Wow where to start with our 2019 turkey trip. I’ll try to do it some justice.
After getting off work the morning of April 30th, Bradley and myself head out on the 35hr drive to northern California. We arrive Wednesday afternoon May 1 and get our hunting license and head out for an afternoon hunt\scouting mission. We didn’t have any luck that afternoon but we did run into a fox hunter who told us about some places to look.
May 2 California
The next morning found us on a 2 mile flat that was mixed tree groves and open fields with rocks in them. It was a strange mix for sure and we struck out that morning not hearing anything. So we moved farther down the road and stopped on the top edge of a huge canyon. There we could hear 2 birds gobbling below and we decided to try to get to them. There was about a 600ft elevation change and it was pretty steep. We were able to drive an access road to the bottom and once we got out we headed towards the hardest gobbling bird. Wouldn’t you know it he was right in the middle of some private land, the only private around, and he wasn’t coming off of it. This private land had the whole valley blocked from access on the west side. So we left that bird and started walking the east end of the valley in hopes of striking another bird. After a mile or so in we were getting to the end of the valley where it made a big fork. I made a call and a bird gobbled in the distance so we took off closing the distance. When we got to a point that we couldn’t move much more we decided to set up and try our luck there. I told Bradley to go ahead and I’d call, we ended up setting next to one another on a huge pine tree. I started calling and the bird would answer back and just as I thought something was about to happen it did. Bradley jumps up and said he’s got to go he’s getting eaten up; we had sat down on a tree that was covered up in some type of ants. He was covered with them, he said he was fine until one bit his face and they all started biting him, then he had to go. I felt horrible but as he left to go shuck clothes I made a small loop and go a little closer to the bird, and started calling. The bird answered and after about 10 minutes I hear Bradley make a call. Then Bradley starts moving farther away calling. The bird finally left his strut zone and started my way. I could finally see the tips of his fan as he inched his way to me. Then I could see him strutting and looking. Seems like it took forever and I told myself to relax and be patient and just let him come. That’s something I’m not very good at; I tend to shoot as soon as they get in range. He finally struts to about 30yds and when he stretched his neck out to look around I took the shot and punched my California tag. I told Bradley I’m gonna have to call this bird the TK and Mike bird and it was pretty fitting.
May 3 California
We tried getting the gobbler that was on the private land to cross the fence but he wasn’t having it, it was like he was a runner and he had places to go and things to see. After climbing down in the valley and back out we took off in hopes of finding another bird somewhere else. We ended up on some BLM land that used to be an almond farm and it was about a 2 mile walk to the back of it. We decided to give it a look and it didn’t take long to see that there were turkeys on this property. The sign was there and we saw a few hens but no gobblers. After about 1.75 miles as we’re slipping through an old grown up road between two fields Bradley makes a call and a bird answers and he’s not that far off. Bradley crawls up the old road and slips up next to an old grown up fence row and I start to soft call. The bird gobbles and in just a few minutes I see him coming through the grass. I’m now hoping that I didn’t call to soon and that Bradley is set up where he needs to be. The bird closes the distance and I’m starting to worry that Bradley can’t see him; finally I jump as the shot goes off and I see the bird disappear. I see Bradley jump up and take off to make sure the bird was down. He said there was a fence post that was blocking the birds head from view and that he couldn’t take it any more as soon as his head cleared the post he shot. He punched his California tag that afternoon and we were off to Oregon.
May 4 Oregon
With the intel of a friend of a friend We find ourselves on a small block of BLM land in southern Oregon where we run into a local hunter before daylight that tells us were in a good spot and that the birds travel through he land throughout the day. After a few hours we decided to go check a few other spots in the area and while we found a ton of sign and saw birds all over the private land down in the bottoms we didn’t see or hear a bird up in the mountains on the public land. That afternoon we decided to go back to the small parcel of land and walk it over to get a better idea of the layout. When we parked I asked Bradley which was he wanted to go and he said he’d go left so I went right. I had gone about 300yds when I needed to tie my boots so I stopped by some trees with an old fence growing in them, made a call with no answer and then knelt down to tie my boots. As soon as I’m done my phone buzzes and it’s a text from my wife wishing me luck on my hunt. I told her thanks and when I look up through some bushes I see a group of turkeys, its 3 hens a jake and a longbeard. I couldn’t believe it they were 30yds away and when the gobbler gave me a shot I took it and I filled my Oregon tag just like that. It was in a beautiful draw coming down off the hills, I couldn’t have asked for a better spot.
