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The hunt began like the postal service’s creed: Neither snow nor rain … nor gloom of night… We had two out of three. The bad weather had really dampened gobbling, and locating turkeys was difficult. We went to a place where a farmer used to feed cattle, an area where turkeys often come to scratch and feed. As we left camp, the snow was just beginning to fall. By the time we arrived a few miles up the road, the ground was covered. The wind chill was easily in the low 20s, and Jimmy and his daughter Adriana watched one end of the opening while Toby and I watched the other. As dawn arrived, we heard gobbles a mile to the north, but not on land to which we had access. So we stuck things out for the first two hours, finally leaving as a farmer began feeding cattle in a nearby field. Teenage Adriana had taken two long beards with a single shot the day earlier, yet was still game enough to tag along with her dad.
The father/daughter combo hailed from Florida, and this was only the second time that Adriana had seen snow. The inclement weather produced an inch or two, just enough for an imaginative 17-year-old to make a snow man on the hood of the truck.
That afternoon, Jimmy, Adriana, and Toby went to a different area looking for turkeys. About an hour away, snow still covered the ground up to two inches and the landscape was bleak. Driving back roads and glassing, they came across a couple of turkey flocks, yet none they could approach. After one failed attempt, Jimmy said, “Heck, let’s just walk around and maybe something good will happen.” About a minute later, he crested a small rise and his prophecy came true. There before him was a huge longbeard with three hens.
Toby and Jimmy were able to work within 120 yards of the turkeys before resorting to belly crawling. Getting closer, Toby put up the decoy, and the tom took notice. Yet it would not come closer. Crawling on their bellies, Toby and Jimmy worked closer, using the decoy as a shield and a challenge. Still, the tom would not bite. Luck finally went their way and the hens began to feed toward the decoy. The big tom’s head turned as red as a fire truck. On it came and Jimmy dropped the gobbler at 20 yards. The bird weighed 24 pounds, 12 ounces, making it the heaviest bird taken by any camp member.
I recently went to the Fred Hall Show in Long Beach, California. The show is the unofficial start to the Southern California fishing season. Many of my fishing buddies put aside money all year in anticipation of the show. Then they blow it at the show like drunken sailors on shore leave. I spent most of my time at the show talking to the captains and crews and taking in the seminars.
If you sit through a lot of the seminars, the audience questions start to sound the same. Professional angler Bob Jensen of the show Fishing the Midwest does a lot of seminars. Here he breaks down the most common questions he hears.
I was in some Cabela’s stores this past weekend doing fishing seminars. Before and after every seminar I get to speak with anglers who are in the store to take advantage of the seminars or to take advantage of the great prices on fishing stuff. Either way, I really enjoy this opportunity to speak with people who like to go fishing and who want to catch more and bigger fish when they go fishing. I learn a lot in these conversations, and hopefully the folks that I’m speaking with learn something also. Lots of these anglers have very similar questions. Following are some of the most-asked questions.
Question 1: How important is color?
My answer-Color can be a very important consideration at times. Sometimes the fish will eat your bait regardless of color: These are the fun times. The fish are aggressive and you’re going to get bit.
Most of the time though, fish are at least somewhat color selective. This is when you need to keep experimenting until you find the color they want. Everyone should be using a different color until you find the productive color. If you’re using a jig, incorporate a couple of different colors into the jig to increase your odds of showing the fish the color they want on that day.
Photos: Fishing the Midwest (top); Outdoors Unlimited (above)
Shooting a spring gobbler with a shotgun sounds easy. After all, most shotguns throw a pattern larger than a basketball at 30 yards, and it only takes one pellet in the head to get the job done. However, any experienced hunter who says he has never missed likely has prevarication issues. Spring gobblers are exceedingly easy to miss for reasons that have nothing to do with a shotgun. As humans, we get excited when we see that big red head come into range, put the front sight bead on the bird’s head, and shoot. In the excitement, we often fail to put our cheek on the stock and the shot pattern flies high, further educating an all-too-smart trophy for another day.
This season in South Dakota, I experimented with the TRUGLO ghost ring, an inexpensive, easy to install sight that virtually eliminates the possibility of the above scenario taking place. The circular rear sight forces you to keep your cheek on the stock and make an accurate shot. In fact, the sight was so accurate that I could vary the pattern hit on a paper turkey target. TRUGLO makes the Tru-Point Extreme Turkey ghost ring sight, which is adjustable and attaches to the ventilated rib of a wide range of shotguns. It’s actually endorsed by the National Wild Turkey Federation and is one product that can really make a difference when shooting in excited situations. Check it out at a local sports shop or go to truglo.com for more details.
