Turkey addicts beware…tomorrow is the opening of the Minnesota spring wild turkey hunting season. On ridge tops and along open fields throughout many portions of our state it is time let out your first “yelp.” So pick a nice tree, make sure there are no small rocks or thorny brush growing from the base, and plop your butt right down for some of the most exciting moments you will experience all year long.
Over the years I have learned there are basically three types of views taken by hunters about turkey hunting:
- Apathetic Turkey Hunter: This dude is an all-around avid hunter when it comes to ducks, deer or other small game, but has yet to take the next big step into the realm of the turkey hunting world. Let’s face it…if you want to be successful hunting a turkey it takes time, talent and knowledge. This particular sportsman might secretly yearn to someday experience the challenge, but is satisfied with all the other opportunities the outdoors presents in life…and so he/she has yet to take the next big step by applying for a license.
- The “I’ll Give It A Try” Turkey Hunter: At one point or another many of us have all been in this phase. We have a hankering to bag a turkey so we can brag to our friends…but we resist buying all the new gear and supplies that seemingly go along with being a “real” turkey hunting fanatic. Fact is, to be a serious turkey hunter it can be expensive. Often times hunters who have the interest and are just starting out don’t see the real need to purchase the advanced equipment…at least not yet. This turkey hunter will remain in this phase until they successfully bag a turkey. If that opportunity never comes, due to misfortune or lack of knowledge, the interests will likely wane and the hunter will never really understand what fuels the passion of the hunter in the next stage.
- The Hardcore Turkey Addict: No doubt about it this is an exclusive club of hunters. To gain membership you need to have at least one (more is better) turkey tails hanging on your wall. Now, I am not saying that success is marked by killing a turkey per se, but my contention is that until you have lived that excitement you cannot begin to imagine how addictive turkey hunting can be. Once you understand that you are hunting one of the wariest critters on the face of the earth, trying to mimic a love-struck hen, using equipment that must be used flawlessly…after that, it is all pretty simple. Yea, right!
Like so many things in the outdoors if you have never given a new sporting opportunity a chance it is hard to imagine what all the fuss is about. In contrast, if you have given the sport a chance but had a sour experience it can further add to some disillusionment. Like most real addictions, you need to taste success to fully understand how the activity can grip your life.
I was fortunate. The first few years I turkey hunted were back in the early 80s when I hunted around Red Wing on some public land. I saw some turkey tracks in the mud…even seen some droppings and heard them calling…but never actually saw a bird. It was still early in Minnesota’s turkey recovery efforts…so I kept my expectations realistic.
A decade later the birds were growing more plentiful and my expectations were also changing. It was no longer good enough to see signs of turkeys or to hear them calling in a distant tree top. I had to see, interact with them thru calling, and get a reasonable chance at a shot to be satisfied.
Well, it will be 16 years ago next week when that opportunity finally came for me. My partner and I were on a ridge with an alfalfa (CRP) field to our backs on top of the hill. A good 300 yards away I could see some black spots moving against the golden yellow grass that we later learned were their struttin’ grounds. A quick glance thru the binoculars confirmed my suspicion and only further quickened my pulse.
I slowly reached inside my pocket and pulled out my Lynch’s World Champion Box Call. With each passing moment the excitement was building to a crescendo that I had never experienced before in my limited number of turkey outings of the past. The first few squeaks of the box call likely produced some terrible utterings…but to no apparent avail. The birds were too far away to even take notice. Soon, my calling confidence grew and so did my call volume. Suddenly, in an almost magical moment, the big tom seemed to be zigzagging closer.
What seemed like it must have been four hours of pure excitement was actually condensed into 20 minutes of nervous anticipation. Each step the bird took closer sent my heart racing and my mind trying to formulate some final strategy. Soon the big tom turkey was so close I couldn’t understand why the sound of my thumping chest was not scaring this majestic bird. Surely this strutting bird will soon discover that something is awry in that brushy area next to the field. Without further ado it was time to take action.
Indeed, I’ve been a turkey hunting addict now ever since this early April morning back in 1989. I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times since then and chased my addiction, but for the most part I am a recovering turkey hunting addict. I owe a special thanks to the Minnesota DNR this year in not selecting my permit application, it has made dealing with my addiction so much more tolerable. With support like that it’s really possible to kick the bad habit. Well, at least for this year, anyway!
© 2005 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.
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