We hunted hard and burned 3 tanks of gas traveling and looking for Bradley a bird over the next 4 days. But we never found any birds. We had a close encounter on May 7 and there was a miracle on that hill side, a dead bird flew off that morning after we had sat waiting for over 5hrs. Oh I was so sick for him but it happens it just stings more on these trips. So after another day Bradley said lets go to Washington.
We make the 12hr drive north and get there just in time to roost a bird up on the top of a mountain. A place where one of Bradley’s friends had been a couple days before and had given us some great info. We set up camp right past the bear danger signs and talk about a not so easy feeling trying to sleep in bear country. Us southern boys aren’t used to that sorta stuff.
May 9 Washington
We hike up the mountain before daylight and get set up pretty tight on the roosted bird. He starts gobbling at 4:30am which is crazy to me. It gets light so early out there. The bird is roosted on the edge of a big bowl on top of the mountain, we’re sitting in that bowl about 60yds apart and we start soft calling and he goes nuts but then so do his hens. They drop down straight out of the tree and hit a small shelf right below them and that’s where they stay. After an hour or so we regroup and Bradley tells me he’s gonna stay and see if he will do anything a little later and that if I wanted to I could go look somewhere else I could. I told him I didn’t hear any other birds and that I didn’t want to take the chance of bumping the bird if I left and that I was just gonna sit over by a tree to the right and watch and help call if needed to. So we eased down to the trees we had talked about getting against. Bradley starts calling and the bird answers him and after about 10 minutes you can tell the bird has moved up some. He keeps calling and I’m thinking about trying to video the hunt until the worst thing happens, I hear the bird gobble and now he’s moving to the right which is towards me, I catch the tips of his fan just over the rise of the bowl as he struts by me at 12yds. Now he’s drumming and strutting right by me. Bradley makes a few calls and his hens come over the bowl and start to him but then the gobbler basically calls them back to continue going over the bowl and away from us. I crane my head around and he’s strutting 10yds from me but behind me I slowly move my gun up and around and I’m now aiming left handed and kinda in a bind. The thought went through my mind and I felt really bad but I know Bradley wouldn’t let a bird walk so I settled my red dot on his head told myself to squeeze the trigger and my gun just went off and I had filled my Washington tag. It was the best and worst feeling in the world because I know how bad Bradley wanted that bird and the last few days had been brutal. It took him a few munutes to walk up to me and the bird and he just said” it not my year, I knew that dang bird was gonna do that. I mean why would he walk up a perfect runway of beautiful grass when he can skirt the mountain and then have to scale a sheer rock face to get over here.”(last year I went through what he was going through so I know how he was feeling).
We took some pics and headed to the truck and then went to walk a few more places that we know had birds but didn’t have any luck striking anything. That afternoon Bradley decided to go down a blocked road across from the camps where he had seen some sign earlier in the day. I dropped him off around 6:30pm and then I went to try to find him a bird for the next morning at another spot. At 7:40 I get a text saying it’s time to break camp. He had punched his Washington tag with a unique tail fanned bird. He had eased up the road a good ways where there was a fork in the road, he took the left fork this time because earlier in the day it had some elk on it and he didn’t want to spook them so he went down the right fork. This afternoon about 300yds down the left fork he makes his first call with his trumpet call and a bird sounds off on the next ridge top about 400yds away, he finds a tree to set against and makes another call on his trumpet. The bird sounds off again and now he can see 3 gobblers coming down the hill side in front of him. The lead bird was almost at a run he told me and when he hit the road he was coming straight to him. He had ranged a dead fall and when the bird ducked under it he readied his gun. As soon as the bird straightened up Bradley filled his Washington tag. Talk about a huge relief after the mornings hunt.
