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The caller and the crawler

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2018 turkey season is officially over for me, it was a tough one but I was very blessed this year. 

Wisconsin and Minnesota
The caller and the crawler

Saturday May 18 Bradley and myself leave for Wisconsin for our final hunts of the year.  We arrive at our chosen WMA at 2:20am Sunday morning in the driving rain.  We sleep in the truck for a few hours to wake up to stormy weather surrounding the entire portion of the state that we are in.  We decided to head to Minnesota in hopes for better weather.  
We arrive in Minnesota to more rain and cold windy weather. There were hikers and hunters in every spot we had hoped to hunt. Around 3:30 we decided to go check out some state land that a friend had told me about, when we pulled up to the first ag field on the state land we see a bird strutting with 2 hens.  We devised a game plan by looking at our maps and took off after the gobbler. We climbed down a big hill crossed a bottom and then climbed our way back up to the ridge top where the bird was strutting in the ag field. We eased up to the field edge but couldn’t see anything in the cut corn field. I told Bradley  to ease on up the field and set up and I would go to the back of the field over the hill and start calling in hopes of pulling the gobbler into range.  Bradley is impressively slick when it comes to sneaking in on a bird.  We spit off and I find a spot to start calling from.  I start calling and after about 10min I hear the shot. I take off to the top of the hill to see Bradley standing on his Minnesota bird.  It actually worked out just how we had planned.  He said the bird came in strutting coming towards the call then realized he had left his hens and turned to go back to them so he rolled him. 22lbs 9.75” beard and 1 1\8”spurs. We looked around for another bird the rest of the afternoon but never found another bird. Bradley apologized for cutting in on the hunt and I told him it worked out exactly how I had hoped it would. He then said it did work out good and he always sees me as a caller and him a crawler. I laughed and said yea I can see that.

Monday greeted us with more nasty cold weather. We did hear a bird gobbling on a far off ridge but by the time we got to him he had gone quiet. We also had 2 groups of hunters park by my truck and come in on us.  We were in the corner of the wma so it wasn’t like there was a lot of land to hunt so it got crowded pretty quick.  We found a bird gobbling really good that afternoon in the misting rain, but he ended up being on some private land that bordered the wma we had found. We did actually get permission from the land owner that night to hunt his place so we had high hopes for the next morning.

Tuesday early morning it flooded and then broke off foggy as heck. We got set up well before daylight and didn’t hear anything for about an hour after it broke light. When the bird we had hoped to see started gobbling he was over on the neighbors place in a thicket.  We had been told the birds would come to the ag fields but this was not the case today, he stayed on the neighbors place and wouldn’t move. Another bird started gobbling up on the public land so I took off after him. I got set up and made my first series of calls when I hear something coming, wouldn’t you know it, it was a guy and his two dogs walking around in the wma 1.5miles from the parking area. So my hunt was over for that area.  Wanting to change my luck we decide to go back to Wisconsin to give them a try.
It had rained for 3 straight days in Wisconsin but he weather looked like it would break for a few days.

Wednesday morning we hike 1.5miles in to a wma where we should get on some birds but the rain had flooded the woods and made it almost impossible to hunt. We heard a couple birds but couldn’t wade to get to them. On our way out we spotted a gobbler strutting with a few hens. As we moved to get closer one of the hens took off hauling all the other birds off with them. Once we got up to the top of the hill where those birds ran into the ticket from the ag field Bradley noticed 6 hens and a gobbler at the far end of the field. Straight line it was 800yds but to get to them it was around a half mile.  I told Bradley I would spot for him and let him know if they left.  He took off and after about 30-45minutes as I’m watching the birds work their way in the field I see the hens start to move to the opposite side of the cove where they were feeding. The gobbler follows then I hear a boom in the distance and see birds flying everywhere. I couldn’t tell what had happened but had my fingers crossed that he had connected, after about 5 min I see Bradley emerge from the woods and walk over to a flopping bird that I can now see. He had done it again. He had gotten his bird for Wisconsin and had made an impressive stalk on him. 21lbs 11.5” beard 1.25” spurs.  We never saw another bird but we did find a bird on some private land that bordered the wma land. I got Bradley to drop me off and I made my way to the edge of the wma and got in positon to try to call the bird across the line.  As I was calling the bird really could have cared less and just milled around in the cut corn field. He did eventually work his way to 15yds from me and I was on my phone texting Bradley asking him to go ask the land owner if we could hunt their land. The bird actually goes into some grass and lays down about 20yds from me.  I get a text from Bradley saying the land owner said not no but heck no! she likes here wildlife on its feet.  She told him that most people don’t ask they just do whatever. He told her that that’s not how we do things and that’s why he was asking. She wouldn’t change her mind so I told him to come get me because I wasn’t going to shoot across the line.  We decided to go check out another wna farther west for the next day.    And if you are wondering, Yes, if he had asked and she said yes the second I got the text saying we could hunt there I would shot. So it would have basically been; could we hunt your land, yes you can, text yes, Boom, thank you for allowing us to hunt your land. All in about 30seconds.

