Birds or Small Game

Turkey Hunting…..Closer, But Not Quite

If you could get a turkey by sheer effort, I guarantee I would have a turkey by now.  Actually, I would likely have two or three. Unfortunately though, hunting doesn’t always come down just to effort!

In my pursuit of a Colorado turkey I can’t tell you how many hills I’ve climbed or valleys I’ve searched.  I’ve lost count of the miles I’ve hiked and the places I’ve explored.  Last year, I spent most of the season just looking for turkeys.  Finally on the last day of the season I finally located some turkeys.  But it was too little too late.  The couple birds I saw were 200 yards away and I never got close enough for a shot.  That season ended in defeat.

This season I was a little wiser and have had a bit better luck. On earlier hunts this year I have heard turkeys gobbling around me, I’ve found tracks in the snow, and even had the opportunity on private land to be right under a roost.  That hunt was ruined by a horse (See that story here), but I still had opportunities.  Yet time and time again and I still didn’t have a bird.

Turkey Hunt - Close But Not Quite (3)
Turkey Tracks in the snow….a good sign!

My last hunt brought me even closer to getting that elusive tom.  I went back to the public land where I had found evidence of the turkeys before.  This time though I went early in the morning and it was a little later in the season.

My morning started at 3:30 AM.  I was out the door before 3:45 AM and parked my car at 4:45 AM.  I have a great situation where I have permission to park on private land, but the downside is that I have about a 45 minute hike up though private land to get to the national forest land I can hunt on.

It’s not an easy hike with an elevation climb of almost 1,000 ft.  but by  5:30 I was just about where I wanted to be.  While sunrise wasn’t for another 25 minutes or so, it was light enough to see and I had already heard a couple of gobbles from the other ridge.

I found a flat spot near the top where two ridges come together.  I had heard turkeys on both ridges before and I knew there was a small lake just behind me to my right.  I hoped the turkeys would come up either ridge and I would intercept them on their way to drink in the morning.

Turkey Hunt - Close But Not Quite (1)
Set up and waiting for a Tom to come in

Happy with my location, I set up a jake and hen decoy in a clearing about 15 yards in front of me and settled down up against a tree.  I was ready to go.

I immediately liked how this hunt was starting.  I heard more gobbles coming from both ridges and it wasn’t 10 minutes later before I spotted my first turkey.  It was about 150 yard to my left and was working its way off behind me.  I begin to make soft purrs and yelps with my box call but it ignored them and continued out of sight.

I continued to purr and yelp on and off and the gobbles continued around me, but nothing seems incredibly close.  Then around 6:20, I suddenly heard a sound off to my left and I turned to see a turkey coming in at full strut.  He was still at about 75 yards, but I could see him all puffed up and moving quickly.   I wanted to make a clean ethical shot so as the turkey continued to come in, I quickly decided when I wanted to take my shot.  There was a small clump of trees that the turkey began to go behind on his way to the decoys.  He would come out at about 50 yards and I decided I would take the shot then.

The turkey disappeared behind the trees and I quickly took the safety off my 870 and got my gun into position.   I waited…..and waited…. and waited.   I never saw that turkey again.  I’m not sure if he saw something he didn’t like or if the gobbles off to my right scared him away, but either way I didn’t get that turkey.  Closer, but not quite.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  After this much time and effort I thought I was finally going to get one.  But it was not to be.  I continued to sit there and occasionally make soft yelps.  About 30 minutes later, it was clear that one of the gobblers was definitely getting closer.  I might have another chance!

After a short time, I spotted the noisy tom coming off the ridge to my right.  He came into view at about 100 yards and was headed in my general direction of to my right.  While I never saw him strutting, I could see he had a beard that was at least 8 inches long!  I would yelp and he would gobble.   But very quickly I noticed I had a problem.  Instead of heading my way, the tom was continuing its path up to the lake.  Despite my yelps and my decoys, that turkey couldn’t have cared less and continued on his path….gobbling every 20 yards or so.

My heart sunk as my second turkey of the day disappeared.  While I heard him for a while, I never got another look at this big tom.

While I continued hunting for a while that morning, I never had another chance.  I went home, again empty-handed, but with more great memories of my ongoing quest for turkey.  The season isn’t over yet, so I’m still holding out hope that I’ll get my turkey yet!  Closer, but not quite…. yet.

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