Written by Bowhunting.com contributor Daniel James Hendricks.
As I walked into the kitchen, my beloved wife looked up at my beaming face as I proudly announced, “Man, I really love this turkey hunting, but I’m not very good at it!” That was at the end of the third day of the MN Spring Turkey Archery season and I had already taken four shots without killing a bird. It wasn’t the crossbow…I was using the Wicked Ridge Raider and this baby hammered the bull’s-eye on the range at 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards with every shot it fired from the bench rest. The problem was definitely with the person pulling the trigger. (turkey decoying)
I’d opted for the archery license because there was no lottery involved, I was able to hunt all of the last four seasons and I didn’t have to restrict my hunting to a specific zone. On the first day, I set up my blind and decoys and promptly missed a jake. Feathers flew in a beautiful, floating cascade, but the bird fled out of range and causally wandered away seemingly unaffected by what had happened. I have no idea how or what I did to screw up the shot, but I know it wasn’t Ms. Raider that had erred. On day two, another bird came sneaking up on the backside of the tom decoy and I took my first shot at 15 yards. The arrow went under the bird. It jumped and moved off just five yards. Quickly reloaded, I squeezed off another shot, but the shot went high leaving me stupefied! The bird paused for only an instant and then quickly disappeared from the scene. Retrieving my arrows, I retired to the blind to clean the broadheads for re-use. One head was missing blades so I set the arrow aside, but as I cleaned the other I happened to notice two things.
Despite the author’s initial inability to finish the deal, his decoy setups were GOOD.
The first shot, which was made with a special 2” cut turkey broadhead, had gone right through the wall of my blind leaving, yes, you guessed it, a big 2” hole! An arrow passing through the wall of a blind would definitely be robbed of energy and thereby go low. I was shooting out of an inverted triangular window and my scope was clear, but the arrow’s path led right through the blind’s wall. Discovery two was another gash that had been made in the mess that covered the lower have of my shooting window. The 1” Velcro strip that allowed me to adjust the height of the screen had been completely severed by the broadhead causing it to fly high. With this knowledge, I let the self-flagellation begin. How could I be so dumb and down-right careless? Well, I can assure you, it wouldn’t happen again. (hunting from ground blind)
That afternoon two jakes came into my decoy set up and I missed again. The wind was blowing extremely hard and when the birds got to the edge of the decoys, they suspected fowl-play and spooked; quickening their pace in an attempt to exit: stage left. I credit the miss to the moving target and the stiff wind, which I did not factor into my shot. The final result was yet another fluffy cascade of floating turkey feathers.
Crossbow sales have exploded and each year more hunters take to the field with these weapons. Love them or hate them they are here to stay. Pictured here is the new Carbon Express Intercept. (see more here)
At this particular point in the game I was lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut; fortunately for me, I was able to enjoy a nutritious lunch by eating all the egg that was plastered across my face. As I sat there shaking my head, I couldn’t believe that I had muffed four shots in just two days, but the proof was in the turkey feathers that were being gently blown across what was supposed to be my arena of death; instead it had become my battlefield of blunders.
On the third day of my hunt, I called in three toms and each passed the setup not even pausing for a second look, leading me to believe that word had gotten out among the resident flock about the loser sitting in the blind at the Four Corners shooting the feathers off any turkey that got close to him. I was beginning to think that the biggest turkey in the forest was the one sitting in the blind. On day four and five I set the blind in what I thought would be an excellent spot and never heard a bird, let alone saw one. Frustrated and fearing that I had blown the only opportunities I would have, I moved the blind to a third location and then, headed for home and the pile of work that was waiting there on my desk.
The setup may have been good, but the pale-face on this decoy was BAD.
As I drove out of the long driveway, I spotted two toms pushing a hen down a thin tree-line. The toms were strutting and doing their best to ignite a relationship as I drove past them wishing I had a blind set up right there. Doing a quick study of the terrain, I noticed the driveway curved ahead and disappeared behind heavy cover. It dawned on me that perhaps I could sneak up on the trio for a shot, if I was stealthy enough. The high winds would cover my approach somewhat and if I was careful…it was worth a try, the worst I could do is miss again or spook the birds before I got close.
I pulled up around the curve, climbed out of the truck and uncased Ms. Raider. Cocking the bow, I grabbed an arrow and headed into the dense cover. Moving slowly, I came to the end of the trees and the beginning of a thick slough. I peeked around the very edge of the cover and observed the turkey trio still moving in my direction just 200 yards up the tree-line. I had to close the distance and the only way to do so was to cut through the swamp. Moving quickly, I entered the slough and to my surprise, the water; very cold water that was mid-shin deep, you know, just high enough for it to seep into my boots. As boots quickly filled with refreshingly cold water, I traversed the wetland and reached the other side where the tree-line once again began. I slowly peeked around the cover to discover that the birds were a mere fifty yards away, still headed in my direction. I placed the arrow on Ms. Raider’s straight back, dug out my diaphragm call and found a good spot to sit. (rubber boot options)
The author’s oversight while inside the blind resulted in an UGLY shot.
My butt found a solid rest, but not before it submerged itself into three inches of icy, cold water. My eyes rolled back up in my head as I attempted not to scream. My first thought was, “Cool! Really cool!” The next thought was one of fear; fear that in this position, I would probably get brain freeze. It was the best spot for a clear shot to the field, so I decided to endure the discomfort and get on with the hunt. Bringing the Raider to my shoulder, I yelped twice on the diaphragm call and watched as the lead tom came trotting into the open. It was Showtime!
The tom jogged past me and then slowed behind a willow clump. Bringing the crosshairs to the edge of the brush, I squeezed the trigger the instant the bird cleared the willows. Ms. Raider barked and the brilliant red blaze of the LumenArrow traced the arrow’s flight until it was extinguished in the deep bronze of the bird’s big chest. The tom did a complete somersault, regained its feet and then made a stumbling, staggering dash for the tree-line. I shot up from my sitting position with great excitement, not just from the fact that I had finally made a mortal shot on a tom turkey, but also because my butt was at last out of the cold water. When I stepped on to the field, the other two birds that had stopped up the tree-line quickly decided that this was a good time to vacate the premises. As I waved them farewell, I walked over and claimed my trophy, which by this time had expired.
Despite his many setbacks, author Daniel James Hendricks (pictured here) persevered and filled his tag on his largest turkey to date!
The bird weighed and even 20 lbs and had a ten-inch beard making it the largest wild turkey I’ve ever taken (the only other one I’ve ever taken was a hen:o). In the final analysis, I am grateful for the earlier misses. It’s funny how it seems that when things are going really bad, one discovers in the end, that they happened just so that things would turn out for the best. The final page of this hunt and the final path to victory, I believe, was far more gratifying than the previous four shots would have been; and quite frankly it makes for much better reading; especially if you tell the whole story.
Well, gang, that is exactly what I have done. This is a thumbnail sketch of my spring turkey season in which I have honestly shared all the facts; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.