Goose season ended here in Oregon in March. From the moment we checked in our geese on the last day (NW Goose Area requires you check in all geese due to the endangered Dusky Goose), I have been thinking Turkeys.
My first love in hunting is Ducks and Geese. Pheasants rank high too, but you can’t hunt wild Pheasants in April! In the Spring, I have a long tradition of splitting my time between Smallmouth Bass and Turkeys. This year, the Smallmouth are a long ways distant. I focus on Turkeys.
Western Oregon has small mountain ranges and valleys growing mostly grass. The valleys are low and when it rains lots of standing water is left. The Turkeys hang out on the lower third of the hills but not in the valleys. The Turkeys are also very scattered. You can find many in a small area and go a half a mile and find none for several miles. I started scouting in earnest about a week before the opening of the season. The first eight doors I knocked on I was denied access. I finally turned to a managed forest (logging company) and got permission over a large area but much of it is better Elk and Deer habitat then for turkeys.
However it does bourder privately held land which has a lot of turkeys. A lot of my hope is I can call Toms off the private land onto the cleared forest area I have permission on.
Opening morning I launch my plan. As shooting light arrives some roosters crow a quarter mile off and several Toms, two hundred yards away on property I do not have permission on gobble and gobble and gobble.
Each time they gobble, I yelp, and they gobble back with a fever pitch. I am using my P.T. Tully double sided pot call. Fast and furious is the exchange. I can tell the gobblers are coming closer. Sitting with my back against a tree and my Browning on my knees .... I wait. Out of my peripheral vision I see a flash of three red headed Turkeys running toward my Mobile B Tom decoy. They slow up right next to the decoy and I check all three birds and learn they are all Jakes. Very exciting but not I what am not going to fill my tag. I watch them for several minutes till they drift back from which they came. I continued to yelp and they gobbled but no other birds came.
I set up in another similar field and had a bird gobble back to my yelps but nothing arrived.
I scouted some more and found five big gobblers in a large cow pasture. I went to ask permission and met a guy working on his pickup. We talked trucks and a Turkeys for over a half hour but in the end he said his adult son hunted turkeys and sometimes guided and he couldn’t give me permission until he talked to him. I thanked him, joked a little and left. I made a mental note to come back after the first week of the season and ask again. Logic being by then maybe his son will have filled his tag and I can get a chance.
The next day found me hunting three new areas with one hearing no birds and the other two having distant gobbles but no birds coming in. Again, due to the lack of permission to hunt the best fields it wasn’t an option to try to go toward these gobblers.
Leaving the area I went by a Christmas tree farm I had passed several times. Lots of very good turkey country all around it on which I had been denied permission. I hadn’t asked at this farm however; mostly because I thought the chances of getting permission were low.
Oregon has its share of “PETA oriented, tree hugging, moccasin wearing, nature children”, and I had met a few while seeking permission to kill a turkey.
Even as I drove into the drive way I was thinking this is a waste of time. It had “that” look. I went up to the office door and knocked. A gentle man wearing moccasins, long hair, and a floppy hat greeted me. I told him I was wondering if I could get permission to hunt turkeys on the edges of his farm. “There are a lot of turkeys around. Are you using a bow?” I clarified that I was using a shotgun. He paused for over a minute (seemed even longer), then retorted …..”I guess that will be okay”. He went on to get me maps, suggest where I should try and tell me where he has seen the birds roost; very helpful.
Note to self; STOP judging a book by it’s cover!
Although it was about 1 pm I decided to take a quick walk around the property. I see one gobbler walking close to the area the owner suggested was a common roosting area. I decided this would be the place to go tomorrow.
I have a friend down my street, Mitch, who I have been goose hunting with and has stated that he hasn’t hunted Spring Turkeys before. We had made a plan to hunt the next day.
Mitch and I arrived about 20 minutes before shooting light and set up a Hen and Tom decoy about 20 yards on a rise in front of a ditch. We could stand on our knees and see over the edge to our decoys. I called and after several minutes heard gobblers way in front of us (maybe ½ mile) and maybe beyond a creek. We also had Turkeys directly to our backs (probably ½ mile away) and to our East. The Turkeys to our East were very huntable; I thought I knew exactly where they were. After a half and hour of calling with the birds seemingly staying in place I initiated a conversation with Mitch about relocating. After deciding to move to our East, I gave one more series of yelps on Hook’s box call. BOOM ~ a thunderous gobble returns and it is only a couple hundred yards off.
We both get down and get ready. I yelp and the Tom responds. Then I see a nice Tom in front and to the left of Mitch, maybe 40 yards out. It is moving up and when it gets to the 20 yard mark if ducks down in a small ditch, Mitch moves down in the ditch he stands in to reposition himself. At that moment I see a second Tom slightly behind the first. The first Turkey is swinging around the decoys and is just 10 yards from Mitch. I decide his shot is imminent and I take aim at the second Tom. The second Tom then Comes out on a knoll and Gobbles at 35 yards and I know this is all going to end in a moment. I ease up and let lose 2.5 ounces of heavy 13’s number 5 shot on the Tom I was on. I knew the first Tom was almost on top of Mitch and he would collect it.
At the shot Mitch stands up and I turn to see if he is shooting “his” Tom. He yells good shot to me, I point and yell take him, he turns and the Tom just 15 yards from him takes flight!
That is Turkey hunting, no two hunts the same and always the unexpected.
Mitch explained that when he repositioned, he saw the second Tom and thought it was the first. He never realized there were two birds.
I tagged up and went to the Toms we were hearing to the East. We got set up and started calling. Several gobbles came to our hard left and it was hard to tell if they were across a road or in some trees on our side. But they were hot and snapped back at every yelp. As I was aggressively calling to these birds a loud gobble came from our front in a field with a tree line running parallel to where we sit.
More calling and it was clear this Tom was coming toward us. The loud gobbles to our left were not.
After ten minutes I saw the Turkey 100 yards out under a tree branch. He was cautious. In the next 20 minutes he moved 20 yards. I quietly let Mitch know I was going to move back and call going away to see if that would pull him in. I was in a row of mature Christmas trees and under great cover. I moved away calling every fifteen yards or so, for 50 yards. The gobbler moved up another 30 yards and hung up at the 50 yard mark. After 45 minutes, I judged the bird to be about 45 yards away from Mitch. From my vantage, I could see Mitch and the Turkey. I kept thinking to myself this was going to be cool. To see Mitch kill this bird from behind. But nothing happened. The bird slowly walked up the hill and was suddenly moving farther away. I tried to will Mitch to shoot but instead only watched this big Tom move up and away and out of sight.
When I got to Mitch he explained he judged the distance to be more like 65 yards and didn’t want to just wound the bird. Good decision.At the end of the day I had perhaps the largest Tom I have taken and the chance to go hunting tomorrow with Mitch to chase his bird! Now that is a outstanding day for sure.
Until I see you in the field, be Safe, Be Good .... and BE LUCKY!
Dave Proffitt, Owner of FOWLEDupWATERFOWLERS.com