April 16 MT
The MT season opened up on the 13th, but I wasn't able to get out until the 16th. It has been an unusually cold April so far and when I went out the morning of the 16th it felt more like I was hunting deer during the rut in Nov. than hunting turkeys in the spring. The morning started out with me contemplating on even going out due to the weather. It didn't take much thought and I was out the door.
I got my blind, equipment, and decoys set up and ready for the hunt. There was fresh snow on the ground and it continued to snow. I sat and called for a couple of hours with no luck. On the way in it looked like I had been beaten to the spot by other hunters due to tracks in the snow, but they appeared to be from the previous couple of days. Finally the snow stopped and I continued to call. A couple of hens eventually replied to my calls, but never came in. After a couple of hours I called it a day. I knew my first hunt would be short, but it was great getting out there and doing what I love. I may not have been successful in terms of filling my tag, but it was a very successful morning regardless of the outcome. This would be the only morning I could hunt until I head to SD to chase turkeys with my friends Stephen and Dusty.
April 19-22 SD
I started my trip by heading back to SD after my day shift, which ended at 7 pm. I hit the road with great anticipation for the hunt we had ahead of us. Stephen went home ahead of time and was able to get some scouting done early. After talking on the phone with him it was determined if the weather was to cooperate we should have a good shot at being successful.
I met up with Stephen and Dusty at Stephen's around 1:30 am and didn't get but 45 min. of sleep. I made us some breakfast and got ready to hunt for the day. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. Even as exhausted as I was I was excited to finally get out and chase some birds around.
We headed to a spot we had hunted the previous two seasons and automatically found some birds. We had a good idea what the birds would do, but they beat us to the punch and instead of coming into calls crossed a road behind us and onto property we didn't have permission on.
On to the next spot. We drove around the area and located a couple of more birds, but needed to get permission. We tried to call the landowner by phone, but didn't have any luck. We looked a couple of other spots we had hunted in the past and located some more birds. One thing we weren't lacking was birds we just needed to get permission to chase them. While waiting to hear from the landowner we continued to watch the various groups of birds. In one spot there was three very big toms strutting in an opening and just to the south was a big tom and some hens.
While waiting we decided to shoot our bows to make sure everything was on and good to go. Thank goodness we did this as my bow was shooting about a foot to the left. This is something I will do from now on every time I travel with my bow. After finally dialing it in we went back again to gain permission. At last permission was gained. We figured it wouldn't be a problem getting permission to hunt these areas, but it's always best to ask year after year.
The first place we went is where we located the three big toms strutting. We set up the blind and decoys. We prepared ourselves for a quick hunt and I began to call. After not hearing or seeing anything it appeared we were too late and the birds left the area.
We went to the next spot where we had spotted the single tom and hens. We began working to where the birds were and made a mistake and go too close to the birds and they blew out of the area. Back to the pickup we went and headed back to Stephen's to take a much needed nap by all.
After our nap we headed to the local bar and grabbed some lunch. Dusty had gained permission at another location and we decided to give it a try. As we headed to the landowners residence we spotted several birds. After talking with the landowner we went and set up. We had a decision to make on where the best spot to set up was and after some talking the spot was decided. All set up I began to call. And call. And call some more. The birds were answering, but taking their time. I continued to talk with various hens and have the toms answer now and again. Finally after a very long wait it was decided we would leave the blind and try to ambush the birds as they got close to a creek crossing. As Stephen and I exited the blind I looked up and the birds were finally working our direction. We hurriedly jumped back in the blind. We had picked a couple of toms out as they were strutting in the open. The first tom to come in was the biggest of the bunch. It was determined Dusty would take the first shot and I would follow up. Dusty's bird closed the distance and began to feed around the decoy set up. I started telling Dusty to shoot as I was afraid the bird might leave. About the time I was telling him to shoot I spotted two more fans coming over a hill. Great more birds. We had the decoys set up right around 10 yards from the blind. As soon as the two additional birds popped the hill they came running. They worked perfectly into the decoys and went to town and began spurring him. Right after they went to town Dusty took his shot and smacked his bird. I drew and shot the bird I picked out, which had a much longer beard than the other tom. I watched my bird begin to drain blood from the wound. The one downfall to this perfect setup was that Stephen left his bow in the pickup so that he could video the hunt. After shooting my bird he came back to the decoy for more. I knocked another arrow and made a good shot, not a perfect shot, but broke a leg and disabled him more. The birds were now going nuts around the decoy and another mature tom came in to join in on the action.
