For the last few months I have shot my recurve bow every day. I have experimented with different styles of shooting, shot from various angles, and shot from my ground blind, all in preparation for the turkey hunting season. I've hunted turkeys for a long time. I feel confident in my ability to get close to birds. So I worked hard to gain confidence in my shooting.
Idaho is coming out of a long, hard, snowy winter. Some areas of the state have not quite yet turned to spring. As a result, some of the areas have not been subjected to the explosive sound of an old Tom looking for hens or even overly eager and perhaps slightly confused green Jakes. Instead, one meadow in particular was subjected to me in a ground blind, making hen calls with my voice as if it were "time", deep down knowing that the birds just weren't ready to take part in springtime mating rituals in that area.
So instead of beating a dead horse into the ground I reluctantly focused my efforts for the last few days in a different location that I hadn't hunted in years. The area is a creek with very steep ridges on either side, and is a lot tougher country than where we normally hunt. I hiked to the top of one of these ridges two days ago. I really didn't expect to find anything. I stopped and called at various draws as I hiked and finally when I had almost reached the area I had been planning on setting up I called and, to my surprise, heard that first explosive gobble of the season.
As a new bow hunter one of my concerns with turkey hunting was the color of my arrow fetching. I have been concerned that the color could be enough to spook a bird away from taking a closer look. I had taken a trip to the local archery shop to see if I could buy some neutral colored fetchings. One of the gentlemen at the shop sort of chastised me for being paranoid about the color explain that he hunts turkeys with bright pink fletching etc etc... Okay I said, and utilized the bright colors.
Back to the hunt. I set up my decoy in what was left of an old logging road and sat down behind a small tree and I saw him. I still hadn't moved my pack and there right out in the open were my arrow fletchings, bright as can be. Damn it. The bird warily made his way back toward where he came from but kept talking to me. I felt like maybe I need to go after him but I hesitated a minute too long because he finally fell silent and would no longer respond to a call. If there was a hen in the area he was gonna make her come to him. Okay. Lesson learned, at least cover up the arrow fletchings next time.
I made a plan to go to the same area the following morning again. Try to get higher earlier and faster. Problem was now he had moved up a little higher on the ridge than before. So once again, despite my efforts he was above me, and would not come down. I tried to coax him for a while but he wasn't having it. So this time I decided to make a move on him. This time I had a makeshift cover for my arrow fletching, not as secure as I wanted but I was in a hurry. I hoofed it to the top of the ridge, I had seen him on another old logging road a few minutes before. When I reached that road, I found a small tree on the edge of the road on an embankment. So most of my body was covered, I got into what could be a decent shooting position and called a few times. Sure enough the bird was within 30 yards and coming fast now that he thought the hen was on his level. He came just into view and all the sudden he started to give alarm clucks and walk away. What the hell happened? I turned and looked at my arrows and the cover had come off and there were nice bright colors for the turkey to have seen.
I panicked and climbed up a bit higher to the bird's level to see if I couldn't get a shot but by this point he was running. He then decided to fly off into the next draw. If I had had a shotgun he would have been dead. But I am not a skilled enough archer to be dealing with a running target yet. Disappointed, I headed back down to my pack and decoy. I went to another area and called and got a few very far off responses. On my way to try to locate another bird I ended near where that bird had flown. He talked to me a bit, but never showed himself again.
The day ended up with a nice surprise, when I was on my way home I came across a very fresh whitetail buck who had been hit by a car. A lot of it was pretty beat up, but the backs straps were in good condition as was some of the shoulder meat. It wasn't the meat I intended to put in the freezer but it is meat in the freezer nonetheless. I hiked to the top of the ridge that Tom was on 3 different times yesterday from 3 different locations trying to find him or another bird. Perhaps the deer was the universe recognizing my effort.
Next week I am heading to Washington for the week to work on an ambulance (my part time gig) and will not be able to hunt, but the following week maybe I can continue my relationship with the wary old bird at the top of the ridge...
Hens feeding in the meadow. Must have been between 10-15 hens working this area. Yet not any toms or jakes came in in a few days of very diligent hunting.
Hanging in the ground blind.