Sit still, keep quiet, and shoot a turkey.

IMG_20171028_173319

Shooting the turkey in spring was a significant moment for me. It had been a few years since I had successfully hunted a “big game” animal, and although it could be argued that a turkey doesn’t count, I decided to take it as a win. However, despite ending the day with meat in my freezer, the circumstances of my success were less than ideal…because I didn’t deserve it. Prior to my successful shot, I had for all intents and purposes given up. If it hadn’t been for the landowner interrupting me literally as I was about to turn the key of my truck, I’d have been sat in afternoon traffic instead of a ground blind when that turkey wandered by.

I have always struggled with the mental side of hunting: losing focus and enthusiasm as time and lack of comfort wore on. I have read enough to know that perseverance is an important ingredient for a successful hunt, but when your backside is falling asleep in freezing temperatures, or you’re being pestered by mosquitoes, ticks, and self doubt, perseverance can be harder to find than legal game. As frustrations builds, perseverance evaporates, further fueling the frustration in a depressing cycle that definitely doesn’t lead to tagged animals. During my spring turkey hunt, my rendition of this cycle was interrupted by that timely and humbling lesson in the value of perseverance. A lesson I took well and truly to heart in time for the fall turkey hunt this October.

According to the wisdom of the internet one of the most reliable calls to use in the fall is the “kee-kee run”. This simulates a lost turkey trying to get in touch with its friends and can be useful for drawing birds in. Unfortunately it’s not an easy call to make on a slate, which is as far as my calling experience had grown up to that point. So prior to the start of the season I made an effort to learn how to use a mouth call. The mouth call consists of layers of fabric tape, latex, and aluminium, and sits in the roof of your mouth and squeaks and wails as you force air between it and your tongue. I decided quite late that I should try to learn this call in time for the season, but since the process is not known to be pleasing to the ears I decided to keep it away from home and dedicated my morning and afternoon commutes to the process instead. After I got over my tendency to gag when I put the call in my mouth, and after getting a lot of curious looks from fellow commuters at traffic lights, I eventually managed to produce sounds that might not be an instant red flag to any wild turkeys that overheard me. If there were any turkeys living within earshot of my route to work, they might have briefly considered the possibility that one of their fellows had learned to drive.

Unfortunately, while my fortnight of intensive commuter calling had helped me reach the turkey equivalent of ordering a beer in a foreign language, it was a long way short of confidently whispering sweet nothings in a barmaids ear. Turkeys don’t have the equivalent of beer goggles to tilt things in my favour however, so my “kee-kee runs” never really made it off the starting block. By the last day of my season I had effectively reverted to the deer hunting tactic of trying to be in the right place at the right time.

Based upon my previous year’s experience of hunting fall turkeys, I started the season with little hope of tagging a bird. However I found myself heading out each day with more determination than I expected. On the final day I had only planned to be out till lunch time, since there was a Formula One qualifying race scheduled for the early afternoon that I had hoped to watch and I didn’t expect my enthusiasm to last much longer than that anyway. I also knew that it would be my last day of hunting whether I got a bird or not, since I wouldn’t have another opportunity before the end of the season…but when the time came to pack up and go, my perseverance got up and stopped me. This was extra surprising to me because not only was my arse numb and the rest of me cold, but I hadn’t brought anything to eat—and I am notorious (among those who know me well) for losing enthusiasm when I get hungry. This time it didn’t seem to make a difference.

When I arrived at my hunting location on the final day of my season I was greeted by a couple of inches of snow, and a temperature several degrees below freezing. The landowner had mentioned to me that he had seen a lot of birds on top of a certain small hill feeding on acorns in the evenings, and so that was where I had decided to hunt that morning. When I arrived on the hilltop the snow I had been preemptively begrudging for its butt freezing potential instead did me a favour by displaying ample evidence of the recent movement and feeding of turkeys. So I set up my decoy and sat down to wait with my back to a pile of snow covered logs.

Despite the surfeit of tracks, there was no obvious place to set up that would cover all possible approaches, and sure enough as the morning wore on I several times heard suspicious noises behind me that I had no way to check on without giving myself away. They were probably squirrels. If you hear suspicious noises when you’re hunting in the woods, 99 times out of 100 it’s squirrels—but you never know.