Eventually the birds left the area and we went to retrieve our birds. As we neared the hill the birds left over I could hear a bird flopping. I have saw in the past and know how tough turkeys can be. Stephen kept a watchful eye on Dusty's bird and watched the others keep going and his did not follow. After popping the hill my bird took off. He his the creek and dove under a tree for cover. I placed one more arrow in him to finish the job. We quickly looked at my bird and I couldn't be any more thrilled. It was the largest bird I have taken with archery equipment and had an 8 1/4 inch beard and 1 inch spurs. Now onto Dusty's bird. We walked the creek where the birds ran too and up jumped Dusty's bird and into the water. The bird got back on the bank and found cover. Dusty finished him off with one more arrow and we had our birds. Time for some pictures. The morning started out cold and snowing and turned into a beautiful sunny evening. We tagged our birds and took some photos to remember this great hunt. We got everything working at Stephen's cabin and settled in for the night. Our friend Matt and his girlfriend Katrina came over to the cabin, drank a few beers, told some stories, and cooked up some great elk steaks for dinner.
The morning of the second day we decided to rest up and slept in. Later in the day a good friend of ours Bill Soyland showed up in camp and joined in on the fun. We stuck around the house and visited for a while. Dusty had a prior commitment for the rest of the day so he headed into town. Stephen, Bill, and I headed towards the Grand River to look for some birds and maybe do some scouting for the next morning's hunt. Lucky for us we immediately found some birds and made a plan to set up on the birds.
We hiked our gear down to an opening and set up the blind and decoys. After the second set of yelps on my box call the birds answered. It was hard to tell exactly where the birds were at, but they kept answering and slowly working closer to us. A couple of hens made themselves visible and would talk back to me and work their way in. Pretty soon we spotted the big tom that was grouped up with the hens. He would gobble now and again when I was calling, but they were taking their sweet time to come in. We had set up in a good spot, but put ourselves in a bowl that was lower than most of the other terrain making it hard for the birds to find us. I continued to call and call, and the birds finally came our way. The tom and a single hen began to come closer and closer, but the hen was very cautious. The tom finally got to a point where he could see our decoy setup. After noticing the decoy set up the tom couldn't take it any longer and came sprinting in.
The bird stopped right at the decoy. Bill kept saying to just film the bird, but Stephen was at full draw. The bird began to act like he might jump on the decoy and Stephen let his arrow fly. A perfect shot the bird did three back flips and died not but a couple of feet from the decoy. A very easy tracking job and ethical kill. Amazingly he was the only tom in the area. Bird number three down and another giant bird. He had a 8 3/4 in. beard as well as a double beard and inch long spurs. This was by far our best spring of turkey hunting in the past three seasons. We took some photos and headed for home. A great end to day 2.
Day 3 started out with heading back to the areas we first hit on day 1. We located the birds we were hoping to hunt, but they beat us and made it to private property we couldn't hunt. Down the road we went and located the group that blew out on day one. All four of us were hunting now and we took two blinds in. We set up the blinds and decoys and got ready. As I called the birds did what they do sometimes and went the opposite direction. It was Bill's turn to hunt this time. We picked up and headed to where we last saw the birds before they went out of sight. We knew we were close. Stephen and I went to go check if we could see the birds, and to our amazement we were very close. The only problem is that we were too close. The birds spotted us and took off. We tried to call them back, but had no luck.
After having the birds flee we looked around the area for more birds but had no luck. We headed back to Stephen's and again relaxed for the day and rested up a little more. Bill had to take off for the weekend so it was down to three of us once again. We again headed to the area where Dusty and I doubled up. The birds were scarce, but did eventually find them, but made the decision to leave them alone and called it a day. Dusty again had other things going on so he was done hunting for the trip. This ended day 3. Up to this point we had an awesome trip so it was nice to relax the last couple of days. Stephen and I spend Day 4 relaxing at the cabin and caught up just visiting. We both had to work the next day so we headed out in the afternoon. I made my trip back to MT and am hoping to get back out after some birds in the coming weeks in MT.
