It was getting late. The shadows were long, and the steady breeze was rapidly dying away as the sun crept toward the western horizon. I made a cackle with my mouth call, and a couple of clucks with my box call and listened intensely for that return gobble. But alas, nothing responded. I looked over at Joel, my cameraman and non-hunting son and shrugged my shoulders and waited.
I started thinking back about our weeklong turkey hunt and the scouting that had proceeded it. We were hunting in Kalkaska County in Upper Michigan where turkeys were as plentiful as deer. My wife's folks owned about 30 acres that we could use as a base camp from which to execute the hunt. Northern Michigan had seen a pretty mild winter this year, and anticipating an early spring, my wife, daughter, son and I had applied for an early permit for turkeys.
We started our hunt over six months earlier with regular scouting trips to the places we would hunt, and a fall turkey hunt where my wife, Suzanne, would bag her first bird. Of course, there was the mandatory turkey watching sessions from the front room of my in-laws' house -- hot cup of Earl Gray tea in hand. Spring found us back at the hunting grounds with an eye to gobblers. We were planning to hunt in two areas, and found ample turkey sign and the birds themselves, on a fairly regular basis. The gobblers and jakes were displaying early in March, and I was very glad we had opted for an early hunt.
We had seen a number of decent birds, and a couple of giants. Big Tom, as I called him would often show up at the in-laws, crossing the field from heavy cover, about mid-day. He was so heavy he waddled as he walked. It was a wonder he could walk at all. His beard would brush the grasses as he ambled through the field. I had him tagged and could already taste him. We found Chester at our second location. Chester, another big Tom with a good eight-inch beard, walked with a decided limp, and I was more than willing to put him out of his misery. There were always a number of younger gobblers and jakes around. So when April 17th came around, we were ready!
Opening day dawned (if you could call it dawn) with my portable blind collapsed, and covered with ice from the ice storm of the night before. Since none of my hunting partners could be roused from their warm beds, I headed out alone. I shook some of the ice off the blind, gripped my Matthews MQ1 bow - and promptly froze in the 30 mph winds. Tuesday through Thursday the winds continued high, and we didn't see any birds but from afar.
Friday dawned clear and cool, but with the promise of warmer weather. We were unable to hunt that morning, but Jeremiah and I were ready by mid afternoon. This was Jeremiah's first turkey hunt and he would be using a 20ga. shotgun with number four shot I was the designated cameraman, guide, turkey caller, and decoy setter! We hunkered down in our blind to await our gobblers.
As the evening progressed, I was beginning to wonder where all the turkeys were. We had been seeing turkeys for a month in this spot, at nearly any time of day. We were set up in a clump of trees in the open field the turkeys were transiting regularly, but no birds. At about 7:00 I looked west, where I noticed the head of a turkey just over a small hill at about 150 yards. He was obviously feeding as his head kept disappearing from my view. I called softly with my mouth call and gave a couple of purrs on the box. At my call, three, not one, head popped up over the hill. As I called once more, the young tom's walk turned into a run as they attempted to outrun each other getting to our decoys.
Jeremiah was ready as the birds came into the decoys. As we had hoped, they made straight for the jake decoy, set up at about 12 yards from the blind. As they milled around the jake decoy, Jeremiah touched off his shot and down when a tom. It was then I realized that the camera was still setting at my feet in the "off" position, duh!
Saturday, came and went without any luck on my part. And so here we were, Sunday night, last day of the hunt and the sun was rapidly sinking into the forest. We waited, called and hoped, but it was not to be. As I was putting my bow back in the truck to head back to the folk's house, I was disappointed that I hadn't gotten my turkey with my bow. But was the trip worth it, Oh, Yeah, it was worth it!