Thursday morning we hike in 1.5miles to our listing spot on this new wma and we hear about 8 different birds gobbling in all directions. We choose one to start our hike to and once we get in close he gobbles about 150yds away. We ease up a little more and set up. Bradley sets up about 40yds behind me and starts calling. After a few minutes I can see his tips shining in the early morning sunlight about 80yds from my tree. He gobbles and gobbles and two jakes walk by me at 20yds, a hen starts raising cane just below us on the ridge side.  The gobbler drops off the side of the ridge and goes to her, when they come back up on the ridge she crossed about 25yds in front of me and he is still out there about 75yds away and skirts me.  As they work off I couldn’t help but smile, it was the perfect hunt minus getting a shot.   Bradley then split off and went after another bird and I made a loop to try to get back on this gobbler.  I get set up around the last place I heard him and made a series of calls, I hear a hen call then I hear a limb pop and I see ahead pop up about 30yds from my position.  It’s not a gobbler head or a hen head, it’s a person’s head and he has an orange mouth call. I yell hey, hey and the guy raises his gun to the side and stands up. I stand up and we talk for a little while, he thought I was a turkey and he was sneaking up to see if the gobbler was with the hen he had thought he had heard. When I went to walk away the gobbler spooks and pitches into the air crossing the valley. He was about 60yds away when we spooked.  I can’t catch a break.   We had plans to hunt him that afternoon but the gnats were beyond horrible, you couldn’t see or breathe they were so bad.  I had some vanilla and it made it worse. So I cut my afternoon short after my lip had swollen up and my ears looked like I had been fighting in a mma fight. It was horrible.

Friday morning I found myself on the same ridge with the same gobbling bird but this time I was able to get close but not to the spot I wanted to get because of a large opening in the woods.  I watched him pitch out onto the ridge where I wanted to be and left the area. The gnats carried me off and we headed to town to find some relief from these gnats.  We found some head nets at the local ace hardware, which turned out to be one heck of an outdoor store.  Friday afternoon I was set up and gnat free on the ridge where I had hoped he would come back to.  Around 6:30 I hear some leaves rustling and out pops a turkey from the ridge edge, he runs up to three yards from me and all I can tell is it is a male turkey. It’s so thick I can’t tell anything. I finaly see his beard and he’s a jake and I guess he sees my eyes and he spooks.  About 20min later I hear the leaves rustling again and out pops another turkey, this time at 12yds working from my right to my left. Next is the jake. I’m waiting on the gobbler to come into view when I see a bird hop up onto a log and start preening itself.  I told myself to concentrate on the opening and the gobbler that should be following. But I kept getting drawn back to that other bird. I eased my binoculars up and looked at the bird on the log and could tell it was a male bird but figured it must be that jake.  Well I kept looking since I could see the beard and when he turned a little more I caught a glimmer of sunlight between his breast feathers, could it be.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, I dropped my binos and raised my gun, I had almost let my Wisconsin bird get by me again . Not sure where he came from but he’s a cool almost white tipped bird that was 19lbs 9.5” beard and 1 1\16” spurs. I was truly blessed on this hunt.  After I picked Bradley up from his spot we headed back to Minnesota in hopes I could find a bird. Bradley drove so I could sleep and we arrived at our wma around 2am Saturday morning.

Saturday morning I hear a bird start gobbling around 4:45 at 7 I’m sitting 60yds from him and he’s probably gobbled 200 times. He gobbled at everything I threw at him but he flew down on the opposite ridge and then stayed on the side of that ridge working away from my positon. I crawled to the edge of the ridge and he wasn’t 40yds from me but I couldn’t see 15yds. It was so thick.  While I was hunting Bradley had walked into the woods where earlier in the week we had seen some morel mushrooms, he gathered a few of them and we got the local Italian restaurant to cook some of them for us.  That afternoon I found some birds in a field but they ended up not having a gobbler with them.

Sunday morning I was sitting 50yds from the tree the gobbler was roosted in and he was on fire again. It was so thick I could see him in the tree but he was about to blow my hat off every time he gobbled my way. I had an open ridge to my right and left and a briar thicket in front of me.  At 7 he decides to fly down and he drops off into that thicket then off the back of the ridge. I was pressed for time so I crawled down the ridge and eased over to hope to see him. Once again it was so thick I couldn’t see anything. I caught his wing flap as he flew to the other ridge. My Minnesota hopes were about gone, but I had two amazing hunts and other than not getting to pull the trigger I couldn’t have asked for much more. I’ll be back on that ridge next year before it gets thick. 

2018 was a rough season but I was beyond blessed. Getting to take birds in Hawaii, Wisconsin and Mississippi was just awesome. Looking forward to see what the 2019 season will hold in store.

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I shoulda added this in the story but working mids and trying to get all this in at work is a bit tough. 

I was talking to Bradley on the long ride home and we were discussing crawling birds and the technique he uses.  Its the same as I do and probably most others do but in my case my hindrance comes in the form of a little green 3-5 leafed plants that loves to show up during the spring.  Poison Ivy and Oak are not my friends and therefore when it comes to getting down and rubbing elbows with it I choose to stay on my feet and let my calls do the work.  When the forest floor allows ill crawl with the best of them if I have to but if its covered in green I'll let my calls do the work.    


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