May 6th MT
Where to begin other than amazing. The day didn't result in a harvest, but an encounter I will forever remember. My friend Jerry McPherson got a hold of me and we decided we needed to get out after some turkeys. Jerry wanted to get some video of some prototypes and I was all for getting out and doing some calling.
We headed out west of Colstrip and hiked for a ways and attempted to locate some birds. Finally after a while we located the birds in the roost. The only problem was that they were a long ways away from where we were at. We hiked and hike some more until we finally caught sight of the birds. There were multiple toms in the area. Unsure of the number I would guess between 5 and 6.
I called and Jerry called, and I called some more. Finally after about 25 minutes of the toms going nuts a single one couldn't take it anymore and started walking our way. He would gobble and strut and slowly keep coming. I continued to call and pretty soon the tom did what I didn't expect. He appeared to be weary and took his time coming in. The bird worked to our right and went to the top of a hill. There was a fence between us and the tom. I could tell he was trying to find a place to cross, but wasn't having any luck. I continued to call softly and the bird started to get closer. He finally crossed the fence. There was one major problem. With the direction the tom came in, it placed me between him and the decoys. I knew it was a long shot, but I hoped the bird would walk past where I was lying and work into the decoys. I quickly learned how great a turkey's hearing is as I peaked over the berm I was lying behind and the bird was under 30 yards away and closing the distance right to me. He began to strut and look for the hen that was making all of the calling. Pretty soon I again looked and the bird was closer yet. I hunkered down, and waited. I knew he would be close to me, but not as close as he came. The bird came around a corner and appeared at my feet. Not 10 yards not 5 yards, but less than 3 feet. The bird was spitting and drumming and was keyed in on the decoys. I thought for sure he would keep going, but I'm pretty sure he caught me. He lifted his head and went the other way. For a split second I figured the bird would jump on top of me. He was close, too close. I was caught and there was nothing I could do. I tried to jump up to maybe get a shot, but was never presented with an ethical shot so the bird lives another day. This will be one of the most exciting set ups I have ever been a part of. The day ended with us heading back to the pickup and headed home. Even though I didn't get a shot it will be one of my favorite turkey hunting moments of my life.
May 9th and 10th MT
The season for spring turkey in MT doesn't close until the 15th, but the 9th and 10th were the last days I could make it out for the season. It turned out to be a great season as I took my best bird to date with my bow in SD and had some great encounters in MT as well.
The morning of the 9th started out with me heading to a spot I knew had birds in the area. I started by trying to locate them, but never had any luck. I packed up and hit another spot I had deer hunted in the past and crossed a couple of turkeys. As I got out of my pickup the birds were already gobbling, and they weren't too far from where I parked. I hurriedly got my blind and decoys set up and began calling. I was answered multiple times by multiple birds. I thought for sure I was going to get another chance at a bird. I had two birds working my direction and all of a sudden they stopped answering me. Not too long after the gobbling stopped it started to sprinkle some rain. As in the past I knew this is what made them stop. Before too long the sun was back out and I had another bird working. It took me a while, but he finally gave in and gobbled his head off as he came in. I continued to call and listen to the bird and pretty soon I could tell he was nervous about coming in. As soon as he came in the bird circled around me and never came in. It is getting late in the season so birds are getting more and more hesitant about coming into the calls. I finished up after this bird left me and called it a day. Leah had to work so it was daddy duty for me when I got home.
The morning of the 10th I was up bright and early again and headed back to the area where I found the birds the previous day. I went further from the pickup this time and could hear birds on the roost. I got set up and began to softly call. They were going nuts I had around 5 different toms around me and the hens were calling back as well. Again I could tell the birds were hesitant as the continually circled me, but would not make an approach. Finally I got two birds working together and they started me way. The closest they got was around 70 yards and I even got to see one, but that was the extent of it. The birds quieted down, and I figured my morning was over. While picking things up and breaking down I heard one more bird in the distance. I called and got him to commit to coming in. As before this bird too circled around me and wouldn't come in. My MT season ended without a bird, but I had a great season overall. In the end I now have a good spot to shoot for next season a little bit earlier.
As turkey season is getting closer it's time to dust off the calls and get ready. I have certain ways I like to call and have had good and bad luck with them all. Sometimes the worst sound you make is exactly what they want to hear. I will go through the calling that I like to do and the types of calls I use.