Nevertheless, I kept faith, resisted the urge to sneak a peek behind me, and soon enough two creatures that definitely weren’t squirrels appeared from a direction I could actually observe. They were two jakes (juvenile male turkeys) and they approached from my left and crossed in front of me. However despite being covered from head to toe in camouflage and having a decoy to draw their attention, they were obviously unhappy about something. I kept a bead on the most likely option of the two, but neither got close enough for me to be confident making a shot and they eventually wandered off. In hindsight I suspect that sitting with my back to snow covered logs left me nicely silhouetted and exposed even the smallest movement of my head. Shortly after that, while I was still second guessing my decision not to shoot the jake, I caught sight of the birds that would eventually make my day.

The flock appeared on the far side of a field below where I was sitting. They must have come out of a group of pine trees where I know they like to roost, but is on a neighboring property that I don’t have permission to hunt on. I watched them move through the field where I did have permission to hunt but wasn’t currently sitting in, and disappear into another wooded hill that I also couldn’t access. It was disheartening to see so many birds walking away from me and past a spot where I had been sitting the day before, but it was the first time I’d seen so many birds at once in a hunting situation, and I knew that eventually they would probably head back to their roost. The question was which route would they take?

Cue another round of second guessing, this time of all the other decisions I had made that day. Then partly out of frustration for the missed opportunity and a desire to feel more proactive, I got up and moved to a new location. I set up at the edge of the field, at the end closest to the pine trees where the turkeys like to roost. I found a great spot just outside the field in a patch of brush that offered good concealment but had good views of the field and my decoy. Apart from the turkeys passing through that morning, I had also seen their tracks in that spot the day before, so it wasn’t a terrible place to be. But I couldn’t get the acorns out of my mind, and before too long I third guessed myself and moved again.

After a little break to warm up and check in with my wife I returned to the pile of logs where I had been that morning, but set up on a different side that wasn’t covered in snow and so wouldn’t leave me silhouetted. Then I waited.

As time slowly slipped away, taking my body heat and the feeling in my rear end with it, I thought about my situation. Sitting in the middle of a lot of fresh turkey sign should be a good bet, but tracks only reveal where an animal has been, not where it will go. Maybe the birds only visit that spot once a day, and that once was in the morning before I arrived. Or maybe they were indeed repeat visitors, and like the proverbial stopped clock all I needed to do was wait and time would bring them round once more. When target shooting in the wind there are two techniques: one is to attempt to continuously read the wind and adjust your sights for each shot you take, the other is to decide which wind condition is most common, set your sights for that and wait for it to come back. I aspire to do the first, but often find myself settling for the second. Sitting on the ground waiting for the turkeys to return felt like the second technique. I had decided on a spot and was hoping the winds of fate and habit would blow the turkeys my way. As with the target shooting, I would rather be the master of the conditions. However another lesson I have learnt is that if you spend too much time worrying about the wind you make bad shots. Sometimes you just need to settle down, focus on the fundamentals, and do the best you can do. So that’s what I did. I couldn’t control the conditions, I didn’t have enough experience to figure out where the turkeys were headed and get ahead of them, so I determined to simply focus, stay alert and still, and make sure that if the wind blew my way I wouldn’t screw it up.

So I waited. I watched. I occasionally texted my wife because I have bad discipline when I lose feeling in my backside. And about an hour before the end of my day it happened—the turkeys came back. But when I say they came back I don’t mean they appeared in front of me, because that would be too easy. They appeared out of the woods I had seen them enter in the morning, on the other side of a field and with lots of directions they could choose to go that weren’t towards me. As I watched them for what was without a doubt a subjectively long period of time, it became clear that they had no leader: or if they did, he wasn’t very good at his job. What I wanted was a charismatic boss turkey who would decide that the future lay in acorns, tell his flock this was the plan, and see it through all the way to my freezer. What I got instead was frustrated. They were mooching about, pecking this, scratching that, doing what I suppose turkeys do when they aren’t deliberately avoiding me. For a good half hour they followed the path of whim and want, going nowhere in particular, and then something changed.