We broke camp and headed to Idaho just in time to try to roost some birds but didn’t have any luck but did find a good place to hunt.
May 10 Idaho
We start our hike up into some timber company land that is mixed clear cut and drainages. We hear a couple birds in the distance across the valley on some private land so we keep walking, then we hear a gobble that is where we can hunt him if we can get to him. He was down in a bottom along a creek drainage and was about 300ft below the road we were on. We made a mad dash to get on an old road bed above him which took us on a mile detour adventure; it’s hard to walk straight away from a gobbling bird. We ended up right above the gobbler and it was almost straight down to him. We called and he answered and this went on for about 10 minutes, then we could tell he was on the ground so we had to do something. I set up on the top side of the road in a dip and Bradley eased back and set up next to some small trees in a dip on the bottom side of the road. I was calling and the bird was slowly coming up the mountain and was on course to come out about 30yds down the road from me. Then he drops back low and hits and old dim logging trail and starts to come below us, Bradley calls and I call and the bird is hammering. I look back at Bradley and he is aiming down the mountain and I said to myself “that bird will never make it up here, lol” after about 5 minutes he shoots and then I see him bail off the mountain side. I run to the edge and he’s way down in the bottom but he’s holding a bird. Bradley had filled his Idaho tag with a fine bird.
I hunted that afternoon in the same place because there was so much sign only to see a couple hens and 2 jakes. But Bradley did hear a couple birds on the back side of the property right at dark so the next morning we set out up that side of the mountain with no luck on the bird we were after, it was all quiet except for a bird way off in the distance that was on private land that he had also heard that day before.
May 11 Idaho
Ok so here is where the little devil sits on my left shoulder and the little angel sets on the right. I go on the public land that borders the private land where the bird was gobbling earlier. There is a shelf on that private land that is a perfect strut zone. Now the little devil is saying he’s going to be right over there later on and no one is around just go sit on that tree and wait, but on the other shoulder I’m hearing you know it’s not right, work the bird over onto this Forest land. So who won, well the right shoulder angel won. I’m sitting there fighting the urge to cross the line when in a far distance on the private land a rooster crows and a bird gobbles way off into the public land. I said to myself he’s out in that cutover on the other mountain, I’ve got a chance. I make a loop but can’t find him and he never gobbles again so I’m starting back to my original spot because I had found an old road that cut the public land and went into the private and I found tracks all along the road and I figured he would walk it to go to that strut zone. About half way down the road I notice a slight spot to the right of the road on a hill side and I tell myself I bet he crosses here and goes through this 10-15yr pine replant to get to that spot. But I walk to the end and set up literally on the line facing the public land, my back is on a painted tree. Every 15min or so I’ll make a call with just silence until 6pm when I called and he gobbled about 75yds away in the thick of the pines. Sure enough he had walked where I had told myself he would earlier. Now he’s at a pretty good angle to my left so I make a small move and reposition my gun in his direction and start calling and he gobbles again much closer but I can’t see anything because it’s so thick. I make some more calls and I catch movement to my left and there he is just in the edge of a small opening, I strain to get my gun around that much more but it’s enough to settle in on him and I fill my Idaho tag with a fine one. I shot a tree in half 3yds in front of me somehow but still managed to get him. I couldn’t believe it and I was so happy that I got him the right way and didn’t fall into the temptation of doing the wrong thing. As a turkey hunter you all know how hard it is. I text Bradley that I hat gotten him and he text back congrats but we have a dilemma, because he had just at that very moment gotten permission to hunt some private land and it was some fine land. When he picked me up he told me about the land and I said heck lets hunt it tomorrow for a fun no stress hunt and lets use our 410’s.