With the temperatures near 80 degrees, we believed that turkeys would be in the shade and relatively inactive, so we sat in a likely spot and waited for the afternoon to wain. Suddenly, we heard puck, puck, puck! and scrambled for our gear. Easing above a small ravine, a gobbler was standing alertly, then began to run. Boom! My buddy rolled the turkey and a celebration followed. Usually, spring gobblers don’t come hunting us.
I had just met D.J. Randolph from North Dakota, a regional manager of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff, and asked him about the program and how he got started. With a gobbler over one shoulder, he was happy to fill me in.
I was born and raised in Southeastern Ohio. In 1991, I moved to North Dakota, where I’m an engineer for the power company. I grew up in a hunting and fishing family in the Appalachian world and started with squirrels and rabbits. When I was in the sixth grade, my dad introduced me to one of his friends who loved to bowhunt, and I’ve been an avid archer ever since.
Mossy Oak has a pro staff of a little over 1,000 people. It’s not for pay, but for community involvement, whether it’s a youth shooting program, wildlife conservation banquet, the Special Olympics, or helping out with Mossy Oak promotions at box stores like Cabela’s. It’s about promoting the outdoor lifestyle. I’ve been doing activities like that for six years and have been a regional manager for one year.
Several Mossy Oak partners give discounts on their products to Pro Staff members, so there are some financial perks. Tim Anderson heads the program and believes that ideally we want people who will do this whether there is a benefit or not. You want people who are already doing that kind of thing and become a natural fit for the pro staff. To join, go to the Mossy Oak website and apply. There are 24 regional managers based on area and hunting specialty such as deer, turkey, and waterfowl, but most hunt a little of everything. We have Pro Staffers in all states.
The regional managers have meeting where we get together while the 1,000 guys end up at bigger conventions, especially at the NWTF convention. We have a private website where we can exchange ideas and show hero shots, one of the most important parts of hunting (lol), and a huge Mossy Oak presence on Facebook. You meet someone that you have exchanged pics with for a year and it’s like meeting a friend. It’s like a big family. It impressed me to be around Toxy Haas and stay at the Mossy Oak booth from daylight til dark. They are in just as good of a mood early as late, one of the many reasons they call it the Mossy Oak family.
For more information, go to mossyoak.com.
This video of bowhunter Juan Garcia and guide Sam Fejes is one of the most exciting you’ll ever see. Unintentionally, it’s also a clinic in calling bears with a predator call, whether a black bear or a monster brown. Watch it for fun the first time, enjoying the pure excitement of the quest. Watch it a second time and notice that Fejes keeps calling with the fawn distress call. To call bears, you must call continually, because when you stop bleating, the bear stops approaching. This is truly amazing.
Spring gobbler hunts are an incredible photo opportunity that most hunters can take advantage of, thanks to the incredible pixel-snatching ability of today’s cell phones. Almost every hunter has in his or her mind’s eye some image that they wish they had captured on film but managed to miss. Today, carrying a camera around is commonplace; you can take great stills and videos with little effort. I just returned from a five-day turkey hunt in South Dakota and humbly share some of my best “captures.” Hopefully, they’ll remind you to save those special memories in digital form.
Rule number one is to get close. Bring the camera close to capture the things that are most important, namely the face of the hunter and that beautiful bird. Shoot your pix in the shadows if possible. Notice that the sun is just touching the top of the hunter’s cap. Use a fill flash to eliminate shadows.
Look for a great photo location. The log that these happy hunters are sitting on allowed their turkeys to be displayed in all their natural glory. Get your gun and bow in the picture, yet always be sure to unload before snapping images. Lighten up. Usually getting happy hunters to smile is not a problem, but a natural smile can’t be faked. Kim Cahalan and Bob Swanson, at right, took these two gobblers on a single morning hunt and were ecstatic about the adventure, as you can see.
Catch the action. Keep your phone or camera handy so you can bring back those exciting and challenging times. It’s okay to stage them. Here, at left, I asked my buddy to allow me to cross the stream first so that I could take the picture. Finally, Since many turkey hunters use a vest, why not dedicate one zippered pocket for your cell phone or camera? This way, you’ll always know where your camera will be and the zippered pocket will keep it from getting lost. You won’t always bring home a longbeard this season, yet you can be assured of great pictures to share regardless of the weather or your luck.