All of a sudden one of the turkeys just had to be somewhere else. I don’t know why it went, but for whatever reason it took off running, then took off literally, and flew across the field. It didn’t head my way exactly, but it was more my way than not and the movement seemed to motivate the rest to get on with their day. Despite the lack of a strong leader to call the shots the collective bird brain nevertheless voted with its stomach, and started to mooch in my direction.

Their progress was slow, and as they got closer to me they moved under the “horizon” of the curve of the hill and I lost sight of them. I kept my fingers crossed and my gun ready, because if and when they came back into view they would be almost close enough to shoot, and definitely close enough to see me if I made any sudden moves. As soon as it became clear to me that the odds of getting a shot were improving I had been refining my position. From my usual splayed legs low energy lounging position with my gun across my legs, I moved to a more alert posture with my knees raised and my gun propped on them. I also turned slightly to my right to orient myself more towards the direction I was expecting them to approach from. I was set up behind a lightweight ground blind—a short camouflage screen attached to stakes—and in my reclined position only my shrouded head and gun were visible over the top.

Despite my adrenaline-fueled focus the turkeys still caught me by surprise. There were no distant scratching noises growing in volume, or glimpses of movement to give me warning, they were just there: first one, then suddenly the whole flock was in front of me. I am pretty much a complete novice when it comes to turkeys, and until I arrived in the US I had never seen an actual turkey that wasn’t on my plate or in a sandwich. I grew up on a chicken farm, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with poultry, but having a flock of the largest birds I’ve ever seen suddenly milling about a short stones throw in front of me is a surreal experience to say the least.

Much like other game species turkeys appear simultaneously relaxed and alert as they go about their business. At any one time there are at least a couple with their heads up eyeballing their surroundings. As the flock in front of me gradually moved closer I tried to pick a bird that was near me, had no other birds behind it, and didn’t require me to move my gun far to draw a bead. While their usual slow progress is generally frustrating, for the purposes of making a considered and careful shot it was actually quite useful. Once I had picked a likely bird, I could keep my aim on it, moving slowly, until a safe shot presented itself.

Just a few minutes after the flock appeared over the curve of the hill a bird came in range, stood with its head up, and had no other birds behind it. A few seconds after that I was alone in the woods again and there was blood on the snow.

IMG_20171028_171356

Epilogue

In 2017 I marked my fifth anniversary in the USA. Prior to shooting my spring turkey I had been actively but ineffectively hunting deer since November 2014, and to say I was frustrated by my lack of success is an understatement. I wanted to hunt, I needed to hunt, but every day I spent in the woods without a chance of a shot added to the pressure I was trying very hard to deny existed. My unsuccessful fall turkey hunt in 2016 did nothing to improve my mood, and I came into 2017 struggling with motivation and dreading another year of tag soup. I don’t hunt just to kill animals—I always enjoy the many benefits that come from time spent in the woods—but the ratio was starting to get a little extreme. It’s hard to think of yourself as a hunter if all you ever do is take your gun for a walk, and I was rapidly approaching the need for a new descriptor.

Shooting my spring turkey changed all that. The cloud of self doubt and anxiety that had been steadily growing over my head for three years evaporated when the feathers flew that day, and that set the tone for the year. When I set off to start my fall turkey season I carried with me a little glow of warmth and optimism that I hadn’t felt since my first American deer season in 2014. It was there every day I hunted, and from it came the unexpected determination that kept me in the woods, despite my discomforts and plans, until a turkey fell under my gun. I felt it through deer season (which is another story), and I feel it even now.

The 2018 spring turkey season is just a few months away, and I can’t wait.

Advertisements

Overdue for an update

IMG_20170704_153124_019

It’s been over 6 months since my last post, but that was not due to lack of anything to write about: rather a lack of motivation to write about it.

Since my last post I have left two jobs, declined one job offer, sidestepped a second, and accepted a third in a somewhat tumultuous process that I would have rather avoided if I could. But I think I have found myself in a good position that represents a return to a career I thought I had left behind in Scotland in 2012.

