It’s difficult to believe, but the heat of summer looms just around the corner. Soon, toms will cool their jets and broods of jakes and jennies will hatch directly into survival training to carry the torch for future generations of Meleagris gallopavo. As turkey hunters, we’re already counting the days until another winter passes and gives way to a fresh batch of fired-up gobblers.
I began this spring with a lofty goal: complete a single-season Grand Slam. I was thoroughly blessed to tag an Osceola longbeard in Florida, a Rio Grande in Texas and two Merriam’s in Nebraska. Then I returned to my home base in the Midwest to face Wisconsin Easterns—some of the toughest birds in the country. I was defeated.
While most turkey seasons in the country run through the end of May, I couldn’t throw in the towel, even though Wisconsin was my last scheduled stop. I reached out for a Plan B and fell upon an amazing outpouring of generous offers from friends in the turkey-hunting community. The problem: I wasn’t exactly prepared for another hunt. Time, money and especially travel … after four long turkey hunts, I was pretty much tapped out.
To my rescue, my uncle sent an “emergency” e-mail to his friend, Rob Totenhagen. As a fellow hardcore hunter, it didn’t take much explaining for Rob to open his understanding arms—and 80 acres of premium turkey land.
My goal was to hunt his property each morning before work, but prime conditions and hot gobblers made for rapid success. I met Rob well before sunrise upon the second morning of Minnesota’s over-the-counter Season F. We boarded his Bad Boy Buggie and drove to a ground blind positioned on the wooded edge of one of his many food plots. The gobbling was slow to begin, but when it started the boys wouldn’t stop talking.
Our ears perked up with confidence as multiple toms hit the ground and continued to gobble in the distance. But after a few hours of listening to the birds hold their ground, we decided to move in. We dropped into a heavily wooded valley and crept up a hardwood ridge in pursuit of a red-hot gobbler that was surely strutting in the field above. As we neared the top, I screamed at the bird with my Knight & Hale mouth call and he hollered back at every calling sequence. Knowing the bird was on fire, yet unable to proceed closer without getting busted, we set up near the field edge. Game on.
As I hammered the stubborn gobbler with aggressive yelping and cutting, two other birds let out battle cries and marched into the area. Soon, all three birds merged, matching one another gobble for gobble. They hung up in the middle of the field. Not today, I thought. I picked up a broken stick and began raking leaves like a group of crazed hens, beating the dirt occasionally to mimic wing beats. The longbeards couldn’t handle it.
Before long, the silhouette of a bobbing head appeared through the brush to my right. Then another. Then another. I struggled into position, fighting to poke my shotgun barrel through the limited shoot holes and get a bird in my sights. Finally, I found an opening and released a 3 1/2-inch load of HEVI-Shot No. 6s to close the doors on a successful Grand Slam Pursuit.
What a season.