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Turkey & Turkey Hunting’s Retro Minute: One May’s Hard Way

Wisconsin gobbler

Be ready to sit down before hitting a call.

Editor’s note: In this blog, Editor Brian Lovett looks back at memorable moments in his turkey hunting journey. This entry covers a painful 1996 Wisconsin hunt.

Everyone knows that when you’re walking and calling, you should identify a good potential setup before hitting your yelper. Want to know how I learned it? Pretty much like any other lesson: the hard way.

After returning home from my first successful Missouri hunt, I raced to southwestern Wisconsin in May 1996 for my crack at a home-state gobbler. Considering all that I’d learned that spring, I was supremely confident. My host was Dick Larson, an incredibly successful turkey hunter and one of the first Wisconsin outdoor writers to produce good turkey hunting content. It would be a slam-dunk. In fact, I was so sure we’d kill birds that I’d invited friend Mike Dickson of Louisiana to film the event.

It poured the first day, and everyone struck out. No matter. The second morning, Mike and I saw some birds atop a wooded bluff, so we stopped and received permission to hunt from the landowner. As we walked in, two birds were already gobbling on their own. Of course, we went toward them.

When I figured we were about 100 yards from the turkeys, I thought I’d better check them, so I yelped on a diaphragm call. They blew our hats off from about 40 steps away. I sat down immediately and motioned for Mike to do the same.

One of the gobblers was on us in no time, strutting and drumming at 20 steps. Problem was, I’d sat in the thickest stand of popple on that otherwise-oak-studded ridge, and I couldn’t see 20 feet. The bird eventually popped into an open field, but he was too far by then.

Wow, had I blown it. Mike knew it, too, but he was too polite to point it out.

“Well, we’ll just come back and get him the tomorrow or the next two days,” he said.

By now, you’ve figured out that it rained, blew and was otherwise miserable the next three days, and I never came close to killing a turkey. It never should have come to that, though, and I took away a hard lifetime lesson from that early-May day.

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