My shooting was only slightly affected by the confusion however, and despite missing a number of Tuesday night hi-power practices I managed to improve through the season and even won a hi-power match on the way. I only won that match by 1 point from my nearest challenger, who also far surpassed me in his X count, however by not disgracing myself in the offhand and sitting positions, and putting in a solid performance at prone, I did what I needed to do.

I credit my success in that match to two things: the creation in my basement of a (nearly) 10 meter air rifle range where I can practice shooting offhand, and a short rain shower during the competition that hit the range just before I shot prone, disrupted some people’s shooting, and allowed me time to sneak into the range kitchen and eat some cookies. I had forgotten to bring snacks and was getting pretty hungry. On such slender threads does the fate of…unprepared match shooters depend.

In other target shooting news, I have been regularly been attending small-bore 50 meter practices this year, and apart from using up a bunch of ammo, I think I am seeing the benefits. Last time out I scored 398/400 (admittedly on the US NRA target, which has a more generous 10 ring than the ISSF equivalent). However, my groups have been steadily shrinking and I have been making progress in my wind reading and sight adjustments which has always been a weakness for me.

A feature of the more recent small-bore practices has been an informal competition between myself and one of the junior shooters. I think he’s around 15, and it was his father who proposed the “match”. We compete for a $1 prize, and so far I have won $2. But considering I have about two decades more experience than this kid, my winning margins have been disturbingly slim. In our first match I only beat him by about 5 points out of 1200. I have talked with my wife about whether I should deliberately throw a match sometime, I feel bad taking a dollar off a 15 year old boy (well, his father) every couple of weeks, but she pointed out that when he does eventually beat me, which probably won’t take too long, it will mean that much more.

I competed in a 300m match not so long ago, and unlike the first 3P 300m match I entered where I shot from the high-power sitting position instead of kneeling, this time I did it properly. This was the first time I have ever even tried the kneeling position (which I now realise reveals a lack of preparation on my part) but I managed to get set up and shot the string. At first I struggled, the angle of the sling and support meant the rifle recoiled diagonally, or at least seemed to, which took some getting use to. But as the string wore on my shots crept closer to the X ring and I felt like with a bit more practice I might not be too bad at it. Kneeling for 20 shots slowfire is considerably more comfortable than doing it sitting cross legged, so the whole event was a lot more comfortable than my previous experience. And that was reflected in my results, which were close enough to the other competitors to be satisfying, if not prize winning.

A few years ago I had considered trying to build a rifle in 6mm BR, but due to the costs associated with that caliber I ended up building my match AR in .223 Remington. I am now inspired to resurrect that idea with the goal of being more competitive at 300m international, and I don’t think it will cost me an arm and a leg either. One of the rifles I brought with me to the USA was an Interarms Mark X in .308 Winchester. This was my first hunting rifle that I converted from a target rifle by cutting down the barrel and the stock and adding a scope. And while it was always very accurate, it was always also very heavy. I now have three other hunting rifles that are much more practical for the purpose of hauling into tree stands and putting meat in the freezer, and since I kept the original sights, mounts, and match trigger for that rifle, I have a lot of the more expensive items on the shopping list already crossed off. I have a lead on a used barrel that might be made to work for me by exposing it to the correct chamber reamer, and I have a few options for stocks that aren’t terribly expensive…so this might actually happen, eventually.

IMG_20170704_143456

I finally dragged the Swing out for a shoot this summer. Gopher rifle club was hosting a 600 yard practice, and though I have previously taken my AR to these events, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to blow the cobwebs off one of my prized but long neglected target rifles. I was using a new load, and I don’t remember how I did (other than not terrible), but the weather was fantastic and I had a lot of fun. Laying in the hot sun wearing too many clothes trying to make holes in distant pieces of paper shouldn’t be fun, but for some reason there are few things that give me greater joy. There has recently been created an organisation – or maybe more of an informal group masquerading as an organisation – called the 2017 Palma Alliance. In order to gain membership to this “elite” group one must swear to henceforth shoot nothing but a .308 rifle with iron sights and 155gr bullets in midrange and long range prone matches. The goal is to encourage practice with Palma eligible equipment ahead of the long range championships in 2019. I have considered joining, but I want to have a look at the fine print before I commit. I am quite happy to drag out the Swing for practices at 600yds and beyond, but I have other rifles and calibers I’d much rather shoot at 300m, and I want to be sure that won’t disqualify me before I agree to the terms. Especially since they appear quite happy to name and shame members who break that rule.