May 12 Idaho
We arrive on the farm and start our walk across the fields to the woods edge when the birds start sounding off and its quite a few on this roost. We get set up and we can see 4 or so strutting on the limbs and of course they have a hen who takes then straight away from us. After about an hour we slip down into the bottom and start up the far hill to see if we can’t put our eyes on them in the next field. As were coming up the hill I pull out my fan and hand it to Bradley and tell him to use it so maybe they won’t spook if we run into them, just as we’re crawling up the last little bit I hear him say “shoot there they are” and I hear a cluck then I see a jake pop up and then 2 longbeards at about 8yds and they are coming to us in a hurry. Bradley gets his little 410 set between the fan feathers and I tell him I can’t get a shot to just shoot one and ill try to get on one. He shoots and then I hear “awe crap” and the turkeys take off back down the hill, I shoot just as they disappear and I miss also and I just started laughing. That was pretty sad I told him as I laughed. We had both pulled our shots, we didn’t get back on those birds that morning but followed them around for a while and in that bunch it was 4 longbeards and 11 jakes.
We decided to stay and hunt that afternoon and it was a wild hunt too. This time the 20’s came with us and we chased 3 longbeards and a hen but they ended up skirting us and going off onto another ridge where we couldn’t move on them. Now were in a big dilemma because were sitting under the roost trees at this point and if we don’t kill well be 11 or so getting out of there. Just as were about to try to ease out to watch the roost from a distance Bradley catches the tail of a bird crossing the creek below us and tells me a bird is coming our way. About 2 min later I see 4 red heads pop out 30yds from us out of the woods and cross the fence into the field. I tell Bradley they are there and he is looking down in the bottom, I say to your left but nothing, finally I say in the field to your left 30yds and then he sees them and starts making his move with his gun. I tell him to shoot any of them when he can and of course the one bird I’m aiming at drops as his gun goes off and the scramble commences. One of birds breaks right into an opening and I’m able to get a shot on him and we double on a ridge top on the edge of the mountains in Idaho. Doesn’t get much better .
We slept in Idaho that night then off to Montana the next morning. We stopped in western Montana but they said they had a bad winter kill so we headed east for 12hrs
May 13-14,15 Montana / North Dakota
We heard a couple birds but never could do anything with them the morning of the 14th we set up tight on a bird Bradley had roosted for me(he already had Montana) and that joker was slick. He flew down and ran around us staying just under a slight hill running out of hearing all while gobbling. After that morning of chasing that bird I said lets go to North Dakota and try our luck, I just wasn’t feeling it there at the time. So we took off north to North Dakota. The original reservation we were going to was closed so we called another reservation and they said they had good bird numbers so we took off there. We had 500k acres to hunt and they gave out 30 tags hmmm that might not be good. But the guy at the wildlife department showed us on some maps of where to look. We rode around for about an hour checking out some places he told us about and they looked good but we didn’t see anything at that time so we rode to a spot Bradley wanted to check out that he had seen on our maps. It was rough country right next to the lake it was deeeeeeeeppppp ravines but it did look good. As were driving back to the original spot I see a gobbler in a field going towards 2 jakes we stop to look at him and Bradley says there are 3 over here on the right side of the road strutting. We drive up and turn the truck around then drive back by and once we get out of sight we jump out grab our gear and take off up the hills trying to get around them. We’re able to get in a small wooded valley below them that has 3 fingers running up to the field they are in. Just as were getting to about 100yds from the edge of the field a hen steps out in to the opening of the left valley coming our way, luckily I had my fan out using it to block our movement. We inch our way to a forked tree and set down and the hen start moving away. Bradley makes a call and a hen answers and the gobblers gobble. Then one hen comes our way and I see a gobbler run across the opening from our left to right running up on top of a hill that’s 50’ above us I see him come to the edge and blow up into strut. I call and here he comes strutting through the brush down the hill face right to us. When he gets to 15yds he stops and struts back and forth and gobbles and drums. I’ve got my 410 fixed on him( I couldn’t use my 20 in ND because my plug had messed up on me and if you tried you could load more than 3 shells in my gun so I carried my 410 to be legal) I tell Bradley to let me shoot first and he said ok. The other 3 gobblers closed the distance then went away again we never could get a shot at both birds at the same time. Finally the other three worked off a little and Bradley told me to shoot the bird to my right and then we could start calling in hopes of getting the others to come to the fight. I settled my nerves told myself to take up the slack in the trigger and squeeze. It was so cool to see the pattern engulf his head and hit on the hill side right behind him. He drops and we start calling like crazy and the other 3 are going crazy. Bradley was able to crawl about 10yds into a thicket and get a shot on his ND bird. We had just doubled on two amazing North Dakota gobblers.
