Turkey Journey Entry theme: “Hindsight 20/20”
I was in the woods again April 24th, exactly one year to the day when I tagged out on my second bird in the 2018 season. My goal was to do the same thing in 2019!
The pressure was on as I drove my truck into the property at 5:15am. I had to be on the road from Clinton by no later than 8:30 to make it to a lunch meeting in Branson, MO. It had to happen quick or it wasn’t going to happen at all!
Fog was extremely thick. I wondered how that would impact the gobbling and general turkey activity early in the morning. Shooting time started at 5:56am according to my resources, and the first gobble went off at 5:55. Within 200 yards!
The Set Up
I started the morning in a two man ground blind placed under an old evergreen tree in a small food plot. The area has consistently produced gobblers for years. Every single tom killed there has entered from the road coming into it from the east. There are many roosting trees around the small plot and it makes for a great, secluded strut zone, but they always like coming in from that road for some reason.
My decoys were placed a short distance in front of me, no more than 10 yards. Avian X decoys have been my go-to in recent years. A half-strut jake, breeder hen, and alert hen were my choice this morning.
With my camera in the blind, I had the windows a little more open than I normal. The key is to wear black when you have the black out interior and minimize direct sunlight coming through open windows. You can do that simply by planning ahead with the direction of the sun when positioning your blind.
The gobbler that sounded off continued to do so for several minutes in some heavy timber just outside the field to the west. Against my better judgment, I decided I wanted to move in on him instead of waiting, considering the pressure I was under to get done fast. When birds have been roosted in his same spot in the past, they almost always went a different direction and took painfully long to work their way around into the field.
Plus, after multiple toms killed the same way in this field for years, I just wanted to try something different than sitting in the blind.
I moved within 75 yards very quickly without spooking him and set up.
Before I moved in, I debated whether to leave the decoys up or take them down. I’ve been told by friends multiple times to always take them down because of what might come in while you’re gone. This time, I decided to do the opposite, but I feel like I have a good explanation.
When I’ve moved in on toms in the past, I’ve learned the only thing you can count on is that they almost always move around in ways you don’t expect. Anticipating the chance of this gobbler skirting me, I thought if he saw the decoys in the field it might distract him long enough for me to sneak around a large hill surrounding the field. The large hill would provide me enough cover to catch up to him and get a shot within 30 yards.
Back to the hunt
I had him fired up and thought for sure he would pitch down and make his way to the clearing I was positioned near. I heard a few wing beats and a gobble shortly after. He was within 50 yards of me, but I just couldn’t see. After several minutes of silence, I knew he was making a move. I glanced to my right and sure enough, he had skirted me. He was locked onto the decoys in the field.
As soon as his back was too me I popped up and headed for the hills. I checked over the top halfway along my stalk and he was beating up my jake decoy just yards in front of the blind…
Finally, I arrived to the hill nearest the blind and crept over, but no turkey! A group of jakes had entered the field, ran him off, and they quickly followed suit.
Like my entry theme said, hindsight 20/20. If I had stayed in the blind, I would have captured incredible footage and been done by 6:30am. It was another example of how you should stick to what you know works. Turkeys can be unpredictable, but they can also be extremely patternable if you have multiple years of scouting observation in a given area. I should have stayed put given my past experience.
The silver lining to it all was knowing that leaving my decoys in the field worked in this case, somewhat. Anticipating the possibility of the sly tom skirting me, I thought the decoys could provide enough distraction to still give me an opportunity for a stalk. That was accomplished for a couple of minutes. The only thing I hadn’t counted on was another group of male turkeys showing up and distracting him from my decoys during that short time span.