Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Turkey slam

For most United States turkey hunters a slam includes the four species found in the states. The merriam, the eastern, the rio grande, and the osceola. In order to get all four species a person has to have more money than me, have time to travel the states, and have access to private land in Florida for the Osceola.
I formed my own rules for a turkey slam. These rules fit my budget a lot better. There are two rules in order for me to be successful. All four birds must be mature tom's and they must be shot in four different locations.
Although I've been fortunate enough to shoot two easterns in northern Idaho, they are few and far between so four merriams will have to do. Also, I already have an Oregon hunting license so I have to just incur the cost of two turkey tags in Oregon and two in Idaho.
With the seemingly endless winter still upon us for the opener in Idaho, I wasn't surprised to find myself hunting in snow. I hunted hard that first day and heard only two gobbles. I can't remember an opening day that the birds weren't hammering from their roost before sunrise until this year. Because of the deep snow I was unable to venture in as far as I have in the past, so day two took me further in because of a shortcut I found in years past. The birds were a little more vocal on this day but still unwilling to stay fired up. They gave me the impression that they weren't ready for love making yet.
On the eighteenth of April I tried a different location. I had seen birds there before but never hunted it but I knew the snow was gone from this area. I got on the hill early and was pleased to hear a distant gobble. As I worked in closer I heard him gobbling from the tree and then fly to the ground. I was within about 150 yards and quickly set up. A couple of yelps from me and two turkeys soon came over the ridge towards me. A jake and a tom. For three hours that tom spit, drummed, and gobbled at me from about 75 yards. He had me pinned down and all I could do was yelp softly with the diaphragm. He finally got bored with the game and headed up the hill. No amount of my calling could turn him around. He left me and the jake there to our miseries.
April 20th found me in yet a new location. I had to get up extremely early to get into this spot since it was a four mile hike up hill to this spot. I found it one year chukar hunting. When I got there the birds were really letting each other have it from the trees. I could hear at least three different groups of birds. I chose the gobbling below me. It should have worked out to my advantage. I could see several birds in a tree with my binoculars through the dim light. I moved into about 200 yards and let them have some soft yelps. They greeted me with a chorus of gobbles each time I would yelp. They finally hit the ground and they numbered 27 birds. They gobbled a few more times but then became consumed with fighting amongst themselves. They put on quite a show from 150 yards away and totally ignored my pleading to them for love. They suddenly quit fighting and started feeding in my direction. I don't know how many jakes and hens there were but I counted 11 long beards in the group. As they fed their way through the sage towards me, I could tell they knew where I (the hen) was supposed to be and kept looking for me with an occasional strut. At 35 yards away I was trying to make out which bird was biggest and they suddenly formed a line and marched straight away from me up the hill. Right below me was a red fox coming up the creek to investigate.
Well these birds were off to the races and they had consumed an hour and a half of hunting time so I headed back up hill to where I heard the other birds earlier. Luckily they were still there. I immediately got responses from two birds within 200 yards away and another Tom I could see strutting  well over a half mile away. Every time I would yelp they would answer. The furthest seemed to be most aggressive but I had two tom's within 200 yards. I called for a half hour and the two closer birds kept coming closer and then backing off. There was a small ridge about 30 yards away between me and the birds. I could see the fans once in a while but never the beards. Finally the bird that was way over there had crossed the draw and came up behind me. When he gobbled at about 30 yards behind me it was more than the two tom's could handle and they strutted over the ridge gobbling. I don't know which bird was bigger but I knew the bird my bead was on had a long beard and at the sound of the shotgun bird #1 was in the bag.
April 25th found me turkey hunting again. Although, it was hard not revisiting the spot of my last conquest, that's one of my rules. So I went back to the place where the big tom held me down for three hours. I don't know whether it was the same bird, because it didn't seem as big, but I called in a jake and a tom again. This time the birds came within 15 yards and a dose of number six gave me my second leg and last bird for Idaho. The time was 7:15 A.M.

Then the torrential rains came again and I was stuck at home working and waiting to go to Oregon. The dogs and I hooked up the fifth wheel Sunday the 8th of May and headed out. We had camp set up early enough to take an evening scout. The dogs appreciated the hike and I was a little depressed by the sign we saw. None the less we were there to hunt and hunting the next morn I would go. I was even more disappointed in the morning to not hear one bird from the roost. There was enough sign to say there were birds in the area but they weren't talking. I walked the logging roads and tried to raise a gobble but my efforts failed to interest any birds. Finally at 10:30 I heard a faint response. I hurried down the trail and got a response again. I set up and heard two responses to my call. Five minutes later two heads poked over the hill 25 yards away. I watched them gobble simultaneously and then they topped the ridge. I was disappointed to see two jakes and decided to sit still while they walked away. Suddenly another gobble came from the same direction but behind the two birds I could see. Fate was on my side. The big boy stepped over the hill behind the two jakes and displayed his fan. He got two good spit and drums in before I couldn't handle it anymore. Leg #3 done.
Back at camp I loaded up Dakota and Riley and head for another area 40 miles to the north. Once again we took a good scouting hike. Riley busted a couple of turkeys, giving me hope for the following day. At 5 A.M. I was on the mountain in search of the final leg. Shortly after shooting light I heard one gobble and headed in that direction. I set up and tried to get a response but heard nothing. After fifteen minutes or so I heard him spitting and drumming. I could hear him but couldn't see him. Finally behind a lg about 40 yards away I saw his white head peek over and then he would strut again. This went on for a half hour or so and then it was over. I have no idea what happened or where he went. He was just gone. I headed off in the direction of the bird but never heard or saw him again. But I did come face to face with a black bear. He must have thought I was one tough son of a gun. He turned tail so fast that I actually heard him fart as he took off.
About 11:00 A.M. I finally got another response. I could tell he was eager because anything I said made him gobble. I had a beautiful place to set up with a logging road in between us. He put on the best display of all four birds. He hit the old logging road spitting and drumming and pacing back and fourth. With each pace he got about five feet closer to me. I have never seen such vibrant reds, whites and blues as this bird showed. He was put to rest at 7 yards. So these two birds finished my slam, for whatever it's worth. (lot's of fun)
Although I was through hunting I decided to stay one more day and check another area out. So once again the dogs and I traveled to another area and took a scouting hike. We found plenty of sign and once again Riley flushed a couple of turkeys so I thought I'd give it an early morning try with a camera. Once again the birds were silent first light. I did have a pack of bear dogs give me some excitement. They were obviously on a bear and I could tell they were traveling the same trail I had used to get in there. I got up against a tree not knowing how the dogs would react to me. I knew the bear would run, but wasn't sure about the dogs. Luckily they turned before they got to me.
The dogs did elicit a shock gobble which I honed in on. After calling the bird pitched off the hill above me and landed in a draw 50 yards below me. Once again I set up with an old logging road between us. When the bird hit the road I moved to turn on the camera and the bird caught the motion and was gone in an instant.
One more turkey year in the books and time to prepare for the baby season and picture taking.