First Turkey Report: The Joys of Public Land Hunting

Yesterday in the evening I went out for my first turkey hunt. It was a nice, warm day, and I wasn’t walking too far back at Sunny Slope. The county had had crews out to clear away winter deadfalls blocking the old tractor access that runs to the back of the land parcel. The land is situated on a big hill, and after I got my gun, decoy bag, and calls all together,  I headed towards the first field on the left.

We sat on this hilltop, and saw sign that turkey roost in the oak trees on on the edge of the hilltop before it turns into a bluff down to the road.

We sat on this hilltop, and saw sign that turkey roost in the oak trees on on the edge of the hilltop before it turns into a bluff down to the road.

The last time we went out for turkey scouting and coyote, we sat at the top of this hill. At the very end of bow deer season, I sat, waist deep in snow on a 15 degree day, in a small strip of trees at the bottom of the little valley between this hill and the next. It’s a bit of a funnel, since it’s also along a cut for big power lines. There are turkey tracks going right past the little grove, heading up and down the hill. I intended to sit in this same copse of trees.

The land here rolls a bit, and as I cut from the access road across the clover, I came over a small rise. I was walking quietly, but the decoy bag rubbed against my leg, and I scared out a jake. He was medium sized, and his head was far too brightly colored to be a hen. He was standing within range of where I planned to sit, maybe 10 yards out.

Cursing my luck, I stuck to my plan, hoping that something else would pass through, and not wanting to walk much farther, as it was pretty late anyway. I set up my decoys in a single file, as if they were walking back to roost. I had two hens and a tom. I put on my leaf poncho and face mask, loaded my gun, and began calling.

You can see my decoys on the left here.

You can see my decoys on the left here.

This is the cut for the power lines. The access road cuts perpendicular to it.

This is the cut for the power lines. The access road runs perpendicular to it.

I sat for maybe 40 minutes, calling intermittently, listening to songbirds, hearing an owl, and just generally enjoying the nice spring evening. It wasn’t even dark yet, when all of a sudden, I saw movement to my left on the access road.

I turned to look, and it was someone out walking. Fantastic, I thought. But this is  public land, and even though it’s posted all over that it’s public hunting grounds, people walk their dogs out there all the time. But then, this guy stops, right by that telephone pole. I see him staring into the field, mouth slightly ajar. He’s moving sort of slowly, and dropping into a crouch. He takes out his camera.

I had to use my cellphone camera as I hunting because my digital makes too much noise

I had to use my cellphone camera while hunting because my digital makes too much noise

I realize- this guy is looking at my decoys. He thinks they’re a small flock of real turkeys, and that the tom is strutting. At this point, I took a picture of him, and texted Matt that I had this guy fooled. I waved at the dude, hoping to get him to move along and also because I feel sort of embarrassed for him, but he didn’t see me. So, that means both my camo and decoys are pretty good, I guess.

Finally, he does move along. I keep half-heartedly calling, but I figure that this dude has pretty much scared out anything that might have come my way. Sure enough, he came back by maybe 15 minutes later. He saw the turkeys were in the same spot, unmoved. He paused, and his shoulders sort of slumped. He knew he’d been duped. But my hunt for the night had also been ruined. Stubbornly, I sat for just a bit longer.

While I waited that extra ten minutes before giving up and heading back, I did hear and see a hen flying in to roost, on the west end of the hill I was facing. The hill drops down to a privately owned hayfield, and we see turkey in there as we pass. She was clucking, and I saw her as she flew between the trees.

It’s threatening thunderstorms today, but unless it’s pouring I plan to head out to get in that same spot by 1 or 2pm. Matt ‘s office has a set up with the local hard rock/heavy metal/whatever station where for the radio events, they set up an info booth and pull up bar. Tonight’s the May Day Melee down on State Street, Madison’s party central when there isn’t a Badgers game. I’ll be hunting alone tonight.

But I need to remember bug spray today. I found ticks on myself yesterday, and that ain’t cool. I still feel ghost crawlies on my skin.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “First Turkey Report: The Joys of Public Land Hunting

  1. Pingback: Wrapping up Turkey Season. | Play Outdoors

  2. Pingback: Trail Cams and a Failed Boating Trip. | Play Outdoors

  3. Pingback: Opening Weekend: Archery, and More Public Land Silliness | Play Outdoors

  4. Pingback: Gobble Gobble, My Friends. | Hunt/Fish/Play

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