The Turkey Incident

By Sean Evenson 

I have put myself in some odd situations over the years while hunting, but I can’t think of any that compare to my 2014 North Dakota Spring Turkey hunt. I don’t believe it is because I am a bad hunter; I have definitely had my share of success over the years, it is just that sometimes my patience, or lack-thereof, with these birds just gets the best of me. It’s a learned behavior really. So many times I have setup in what I thought was the perfect spot only to have them fly down, completely ignore my decoys and/or calls and walk off in the other direction. So, when this happened to me on the second morning of the North Dakota season, I figured the gig was up and it was time to go look for some more birds. After all, it was mid-morning and I had already been sitting for a few hours.

Now, I have known for a while that turkeys, like other game animals, are creatures of habit and, unless disturbed, will follow the same patterns day in and day out. Most of the turkeys I have harvested in the past were taken after noticing a pattern while scouting. Being an expert caller (which I am not) is great, but you can increase your odds tenfold by patterning the animal and then positioning yourself for the perfect ambush. Plus, it’s much easier to entice a big ole Tom when you are already setup in a place that he naturally wants to be.

On the second morning of my 2014 ND hunt, I found myself in a spot where I knew the birds wanted to be. It was the very same spot where I had located them the day before while calling from across the river. After a knock on the door and a pleasant interaction with the land owner, it was game on! So, I should have known that even though the flock had flown down and went the other direction, I was where they wanted to be. But like I have said many times before, they are on “Turkey Time” and that doesn’t always align with us humans. With my patience on empty, I decided to get out of my blind and have a look for myself. Even though I could no longer see or hear the flock, there were a couple of barns about a hundred yards away along the river that were obstructing my view. About another hundred yards further from the barns was a set of grain bins, which was another spot that the local turkeys liked to congregate. As I neared the barns, I noticed that the turkeys weren’t over by the grain bins, which was where I was expecting to see them. Just as I was about to step out across the gap separating the two barns, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. My heart sank as I realized the turkeys were actually in the barn and were now on their way out in my direction. I quickly dashed to the other side of the barn so that I could peer out unnoticed as they walked out of the gap between the two barns. They then proceeded to walk along the river towards my setup just as I expected them to do only a few hours before.

At that point, I couldn’t believe it. Were they really going to walk down into my decoys where I would have been waiting had I only been a little more patient?As disappointment loomed over me I thought to myself, “You can’t go out this way! You have to try and sneak back to the blind.”So, I did. And lucky for me, there was just enough of an elevation change that I was able to run about a hundred yards through a plowed field unnoticed. As I got within fifty yards of my blind, I caught a glimpse of the turkeys and immediately dropped to my belly. I was out of cover!There were still some mature trees, but I thought for sure there was no way I could close the rest of the distance and climb into the blind without being noticed. But, having come this far, I had to try. I belly-crawled to the blind and got up on my knees just in time to watch the last turkey enter the woods that lined the river. Finally, I was back in the blind, out of breath and unsure of whether or not they saw me. But, with a couple scratches on the call, I had them gobbling and could only think that I just may have pulled it off!

After a couple series of cuts and exited yelps, two jakes exploded out of the woods and into my decoy set. With it being opening weekend and a big ole tom strutting around right inside the woods, I had no interest in sending an arrow at one of those youngsters, but boy, did they put on a show!I called the jakes in two more separate times before noticing the harem of hens piling out of the woods.They didn’t come directly into my setup, but I knew the tom would be close behind and that my jake and hen set would be hard for him to resist.Just as the last hen passed by my blind, I caught sight of a big white head coming around the little knoll that I was setup on. With my bow already in hand and the tom drawing circles around my jake decoy, I came to full draw just moments before watching my arrow disappear into the big puff ball standing only six yards away.

Excitement quickly came over me and as I sat there enjoying the moment, realizing that my ND season was over, I couldn’t help but think of the lesson I had just learned. Patience is key! I had done the scouting the day before, and I knew that I was in the spot the birds naturally wanted to be. All I had to do was trust in my setup and what I had learned in my scouting effort the day prior. Remember that turkeys, just like deer, will follow similar patterns day in and day out if not disturbed.So if you stay patient and keep in mind the existence of “turkey time,” the odds of dining on deep fried gobbler will be in your favor.