Three Words Every Turkey Hunter Needs To Remember

Over the years turkey hunting has taught me many lessons, but none greater than the wisdom I garnered on Tuesday, April 19th, 1994. You might ask why do I remember a particular day almost 16 years later? Simple. What I experienced that sunny morning in the rolling hills of southeastern Minnesota has forever changed the way I hunt and think about spring turkeys.

The day started out much like any other morning in the turkey woods. I got out there early and set up along a field edge with a pair of active gobblers roosted about 80 yards just over a small hill. As the morning sun began to fill the eastern sky, I soon heard the tell-tale sound of beating wings bringing these lumbering birds down to my ground level from their roosts.

As most turkey hunters will tell you, a bird on the ground is definitely “game on” for the hunter. Personally, the only time I call to birds in the roost is when I hear other birds (hens usually) already on the ground. On this particular morning, however, it appeared to be just me against these two anxious toms.

The calling ensued with some soft yelps from my diaphragm call. The toms acknowledged with a raucous gobble indicating their accepting response. Even though I could not visualize the birds quite yet, I could sense they were inching closer as this springtime game of seduction proceeded. I would let out more soft yelps…the birds would respond in kind. In due time, the two mature gobblers inched closer, but never quite within my shotgun range.

Then it happened.

After nearly 90 minutes of playing the part of the seductress hen, with my heart racing with adrenaline, what I experienced next made me gasp in horror. Suddenly, a flock of about 10 hens appeared and predictably diverted the attention of my big boys. I didn’t get up at 4 a.m. for this experience to end on such a sour note. Yet, it appeared all my earlier hunting efforts to sway these toms closer to me were about to become futile as the “kings of the woods” were now being escorted away by their entourage.

I sat there fumbling through my hunting vest hoping for an answer. I tried a box call…nothing. I tried another boat paddle call…again, nothing. I reached into another vest pocket for a different mouth call. Still, no response. During this entire time I could see these hens moving in the opposite direction of me taking with my two hopes for a successful turkey hunting morning.SLD_372

I was growing desperate. I reached into one last pocket and removed a slate call I had not practiced with all spring. With the turkeys now 125 yards away from me and heading in another direction, I viewed my use of this call as the equivalent to a Hail Mary pass in football—it was my last ditch effort to salvage the game.

I gently scratch a series of “C”s using the striker peg and immediately something quite magical and mysterious occurred. Within 15 seconds those hens I accused of dragging my toms away were now suddenly on top of me looking for the source of that sound. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what I said in turkey-speak, but it made those hens angry, or at least, very curious with me. So much so, in fact, it brought them in too close for me to utter any additional turkey sounds.

Of course, by this point no additional calling was necessary. Along with the angry entourage of hens were my two nice toms now standing only about 25 yards from my seated location. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions that morning. I went from high hopes…to seeing my hopes disappear before my eyes…to then finally living the intense, heart-pounding action of scoring on a nice tom turkey. All of this done in just a matter of a few hours.

Indeed, on that day I learned to NEVER GIVE UP!! Turkeys can be fickle, unpredictable birds that will often times leave you scratching your head trying to figure them out. Oh, sure, I’d like to claim it was my superb calling skill back during that 1994 morning which allowed me to bag my third Minnesota gobbler. Truth is, it was more my stubbornness to accept defeat that eventually paid the turkey hunt dividends.

© 2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Spring thaw reveals last fall’s hunting mystery

I’ve been waiting a few weeks to post this one hoping my friend would come through with some additional pictures.   Seems last fall a buddy and his son were watching two nice bucks on their trail cameras hoping to get a shot at them during the Minnesota archery season.   To no avail, the deer just disappeared and nobody else hunting the area reported any sightings well into the fall season.

Of course, when you get pictures on your trail camera this can be sort of a teaser.   Yet, the mystery grew intriguing because two nice bucks literally vanished and left a bunch of hunters scratching their heads as to where the deer could have disappeared to.

Well, lo and behold, last month (March 13th to be exact) one of those hunters stumbled upon the answer.   He was down by his lakeside dock when a peculiar sight caught his attention.   What he found was the skeletal remains of two nice deer, horns locked, decaying in the grass.   No doubt these two boys were in the heat of the battle during last season’s rut when they met their unfortunate demise.





Some might say the pictures are rather gross in appearance.   Others might say the pictures show a disturbing sight where two fine bucks in the prime of their life succumb to an unfortunate occurrence of nature.   Either way, the pictures show that nature is not always kind to its inhabitants.   It also shows that nature can provide lots of drama for those who care to learn and discover more about it.

The pictures I had hope to also include in this blog were some of the living shots my buddy took with his trail camera.   I thought that would be a fine way to pay tribute to these once nice bucks.   Time being of the essence, I decided to finally publish these pics anyway without the other shots.

Now that last fall’s hunting mystery is finally solved it’s time for new storylines to develop in the woods.   Still, the story of these two bucks locked in battle will remain in local deer hunting lore for many years to come.   For this group of hunters they read and hear about this sort of thing happening all the time in the woods.   It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to actually live it first-hand.

©2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Is The Fervor Over Quality Deer Management Starting To Wane?

In what is sure to cause some heated coffee shop discussion among deer hunters, acclaimed deer author and photographer, Charles Alsheimer, has penned an upcoming June article for Deer & Deer Hunting magazine entitled “Has the QDM Bubble Burst?” (Click on the link to read an excerpt from that article)

In a nutshell, Alsheimer suggests that due to cultural and sociological factors, both landowner and hunter attitudes about QDM are causing some individuals to re-think their positions on the highly popular deer management concept. Consider these major “pitfalls” now challenging the ultimate success of QDM:

  1. Unrealistic goals – anticipated results not achieved.
  2. Problems with neighbors – uncooperative neighbors become big headaches.
  3. The wrong focus – expectations for producing big bucks too high.
  4. Money matters – disposable income tighter for most budgets.
  5. The burnout curve – poor results eventually beget loss of interest.

My Take

I’ll be quite honest, I have never been a supporter of QDM. To me deer hunting is much more than engineering the deer herd to produce bigger bucks. Sure, QDM supporters will say the management concept produces a healthier deer herd by using more selective harvest practices, as well as proper land management techniques, but the main motivation for most QDM enthusiasts is more deer sporting bigger racks.

What I think, and hope, will evolve from this is a conservation-minded thinking that melds together many of these deer management theories. QDM serves its supporters well if the measure of success for every deer hunt is seeing trophy class animals on a more regular basis.

Unfortunately, that is not how every deer hunter thinks. Sure, most hunters will agree a big-antlered deer is a trophy in any hunter’s mind. Still, I believe there’s a majority of deer hunters who take to the woods each fall carrying with the notion any deer harvested should be considered a “trophy” in the hunter’s mind. In other words, deer hunting management should be more about creating deer hunting opportunity and perhaps less focused about the size/frequency of seeing the deer’s rack.

Your Take

So, what do you think? Are you a strong supporter of QDM who takes issue with people talking about the perceived demise of this popular deer management concept. Or, have you been someone reluctant to jump on the QDM bandwagon because you’ve long had issues with the deer management principle. Either way, leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

© 2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.