Spring turkey hunting is one of my favorite times of year. We decided to go later in the season and I am so glad we did. The past few seasons were unsuccessful and I was ready for some action. Though we were only able to make the last weekend of the season, we made it count.
Heading east out of Bozeman towards the Custer National Forest the landscape gradually becomes greener. Temperatures start to rise and you can see a hint of blooming wildflowers along the roadside. It’s my favorite five hour drive.
Upon arrival at camp, we encountered absolute perfect conditions, 65 and sunny. Joining good friend and fellow hunter Shawn with smiles and handshakes, we got the wall tent set up, beds made and gear unloaded in a snap. It was time for a cold beer and to hear how Shawn’s hunt was going so far.
“Lot’s of activity! Gobbles off and on all day!” The excitement started to build for the morning hunt. We warmed dinner on the wood stove (orange chicken and fried rice, a camp favorite) and planned out the morning's activity.
We rose before dawn after a perfect night's sleep which I always seem to get at camp. We prepared our lunches, ensured our packs were ready and our shotguns loaded. Coffee in hand, we stepped outside the tent and listened. Ears alert for the first gobble.
It wasn't long before we heard a gobble. Everyone looked at eachother, eyes beaming, smiles wide, here we go! My boyfriend Greg and I chose to go south, his Dad Bruce went west and friend Shawn went east.
There is nothing quite like the sound of the forest awakening at dawn. It’s spiritual. Birds chirping, critters scurrying across the forest floor and sunbeams shining through the trees as the sun crests the mountains illuminating the spider's busy work from the night before.
Walking slowly and silently through the mountain side we stop periodically and listen for a gobble. “I hear one, but I think he’s down on that private land to the North” Greg said. “Bummer” I replied. Pulling out his turkey call he figured giving it a try anyway and made a few calls. The tom answered back but sounded really far off. We both shrugged and kept traversing up the hill side. We were hopeful, hearing gobbles our first morning out.
As we continued on we could hear more gobbles in the distance. Pausing we decided he was definitely getting closer. Again, Greg made a few more calls. Excitement building, we hurried up to the top of the ridge so we could see better and get set up.
This is when my pulse increases and my mind starts playing out possible scenarios. Wow! I thought, are we really going to get into the turkeys on the first day? What a change of luck!
Calling again, the gobbles got even closer. I got set up between two pine trees facing the ravine. Greg set up about 40 yards behind me. I quickly took my pack off and got into position. Resting my shotgun over my knee, I practiced looking through my scope.
Adrenaline racing at this point I took a few deep breaths, calm and concentration prevailed. As Greg continued to call the gobbles got so loud it sounded like the tom was right on top of us! Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of him through the timber out of the corner of my eye. He had come up through the ravine and was all fanned out strutting his stuff. What a beautiful bird! I realized he was flanking our position. I quickly turned to get him in my sights. I slowly followed him as he walked through the timber gobbling louder and louder. Then there it was, my opportunity! As he cleared the timber I aimed, took a breath and pulled the trigger.
I quickly reloaded just in case. “I got him!” I exclaimed excitedly to Greg. He ran up to my position and confirmed I had indeed. We went to the tom and I was so overwhelmed I just exclaimed “I did it, I did it!”. This was the first turkey I had ever shot. Giving the beautiful bird a blessing and thanking him for his sacrifice I smiled ear to ear. Checking the time we determined I shot him right around 6:30 am. What a great first day! The tom appeared quite old in age with a very long beard and big spurs. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
We decided to hang him in a tree and continue hunting, the day was young! I had a turkey in my sights a few more times during the hunt that lasted three days, but none were close enough for a clean shot. Hearing gobbles all day, every day we determined that we had finally found our turkey “honey hole”.
By the end of the weekend we had seen and heard more action than the last two years combined. It was so exciting! Unfortunately, I was the only one who brought one home this trip. But the hikes, the hunt, the camaraderie, the memories and relishing in the majesty of the great outdoors on our Montana public lands was absolutely priceless!
Until next spring -