Apart from some success making holes in paper, since my last post I have also had some success making holes in animals, but this post is getting a bit long and tomorrow is Christmas eve, so I think it can wait.

Merry Christmas

It ends, and it begins.

This weekend is the last weekend of the Minnesota deer season (rifles), but it is also the opening weekend of the Wisconsin deer season.

As you may have guessed by the lack of pictures of dead deer, my 2016 Minnesota deer hunt went about as well as my 2015, and 2014 seasons. In terms of deer shot on the property I was hunting on, it was a great season. Four deer were shot this year, but they were taken solely by Larry and Amber, who accounted for two each. I should get a decent amount of meat out of it though, and that’s half the reason I do it.

This weekend I had been planning to drive up to the Minnesota cabin on Friday evening, but a big snow storm hit northern Minnesota on Friday and so I delayed my departure until Saturday morning. I got there in time for the evening hunt, and I had just got myself into an appropriate tree with my climbing tree stand when I heard Amber shoot her second deer of the season. I climbed out of my stand at 6:30, having seen nothing.

I had decided to use my climbing stand this weekend in order to get practice with it ahead of my Wisconsin adventures. And by doing that I learned that it is heavy, noisy, frustrating, slightly terrifying, and if there is more than a few inches of snow for me to hike through, I will be drenched in sweat by the time I finally get up in the tree. Also, because I didn’t have a chance to scout out decent trees in advance, the trees I found myself in offered less than optimal shooting positions.

But that’s okay (This is rapidly becoming my hunting motto).

On the plus side, these are all useful lessons. And Wisconsin didn’t get 15 inches of snow, so I don’t have to worry so much about the sweat.

However, whilst I am currently sitting in the cabin in Wisconsin, starting my second movie and my fourth (or maybe fifth) beer. My hunting partner for the week, Jason, is still in Minnesota and won’t get here until late tomorrow morning at the earliest. So I won’t be using the climbing stand in the morning.

Other lessons I learned this weekend are that I should get scope covers to keep the lenses of my sight clean, and I should put tape over the muzzle to stop snow and debris getting in there. I bought tape at fleet farm on my way to Wisconsin, but the scope covers will have to wait.

In the morning, since there will be no one around to save me if I get into trouble, I will leave my stand behind and hunt from the ground. Assuming I don’t get a deer, it will give me a chance to select a good tree to hunt from for the rest of the week.

I find it easy to get frustrated by my continuing lack of success in Minnesota, and one of the sources of that frustration is the lack of control I have over my hunting situation. I feel powerless to affect my chances of getting a deer. I know it will happen; Amber waited longer than three years to get her first, and I feel like I’m being ungrateful to feel so frustrated about it. I do enjoy hunting there though, and I want to keep going because I like being part of that group.

However I also relish the chance offered by hunting public land in Wisconsin. There are no tree stands ready for me to climb into, and I don’t know anyone with knowledge of deer movements in the area, so in truth my chances are probably even lower than they are in Minnesota. But that also means there is a lot of room for me to learn. I have dreams of hunting even further off the beaten track than northern Wisconsin, and I won’t get there until I first get comfortable walking beside the beaten track.

So tomorrow I will step out into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory, alone (if only briefly), and ready to learn from my inevitable mistakes.

The ups and downs of hunting

I am now home from deer camp and enjoying a beer and a good book with my feet up. I decided to head home after the morning hunt instead of in the evening, since I am pretty tired and I have to work tomorrow.

This morning was for the most part representative of the rest of the weekend, except that I actually saw deer. Unfortunately they were either too far off, or moving too fast, or both, and I never came close to taking a shot. After they disappeared from my view, they reportedly passed by another member of the group who decided they were too small to shoot anyway.

