80, and never gave us a second thought.
Our final morning was much of the same, except this time, we decided to cut and run on a different part of the farm. We didn’t hear any gobbles, but we stuck it out to the 1:00Pm shooting time limit.
In the End
Between the two different guys, it was like a graduation and an initiation. My brother, graduating to the solo turkey hunter, and my friend Jake being initiated into one of the most fun types of hunting that exists. It was almost an example of “turkey hunting discipleship” from first call to send off.
2018 was hard hunting, but it was filled with blessings. In the JCS camp, we didn’t eat tag soup. We were able to harvest a Jake and a nice two year old. But all that pales in comparison to the memories we were able to gather.