Probably the most common call to use is the yelp. It is a location call and is the one I use the most. The yelp consists of a consistent sound on a cadence. This call can be done on a box call, slate, call and mouth calls. I will start calling with my box call and call quiet. I will vary the number of yelps I do anywhere from 3 up to 12 or more straight yelps. I have watched hens in the wild that will yelp up towards 20 times. Generally when I'm trying to locate a tom I will yelp 3 to 4 times and wait and see if I get an answer back. If I don't get an answer I will yelp again 3 to four times a little louder. After calling for around 15 to 20 minutes if I haven's located a tom I will hit different areas and continue yelping until I locate a bird. Also when trying to locate a bird I will cut mixed in with yelps to act like an excited hen, but I will cover cutting in a bit.
One I locate a bird I will set up and continue with yelps as well as cutting, purring, and putting. Having a variety of calling sequences will help you find birds more often and become more successful. Also when yelping there are different sounds as a young hen has a higher pitch and clear yelp, while a mature hen will have a deeper raspy yelp. For me I have had a little better luck yelping like a younger hen, but a mature tom will most likely like the sound of a more mature or dominant hen.
The next call I use most often is the cut. Cutting consists of what I would consider a short yelp. The yelp isn't a long call, but longer than cutting. In order to cut I use my box call and mouth call. I will give short quick burst in intermittent sequences. I will do cuts of 3's, 2's, and 1's and vary them in different orders. While cutting I will also yelp in between. When you combine the cut and yelp it signifies an excited hen and for me has been the most successful when calling toms in. It seems whenever the toms won't talk and I know they are in the area cutting and yelping together will sometimes get them fired up and have them come running in.
Another great call is the purr. I will purr on a box call, slate call, and mouth call. The most difficult call to master is the purr. I will only use the purr when I have a bird coming in. It has a great calming affect and lets the tom know the hen is relaxed and works great to bring that tom just a little bit closer. The purr can be achieved on a mouth call by basically fluttering your tongue as you blow air. On a slate call the easiest way is to simply lightly drag your friction stick across the top of the slate. It will almost softly bounce on top of the slate making the purring sound. Finally on the box call you simply do the same as the slate call and softly take the top of the box call along the edge. I don't use this call all that often, but it is a great tool to have and use as all calling can trigger a response.
Putts and Clucks
A call I will commonly group together with purring is putting. Putting is also known as clucking. I will putt on my slate call and mouth calls. To putt you simply blow lightly with a mouth call and almost say the word "putt." The putt or cluck is used by turkeys to keep track of each other and has a good calming effect. It is a very quiet call so in close proximity is where it works best, but you can use it when they are further out as well as their hearing is unbelievable.
A call I don't use are kee kee runs. Kee kee runs are typically used by a hen who has lost track of her polts or young. It is almost a whistle sound. You can make kee kee runs with a mouth call by using more pressure and more air. It is very high pitched and goes great by adding a few soft purrs in the mix. Again this isn't a call I use, but a great tool to have just in case it might be the only thing they will respond to.
These are just a few of the things I use to call turkeys in. The way I have found what works best is to simply go out and use them on the real thing. I have found that I kind of have things going right when I have a hen come in and can talk back and forth with her. That is a great sign that your calling is working. The goal might not be to have hens come in, but when they do and you can talk back and forth it is a blast. As I stated before a young hen has worked for me in the past, but you never know when that boss hen raspy sound will work better. Doing different sets of calls in random orders are the best way to go. The key is sounding as realistic as you can, and that can only happen with time in the field and practice.
If you are just starting to call I would advise to start with a box call as it can be the easiest to use and the loudest when locating and quietest when they are coming. Also just concentrate on yelping and cutting and you should do just fine. The other thing to avoid, which I am guilty of, is not over calling. The best way to do it is get a bird going and make sure you can tell he is coming in and stop calling. If he is coming in he will most likely keep gobbling even when you aren't calling. If this is the case it doesn't hurt to call back every now and again, but don't over call. I find myself just enjoying them come in close and getting them to gobble, but this can also prevent a bird from coming in.
I have found success in turkey hunting by mastering calling and placing decoys so the birds have something to look at. The calls I use can be found at buglingbull.com. They have a variety of turkey calls that work great. To learn how to call just jump on the web and search and you will be amazed at the resources available. I hope these tips will help you bag your first bird or a good refresher on calling.