It was an unreal hunt and probably the best of the trip for me. We took some awesome pics in the 40mph wind then ran back to camp cleaned our birds then loaded the truck and headed back to Montana with an hour to spare before day break.
May 16 Montana
It flooded on us the last couple hours of our drive in and the roads were nasty but Bradley was able to get us to the spot we needed to be. We swapped driving about 1am so I could try to get a little sleep before the morning. Well when my alarm went off it was like waking the dead and the wind was howling and it was cold outside. I got out of the truck and looked around and thought about getting back in the truck and going to sleep but we had just driven all night to get to the spot and I had one morning to hunt before some real bad weather set in. I looked up in the sky and saw a single star and said its gonna be ok. I changed clothes and grabbed my gear and told Bradley I was going up the road to listen and he kinda gave me a good luck look said ok and he was out again. I made it to my listening spot and couldn’t hear anything but wind. After about 30 min the wind died down and the sky’s cleared and I hear a fain gobble in the distance then another and he’s moving and I know about where he’s going. I take off on a hike to cut him off and end up spooking 3 mule deer and of course they run in his direction and that was the last gobble I heard from him. Feeling defeated I just said” you won old boy you sure are a slick one. “ and I started the hike back to the truck. I stopped at a high point just to look around and the sunrise and in the distance he sounded off again and he was on the move away from me. I took off after him and once I finally got within a few hundred yards of where I thought he should be I stopped behind a small hill and listened I hear him gobble and I ease up to the top of the small hill and finally pin point him and he’s in a most difficult place to get to. He was on the flat to of the highest peak in the area and it was pretty much wide open to get to him with the exception of a few pines that were on the same hill he was on. So I made my plan of approach and slipped down into a low drain and make it to the side hill. I started picking my way through the pines as I made it closer and closer to the bottom of the hill he was on. It was about 200ft to the top of the hill and it was almost straight up. So I started climbing, the rain from the morning deadened my footsteps, a welcome gift from above, and after I closed the distance to 30yds from the last incline he was still gobbling his head off. I made a soft purr on my pot call and a slight yelp on my mouth call and that was it. Then I crawled on my knees through the small thick pins to the other edge of the incline where it was actually a little more slope for me to try to make a move. As I’m sitting there trying to plot my path through the pine cone covered ground for the last little bit in hopes of seeing him I hear a put and its to my left. I ease my eyes over and there he stands 10yds from me. Apparently he was coming to the calls I made and I didn’t know it. No way did I figure he would leave his look out, but he did. I eased my gun around and was able to get a shot off as he disappeared behind the bluff wall and just blew some feathers off of him, he pitches out off the mountain side and I’m able to get a second shot off just as he is about to be gone. He folds up and hits the last tree he could have and falls to the ground at the edge of the cliff just before going over. I had filled my final tag of the trip and what an amazing hunt it had been. I climbed to the top where his last post was and wow what a view.
We traveled 7700 miles driven in 15 days over 90 miles on the ground in the beautiful mountains of the pacific North West and took birds in 6 states. The Good Lord blessed us beyond anything I could have ever imagined on this trip by keeping us safe in our travels and our hunts. It’s amazing what all HE can and will do for us. We loaded up got breakfast at a small town diner and then headed south for home… Until next year.
2019 was a pretty amazing year.