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Snow Bird

“T he National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the following counties … ”
 That was all I heard when I turned on the TV at 4:30 a.m. It was enough to let me know I needed to make some equipment changes before I headed out for opening day of Wisconsin’s 2007 turkey season.
Snow was already on the ground, and they were calling for 4 to 10 more inches, but that wasn’t going to deter me. I donned my snow-pattern snow poncho that I had originally bought for late bow-hunting season but never worn because it was too cumbersome.
My poncho came from an Army surplus store and still had that familiar smell that comes with long-stored items. Beneath it I wore several layers of clothes to help me fight the 20-degree temperatures and 30 mph winds that were forecast. Later, when my boss saw my pictures from the hunt she said I looked like I was in my pajamas.
Birds in our area had been strutting and gobbling for weeks prior to the weather change. Having never hunted turkeys in the snow, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Several questions went through my head as I set up …
Will the birds shut down? Will I be able to keep my glasses clear of water and keep them from fogging up? Will my camo keep me hidden? These question would soon be answered.
My calls were another concern. A year earlier, my wife and I hunted during torrential rains. It wasn’t long before nine different calls were rendered useless. I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t scrimp on equipment. Now, armed with two calls made specifically for use in wet weather, I felt prepared.
Where I sat, nestled against a large white pine, I was directly in line with the path to a strutting zone and feeding area that had proven reliable in years past. The first call I tried was Quaker Boy’s Hurricane box call. As soon as I hit it I was cut off by a bird only about 50 yards away! I soft-called on an A-Way slate call but got no response.
Moments later, I nearly came out of my boots when a tom thundered in response to my light clucks — only 10 yards away! I had no idea he was coming in. The bird was off to my right, and my hood was obstructing my view. I could make him out as he stepped into view, but no my glasses had begun to fog. Obviously I had worn the wrong type of facemask.
The bird must have seen me jump when he sounded off because he began the dreaded Putt! Putt! Putt! before I could take a shot. In seconds he was out of gun range, and then he disappeared into the woods.
I headed back to the house to wipe my glasses with anti-fogging wipes and change into a looser-fitting facemask. Heavy breathing is still a big part of turkey hunting, even after 28 years in the field. Still, it was a factor I hadn’t figured into my plans. Following my equipment changes, I headed back out again.
This time I set out jake and hen decoys. No sooner had I settled back at the base of the white pine when I saw movement in the woods. Hens … followed by their suitor.
Single file the birds passed about 15 yards to my left. The boss gobbler hesitated, but then committed to taking those last few steps necessary for me to get a clear shot. He glanced at the decoys and took one more step. I responded with a pull of the trigger, and the tom fell in a pile of fresh snow.
Upon collecting my 24-pound gobbler, all of my questions were answered. I checked my watch: only 7 a.m. My first bird in the snow dispelled the bad-weather hunting myths and proved to me that there is no such thing as a bad day hunting.

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