I climbed out of the stand at 10am at the insistence of my bladder, and after taking care of that, I proceeded to get to grips with my new climbing stand.

I have been moved to remark recently, that, for a person who likes to keep things simple and in their place, I have a lot of hobbies that don’t let me do that. The shooting I do invariably requires bag after bag of clothes and equipment and stuff that all needs to be remembered, and then not forgotten again later, and this climbing stand is the icing on the cake.

It is comprised of two steel structures that individually attach to whichever straight tree I set my sights upon. I then stand with my feet attached to one, and my backside resting on the other, and alternately sit and lift my feet, then stand and lift the other part. I need to wear a safety harness while I’m doing this, and there are a bunch of bungees, ropes, straps, and cushions, that have to be tied up, down, and around, and invariably moved again a few moments later, that makes the whole affair rather frustrating, not to mention a bit scary.

It is awkward to carry, and noisy, and pretty heavy as well (because I didn’t buy the aluminium version), but when I sat down after climbing not very far up the first tree I could find, it turns out it’s actually quite comfortable. I think there might be hope.

Here is a picture of me in the stand after my first exploratory climb:

Next weekend at the cabin my plan is to do all my hunting from this stand, in the hope that I’m thoroughly versed in its operation before I venture out into the wilds of Wisconsin, where help will be a lot further away if I get into a spot of bother.

In other news, although I didn’t get a chance to fire it, I am fairly happy with the rifle I have been carrying this weekend. The Marlin 336 is fairly light, and easy to point and carry. The operation is slightly more complicated than the bolt actions I’m used to, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. With any luck, next weekend, I’ll get to see how it works on deer.

With me luck.

Still nothing

My first day of the 2016 Minnesota deer season is done, and the only deer I’ve seen were shot by other people.

This afternoon I struggled to stay awake, since I had a full belly and the sun was shining on me. After about two hours of power naps I pulled myself together and managed to stay conscious until the sun went down, but it clearly didn’t do me any good as I still have no deer that I can claim as my own.

Tomorrow I’m going to make an effort to hide my silhouette, since the stand I’m in is quite tall and I don’t think my human statue impersonation looks enough like a tree. 

In the afternoon I will take my new climbing tree stand for a spin. I bought it because I’m going to be hunting on public land in Wisconsin in about a week, and I think it will be to my advantage (both for hunting and safety) to be off the ground. I have never used a climbing tree stand before so I hope to figure out all the quirks tomorrow afternoon, so I don’t have to do it at dawn in Wisconsin.

Tonight I plan to drink beer, eat steak, and do my best impression of an American deer hunter. I’m already wearing a flannel shirt so I’m part of the way there, but I’m drinking craft beer instead of light beer, which when combined with my accent, may undermine my efforts.

Fortunately the deer don’t discriminate…I think.

Good morning from deer camp.

I have just returned to the cabin after hunting this morning. I was in the stand by 6:45am, and I stayed there until 11am. 

Here is a picture of me just before I called it quits:

I’m squinting because the sun was bright.

The morning started out cool, 35F (1.5C), but I was wearing enough clothes to avoid discomfort. There were no deer to be seen, but the sky was clear and the sunrise was beautiful, and apart from a bit of a chilly breeze that kicked up mid morning, I had nothing to complain about.

After a quick lunch I will head back out for the evening to try my luck once more.

Turkey hunting: day two

Day one ended as expected, with no turkey having been seen. But I’m not bothered. I saw a lot more deer, and apart from getting a little cold towards the end it was a very nice way to spend a few hours.

I am back in the woods again this morning, although not as early as I had planned. Last night, just as I was thinking about going to bed, I realised the qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix was happening at 1am. And since I’m kind of addicted to formula one, I couldn’t not stay up and watch it. Which means I wasn’t here until almost 9am. 

That’s okay though, because the land owner (Ron) said the turkey are most active in the afternoon, and I’m not sure I have the stamina to hunt from dawn to dusk without a break anyway. That said, even with my late start it will still be a pretty long day.

