with Jim Joint
I've had a lot of favorite hunts, but I guess the morning that Mossy Oak called for this interview in mid-April goes in the category of my most favorite hunts. Jerry Foster and Greg Butler are two of my favorite friends, and getting to spend time with them hunting turkeys always is a great pleasure and a joy for me. The turkeys were gobbling good this morning. I put Jerry and Greg out in front of me, and I called the turkeys. We had two different groups of gobblers come in to my calling. But before they could get within gun range of my hunters, the hens came to them and dragged them away from us.
After we had struck out on two different chances at taking gobblers, I pretty much thought the hunt was over for the morning. But then, as we started walking out, I heard a hen soft yelping. So, we set up, and I began calling to her on my box call the same way she was calling to me. Sure enough, three hens and three gobblers came to us. All three gobblers were strutting, and the white tips of their tail feathers were almost glowing in the morning light. We took two gobblers out of the three. The entire hunt was just so memorable, because I was with good friends, and they both took nice gobblers after having had two disappointing hunts that morning that didn’t produce a bird.
We only had to travel about 200 yards up a mountain from where we had left our vehicle to get in position to call those turkeys. The turkeys first started coming to us on about the same level of the hill where I was calling. But then, they turned and started going to the top of the mountain. So, we had to move to the top of the mountain and set up there to let the turkeys come to us. Because the turkeys use the old tram roads and logging roads in the Black Hills almost every day, and since there’s hardly any hunting pressure in the places I find turkeys, once I get a flock of turkeys committed to coming in, they don’t hesitate to walk down those woods roads. This gives the hunter a good clean shot. However, the birds didn’t start coming down the road to my hunters until about 9:30 am. So, since before daylight until 9:30 am, this was the third flock of turkeys we had been able to work.
As I mentioned earlier, when we called to the first two flocks, a group of hens got to the gobblers before the gobblers could move to us. But on this last flock, due to there being an even number of hens to gobblers, I think those three gobblers didn’t hesitate to try to come over and try to pick up one more hen and add her to their harems.
Because I've spent a lot of time before the season shed hunting and studying Google Earth, I've located a large number of flocks of turkeys that my friends and I can hunt. One of the flocks of turkeys that I've pinpointed is right behind my house where my property adjoins the Black Hills. That flock has 11 adult gobblers and eight hens in it. So far, none of those gobblers have left that flock. I'm sure that later on in the season those gobblers will begin to set up their own territories, and we’ll be able to take some of those longbeards, but that hasn’t happened yet.
However, the place we hunted today, had three good flocks of gobblers and hens that were all within 1-1/2 miles of where we parked. For instance, this morning we were hunting down into a hollow that had a tram road running through it. That’s where we located and tried to work our first flock of turkeys. When we failed to take a tom there, we walked back to the truck and went to another tram road nearby. We went down into the canyon and struck a different flock of turkeys. When the gobblers started coming in, the hens went to them and took those gobblers away. So, we hiked back to the truck and went to another canyon, which is where we located the flock where we took the two gobblers.
We were hunting canyons today, because the area had a lot of wind, and turkeys don’t like to roost on mountain tops when a stiff wind is blowing. They’ll usually roost in the canyons then where they can get a good night’s sleep without having to fight the wind and hold onto the limb they’re roosted on to keep from getting blown out of the tree.
Another secret to hunting turkeys in the Black Hills on windy days is to hunt the canyons. Often when there's little or no wind, you can hunt the ridge tops. But if you're hunting prairie turkeys where there aren’t any canyons and mountains, if you have a windy day, the turkeys still will come out on the prairie. You just have to use louder calls there to hear a turkey gobble. If you're upwind of the turkey and hear him gobble, he'll probably be farther away from you than you think he is, because his gobbles are riding the wind. If the turkey is downwind from you, he’s probably closer than you think he is, because he's gobbling into the wind.
Tomorrow: My Toughest Turkey Hunts