“Going Old School” to Slay a Wary Gobbler
I thought I had done the hard part. With the help of a buddy, I’d located several gobblers, knew where they roosted each evening, and had a good idea of their general roaming pattern throughout the day. I was ready to close the deal on my first turkey in Montana.
The next morning, I woke up at 3:30am and began my hunting adventure. I made the drive, carried in my blind, decoys, camera, and tripod, and set up in the perfect spot. It didn’t take long to begin hearing the gobblers wailing away as the sun rose on a crisp Spring morning. I let out a few quiet yelps and had them responding right away. They were getting pretty worked up and sounded like they were coming my way. I made sure the camera was on and readied my bow.
But then the gobbling stopped and the turkeys never appeared. What? I was sure they were coming my way. I waited until mid-morning but they never returned and I had no idea where they had gone. I walked miles that day, calling every now and then, but never located my quarry. I thought they would return to the roost that evening, so I set up accordingly. As the sun was dropping below the mountains, I could hear them coming in. Once again, I readied my camera and my bow and tried to calm my racing heart. But once again, as they got closer, they stopped responding to my calls and never approach my decoys. They did indeed roost in the same area, but had slipped around me. The next two days were repeats of this one and I was frustrated! From what I had heard about hunting turkeys, it was not supposed to be this hard.
Feeling desperate, I decided to change my tactics completely. I climbed to the top of a ridge overlooking a beautiful river valley and began to glass the area. I spotted some whitetail deer feeding along the ridge, and as I was admiring them, I saw a nice mature Tom strutting in their midst! Then I spotted two big hens with him. Combined with half a dozen deer, that was a lot of eyes, and even noses, to fool. The degree of difficulty of the hunt had just increased dramatically. The gobbler was 75 yards away and I began to crawl up a rise to close the distance. As I did, I noticed a couple more deer coming my way. I hunkered down while one of them got within 10 feet of me! I closed one eye, so as to be less noticeable, and relied on my favorite camo to do the rest. After a long stare down and the pain of my legs falling asleep, the deer walked off but so had the turkeys. Due to the hilly terrain and thick trees, I had no idea where they had gone. I frantically looked around and finally spotted a deer crossing the ridge I was on about 200 yards away then another few deer, then the turkeys. They were still traveling together.
I tucked back into some dark timber and made haste to get in front of them. As I came up over a rise in hopes of an ambush, I saw them 75 yards away. As there was no way to get closer, I figured out their direction and once again, tucked back into the dark timber valley to run ahead of them. This time I went over half a mile around, just hoping they would stay on the same course. As I had scouted the area well, I remembered a ravine that just might provide the extra cover I needed. I made the steep descent down one side of it, ran up the ravine to where I thought they might be, and then methodically crawled up the other side. I slowly peaked my head up through the long grass at the top and was excited to see a big red head in the middle of the field. He was there! With my heart racing from the run and the thrill, I ranged him at 40 yards. I got up on my knees just enough to allow my arrow to clear the high grass and let the arrow fly. It found its mark with a loud “thwack” and the turkey ran off—with the arrow still in him! He ran down a steep hill into another valley along the stream.
I waited a while so as to let him bed down and expire, then began following the trail of feathers. I was surprised to see very little blood, from a 2” mechanical broadhead. I decided to circle the entire valley so as to cut him off if he had continued to run. After searching for 30 minutes, there was still no sign of the turkey. Feeling discouraged, I began making my way back toward the first spot he had run toward. I turned a corner in the thick brush and was shocked to see my prey lying under a big cedar tree, behind an old wood pile, with his eyes wide open! As it was close range and a finishing shot, I chose an arrow tipped with a Judo point. I aimed for a small opening in front of his now white head and let it fly. “Crack!” The arrow drilled him right between the eyes!
I let out a triumphant, primeval yell and proceeded to haul out my first Montana gobbler and my first gobbler without using a blind, decoys, or calls.