Although I live in Northern Utah I put in for Southern Region so that I could reconnect with my uncle who introduced me to bird hunting (dove, quail, pheasant) nearly 25 years ago. Like myself he’d never been turkey hunting but he had seen some while driving the hills near his home in Diamond Valley.
So I headed south for three days of hunting and what an experience it was. It was beyond fun to connect with my uncle whose dry sense of humor had both of us laughing all weekend. We hiked long and far, which both of us enjoy regardless of the hunt but it proved to be the right decision as we found birds. I’ll never forget hearing that first Tom gobble in a small canyon, making my ears ring and my heart skip a beat. Although we saw some birds the two stalks I put on them didn’t end like I had planned, the last one being a roosted bird that spotted me from a mile away and even though I got close enough to get 2 shots off while he flew away he was on to me from a ways out. Saw some great country, some good spots for deer that I’d like to revisit and more than anything I got a good education in turkey hunting.
With the fever to still get a bird, I teamed up with a friend who’s buddy had seen nearly 40 birds in a little canyon in the southern region (I promised not to tell) and who within 15 minutes of arrival had a bird. So we set out for said location and after a boondoggle of directions, private land between us and forest service land we decided that the only way to get there was the hard way so we hiked about 3 miles over ridges and across a couple of valleys to “the spot”.
When we got there, nothing but silence, no tracks and no turkey turds. We were a little dejected. There was a guzzler down valley about 1/4 mile so we went to check it out and found nothing again. Just as we were wondering if we’d hiked all that way for nothing – GOBBLE-GOBBLE! After high fives and dancing like a couple of drunken soldiers (quietly of course), we started up canyon and wouldn’t you know it in our effort to get around into a spot we passed the turkey and it passed us. When we realized our error we set up and gave a call. The turkey came back and unfortunately I had sat in a spot that limited my view if he came into one certain spot….and yep, he came into that spot. I wasn’t going to take a shot through a sage brush so I painfully let him go on by. He saw me when I moved a bit and started to “blip, blip, blip” which I can only assume is the distress sound.
After making our way up canyon we heard him gobble twice but opted to take a nap under a tree on some soft grass. 2 1/2 hours later we woke up and were ready to roll. A quick hike up a ridge and circling back towards the water we heard him gobble again and made haste. Just as we got near the water we got a glimpse of him headed away so we paralleled him for a bit and set up under a juniper. I heard him gobble and thought we had gone too far over. So I gave a call on the slate and he responded immediately.
After 2-3 min I gave a prrrrr on the slate and he was headed in hot, gobbled so loud I thought he was in my back pocket. At the last minute I adjusted my position to be able to cover more range and I’m glad I did cause seconds later I saw movement behind a juniper just a bit to the right of center. I thought he’d come right out into the open but he stalled after coming out into the open, looked right at us, started to “blip, blip” and began to turn around. I knew it was my chance so I pulled the trigger. Head shot meant he went straight down and flapped a couple of times and it was over.
The 3 mile hike back to the truck had me thinking if it’s worth the hike, the number of days hunting, the heat, the….of course it was! Hiking that far helped get us away from anyone else (didn’t see another hunter or anyone) and got us into a bird that was responsive to calls, unlike in the Pine Valley area where they would run away from calling.
What a great experience, a challenging animal and an even more enjoyable hunt than I’ve had in a while. Thanks to all who in the past have shared their stories and insights which helped me on this my first of many turkey hunts.
His tail feathers were munched in the middle – I can only assume from a close call with a coyote? As the tom was gobbling and we were moving in for the kill we spotted 3 coyotes headed our direction as well. After taking the bird we called in a coyote but missed a clean 75 yard shot. Bummer.
1″ spur, but the other spur was a stubby little black thing that you can see in the image.
Lastly, the meat was great. I marinated the breasts in Zesty Italian dressing for 24 hours and then put it on the BBQ. Aside from being a little chewy compared to Thanksgiving Turkey, it was delicious. Even my wife and kids enjoyed it.