Posted by Brian Lovett, Contributing Editor
I tossed and turned all night worrying about the setup. Then I fretted over it while driving to the woods. And when it came time to decide, I still didn’t know.
While scouting April 22, the day before my first Wisconsin season opened, two friends and I found loads of turkey sign around a corn-stubble field surrounded by pines and a hardwood ridge. The area was a no-brainer, but all those big trees posed a problem. After all, the birds could roost right off the field edge, and because the moon was almost full, the area would be brighter than a firefly long before flydown.
The safe play would be to sneak up a logging road and listen from a remote corner of the field, far from paranoid eyes in the trees. The aggressive move would be to slip along the pines at the field’s northern edge so I was closer to the suspected roost areas.
Well, at 4:45 a.m., I was still hemming and hawing. So, perhaps being a bit anxious, I chose the aggressive option, and friend Craig Netzer and I slipped along the pines until we reached the base of the connecting ridge.
Within minutes, several birds fired up from some big white pines across the field. Good deal. We slipped back into the red pines and set up, and I scratched out some soft tree-yelping. And that’s about when another bird fired up — directly over Craig’s head. I swear it rained needles down on his camo cap.
The turkey didn’t gobble much, so I think he was a bit “off” because of the shadowy shapes he’d just seen on the field edge. However, the gobblers across the field choked themselves for 15 minutes. Then, heavy wingbeats indicated they were headed toward the ground.
Two birds landed in the field about 100 steps away. After gobbling twice and strutting and drumming a bit, the birds marched in, and I shot the lead longbeard at 28 steps.
It was 5:35 a.m., and honestly, I could barely make out the green and red on my fiber-optic sights.
Had we been any later or made one stupid move, we probably would have busted countless turkeys out of the area. But thankfully, we had been early — and fortunate — enough to pull it off.
To make the day even better, I joined landowner Steve Pethke for a midmorning hunt. After several fruitless calling sequences, we hiked to the top of a long ridge, called and then listened. I started saying something to Steve when I heard what I thought was a crow. Steve knew better.
“Gobble!” he said. “Let’s get up on top of the ridge and get a fix on him.”
We did, and the next calling sequence was met by a thunderous response — about 80 steps away on a wooded point. The bird was just out of sight over the rise.
Steve scrambled for a large boulder, and I settled behind him at a birch tree. Figuring we were OK, I eased out some soft yelps on a glass call, and the longbeard hammered back. Good. He was headed directly toward us.
After a bit of purring, some great spitting and drumming and a tense 90 seconds, Steve’s gun roared, and longbeard No. 2 was flopping.
Again, had we rushed in or taken that proverbial “one step too many,” we would have boogered that lonely gobbler. But thankfully, someone up above must have been looking out for us.
Maybe this marks the start of a new trend. Could I possibly go an entire season without bumping, boogering or spooking a gobbler? Ha! We all know better.
But for that day at least, the sight of two gobblers in the truck and the smile on Steve’s face helped me avoid such gloomy thoughts.