My plan today is to hunt in the same stand I spent most of yesterday in, then move to the other stand around lunch time. The other stand overlooks a small pasture that should get some sun later today, and I’m hoping the turkeys will head there to warm up. This might be wishful thinking, because it’s not really that cold today, but you never know.

I’ll update as things happen…

11am update:

My plan to stay still till lunch has been scuppered by the extra cup of tea I had this morning. So I went for a short stroll and didn’t see anything to report. I don’t think there is much point trying to sneak around in search of birds today since the ground is covered in dry leaves and twigs, so I’m falling short of the requisite ninja level stealth necessary for that option to pay off. I’ll just sit still and hope for the best.

We just had a brief rain shower, but luckily I’m sheltered enough where I’m sitting that I’m still dry. The forecast says the rain will pass quickly, and the sun is due to make an appearance around 1pm, so I’ll plan to be set up in the other blind by then.

1pm update:

I have moved.

This is the view from my new position. I have set up my decoys just inside the pasture in front of me. I am fairly well concealed, but there is more wind here and I’m worried I will get too cold to last the afternoon. Have to see how it goes.

A couple of thoughts on my experiences so far: one- sitting on the ground is painful, seemingly no matter how many cushions you have (currently 2). It makes it hard to stay still, and since I’m not very good at that to begin with, its a problem. Two- squirrels are dicks. I had one squirrel yesterday that sat on the trunk of a tree nearby, and yelled at me. I didn’t know they yelled at people. The same squirrel (I’m fairly certain) was staring at me today and making weird noises, at least it wasn’t yelling. I’m pretty sure turkeys are smart enough to know what a grouchy squirrel sounds like, so I’m glad I moved.

The sun has come out as I had hoped, and if I can just stay mostly still, and make relatively convincing turkey noises for the rest of the afternoon, I will consider the day a success. A dead turkey will just be a bonus at this point I think. Modest goals.

3.30pm update:

My decoys are finally getting some action, unfortunately it’s a horse and he doesn’t seem convinced.

I have also seen a tractor, and a model aircraft being flown in a nearby field. I thought I heard a turkey at one point, but I think it was just a bird that sort of sounded like a turkey. 

I think it might be time for a cup of tea and a short stroll.

Day two final update:

After my stroll I rearranged my decoys, adjusted my cushions, and settled in again. The air temperature had come up slightly when the sun came out, and with that and a rare lack of pain in my backside, I promptly fell asleep. It was lovely. Napping under a tree on a warm autumn day feels pretty decadent, and if I thought there was a remote possibility that a turkey had come by while I slept, I might have felt guilty about it. But hunting is often difficult, and usually uncomfortable, and so any time I only have to deal with one of those things I’m going to treasure it.

I stayed in that blind until around 5pm and the only thing I saw was a local farmer who drove past me. He was briefly interested in my decoys, and when he realised they weren’t real he joined the dots and looked around for their owner, so I gave him a wave.

By 5pm the sun had sunk enough that it was shining right on me, and whatever concealment I had been enjoying to that point was rendered null by the solar spotlight. If a turkey had shown up then, I wouldn’t have been able to get my gun up without being spotted, so I called time on that setup.

I took down the blind, and went to collect the one I’d left in the other location. On my way I does spooked a couple of deer that I hadn’t seen, once again reminding me that it’s either not possible to walk quietly on ground covered in dead leaves and twigs, or that I’m just not trying hard enough. 

After dropping the blind and decoys off at my truck, I decided to explore a part of the property I hadn’t been to yet. I wandered around a bit, occasionally sitting against a tree and calling, and then gave up and called it a day. I think I will concentrate on that part of the place when I go back next weekend.

Final weekend tally:

  • Days hunting – 2
  • Turkeys seen – 3 (1 while driving, and 2 decoys)
  • Shots taken – 0
  • Shots I thought about taking – 6, mostly squirrels, and 2 turkey decoys.
  • Deer seen – probably more than I’ll see in November
  • Birds seen – mostly songbirds with the occasional woodpecker. Might have seen an owl in the distance. 

Despite the lack of dead turkeys in my freezer, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I’m a better turkey hunter after this weekend than I was before it. And to top it off, I can now actually call myself a turkey hunter.