Happy turkey season! I have said for a long time that, while duck hunting is where I started as a hunter, I really cut my teeth teeth turkey hunting, and that spring gobblers are what made me fall in love with hunting, and with the woods. I try to never miss an opening day, and make damn sure to do at least one 4-5 day trip every year with my Uncle Mike. This year the opening day was on a Sunday, which sometimes is enough to keep me home. On top of that, opening weekend was the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers annual Rendezvous, and it was held here in Boise. I was a bit torn: stay out late and listen to Steve Rinella and Remi Warren tell campfire stories at the Rendezvous, go to bed early and hunt Sunday, or maybe do both....? Choices. Fellow BHA members take note: if opening day had been on a Saturday you would have likely lost out on my attendance. That said, I was really glad I was able to make it this year. I really enjoyed seeing Tyler and the Train Robbers at "Beers, Bands and Public Lands", and enjoyed the film festival as well. I think my favorite film was Randy Newberg’s short film on what public lands mean to him. The campfire stories Saturday night were great. I especially enjoyed one from Remi Warren about his wife, and another about a dude who shot his wife, and another about a dude who was friends with the guy who shot his wife... I hope there is some video of this all somewhere. Also, there was of course Steve Rinella recounting the sobering and somewhat humorous tale of their Afognak Island elk hunt and subsequent bear attack.
So, anyway, after a few nights of drinking and talking public lands, Saturday night after the campfire stories, my brother Charles and his buddy David and I all headed out in the dark of night to find some spring thunder on public lands. MVP award goes to my brother Charles who stayed sober and drove us to our spot, except it wasn’t our spot. See, last year, after the piles and piles of snow we had in both the valleys and the mountains, my belief is that we lost some birds due to a hard winter in our normal spot. This year, I scouted a bit and had been feeling that this year was going to be about as bleak as the year before. So we went to a different spot for the opener, and we went in blind... This was based on a tip I had received from my brother in law who isn’t a hunter, but had said he had seen a big pile of birds in the location. So, after driving in the dark and getting a few hours of sleep, we woke up Sunday morning, perhaps slightly hungover, pounded some Yerba Mate and vitamins, and started hunting.
Turns out the intel from my bro-in-law was legit. Problem was, all of these birds were either on private property or they were within the “safety” zones (no shooting) of some public lands. There also was a lot of competition. Our normal spot typically has some but not a ton. Bottom line is that, while I think there are some ways for us to hunt this area, we need to plan it out a little better, which will probably be a part of our weekend plans.
So, after a few hours in this spot that was new to us, we decided to check things out at our normal spot. We saw a few hens in a meadow we like to hunt, but didn’t hear any gobbles or see any toms or jakes... So we decided to head out for another location. On our way, we happened upon a jake with a group of hens on a logging road, and my brother managed to get good shot. Not as fun as calling a bird in, but he did fill his first turkey tag, and I was relieved to see a male turkey in the area for the first time in two seasons.
A few days later I took my friend Dan, who is a new hunter this year, out. We went to a spot where I hunted a bit last year and would have filled a tag had I not been carrying my bow. We went to the exact same spot. We were a bit late, but I had a feeling that there would be a bird using this clearing from a logging operation as a strutting area. Sure enough, right as the sun really started to hit the clearing, we heard a faint gobble. I called a bit with my voice and the tom started running. He was coming quickly, so I warned Dan to be ready. From the first gobble to the bird strutting in front of my hen decoy was probably no more than 4 minutes. Dan made a beautiful shot and my only regret is that I left the GoPro at home that day.
Later that week, several of us, including my wife and kids, headed up for the first of our two spring turkey hunting/camping trips. We went back to our normal spot, as I was encouraged by the jake my brother had shot, so I hoped maybe the weekend would be fruitful. We hunted our butts off, hit a lot of new spots in the area and didn’t hear a single gobble or see a single tom or jake anywhere. Now, 2 years ago during the 2016 hunt, my uncle and I each filled two tags from this area. The following winter was a really tough one. I strongly suspect that between losing 4 males from the area and a really tough winter, that the numbers are simply down. It pains me to feel like we need to hunt elsewhere, as this is a favorite spot, but right now I don’t think I would shoot a male out of this area if the opportunity presented itself. We have another trip planned next weekend, and I think our efforts will be focused elsewhere. Stay tuned.