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April 17, 2017: Our second trip to Florida left me empty handed, but not because I did not have the opportunity. I had a mature tom come into our set up on Sunday morning, I took the shot only to discover I had some faulty shotgun shells. When I unloaded my gun, I turned my shotgun sideways only to empty loose shot, broken up resin filler, and a few pieces of the top crimp. Not only was the spent round faulty, I had two in the magazine that were busted up pretty bad. I took a pretty good blow from the recoil of my shotgun and the results of the shot were oddly wrong.
I have since bought a new box of shells and it did not deter me getting back out in the woods after an Alabama Tom.
I had a goal, one that seemed to have clipped my legs out from under me and left me with the air knocked out of me right from the start. I have to admit, I was having a hard time with it….was there any way of saving it? A way to get back on my feet, feel the grit in my teeth? A way to persevere?
It’s not a pride thing–it is a passion…a sickness almost, but it is mine–I really enjoy turkey hunting. It’s my thing! I would give up all other game hunting if I could have six months out of the year hunting turkey. Honestly, I would spend the other six preparing for turkey hunting.
After much thought and a little research, I threw it out there; yep, another trip. Well, the results–trip number three to Florida is on the calendar for this coming weekend. A fast and furious trip praying for good odds if the Turkey Gods are willing.
Our hunting clothes are in the wash, the truck is still partially packed from our last trip and from this weekend hunting here at home in Alabama. FIVE STATES in THREE WEEKS, that is what is on the calendar and somewhere in between we will be working our 8-5 job in the concrete jungle for nine of those days with a one hour one way commute. The TO-DO/DUE-LIST has already been started for mid-week and I am looking forward to the adventure and actually all the hard work.
Yep! They say it is a passion, an obsession….I say, “It’s a SICKNESS, an insanity!” It gets under your skin like an alien bot, it wreaks your mind even when you sleep. Every far off sound mimics that of a gobble, even in the city on the busy sidewalks. It’s haunting….and warming, in the same moment….and you are elusive to being in your right mind! Yep, a sickness! An insanity!!
April 16, 2017: Last year, our goal was to be in Mexico this May working on completing my Royal and World turkey slam. A truck that broke down during our archery rut hunt in Missouri in November with a costly DEF system replacement and a roof that started leaking on our home when we returned from that trip had other plans for us. Our original plans left no need to seek a turkey lease in our home state other than a small parcel we hunt south of us. So that small parcel is all we had access to this season on our home turf.
The parcel is a small triangular shaped cow pasture with very little woods that sits adjacent to a HUGE pine plantation. Turkey do frequent that cow pasture so there was a chance of being in the right place at the right time…but chance is 50/50, so that was enough for us to get up every weekend we could and visit the cow pasture with hopes of being on the right side of that 50/50 equation.
This is our third year hunting this parcel and we have seen a few birds on it. However, just after last season, a portion of the adjacent pine plantation had been clear cut and the rest select cut, thinning out most of the adjacent property. On our first hunt of this season, we watched nine toms and twenty hens in the cut-over. Every weekend we had the opportunity to hunt this property, we watched some sort of combination of those birds…our only problem, those birds were over the fence on property we did not have permission to hunt. Yep, it was a lot like that famous Eddie Murphy skit, “I’ve got ice cream and you can’t have none!”
We put a Spartan GoCam wireless camera out early in the season and were taunted by turkey on “our side of the fence” on several occasions. We came close on one hunt but a hen won the Tom’s attention. This weekend was officially our last weekend to hunt turkey in Alabama because of our upcoming out of state turkey hunting trips. On Saturday, we were able to roost a bird on “our side of the fence.” That kind of made it easy to wake up at 3:30 am Sunday morning. We needed to get in there early while it was extremely dark and get set up with plenty of time to let the woods settle before fly-down.
Just like someone flipped a switch the Tom’s started gobbling. We were set up right where we needed to be. We had the roosted Tom on our side of the fence, one across the fence in the tree line 300 yards front of us, and another off to the right on an adjoining horse farm, all gobbling at daybreak. We never heard the roosted Tom fly down but finally he gobbled on the ground behind us.
The sun started to top the trees in front of us. The Tom was gobbling and getting closer. I had my shotgun up, my safety off, and I was turned to the right for my widest shot possibility. I waited as I heard the Tom spit twice as he went into full strut.
I could tell, even with my ESP hearing protection in my ears, that this Tom was close. I watched as a hen walked out in front of me. Then I saw movement to the right of me behind some brush just eight to ten yards away. I was tucked away in some brush and I was shaded somewhat from the sun so I knew I had the perfect advantage. I finally saw the top of the Tom’s head, red waddles, and part of a beard through the thick brush. The bird was at eight yards and all that was left was just TWO MORE STEPS by the bird to clear the brush, for me to move my gun six inches to the right, and make the shot. At least that is what my mind was saying.
The Tom never took the two steps in the direction I needed. The Tom stopped, stood a split second behind the brush looking straight in Mister’s direction, then it turned slowly and crept back the way it walked in…but not before letting out three warning putts!
When I knew the bird was out of view I turned to Mister to shrug my shoulders and immediately I saw what the tom balked at. The sun had rose to the height above the trees and was beaming brightly on Mister. A portion of his face, the frames and the lenses of his glasses were shining in the bright direct sunlight. That is why the bird didn’t spook badly, it just knew something didn’t look right. When I told Mister, he said, “I was afraid of that but there was no way to avoid it at that moment.” In the particular area we set up in it did not leave us much selection for a different arrangement. So, we ended the season without an Alabama turkey harvest but we came as close as one could without one. It was a good hunt and a great memory to end the season with.
The next two weeks are going to be jam-packed starting with a hunt in Florida where we will leave Friday night for the eight hour drive down to Lakeland, Florida in time to hit the woods before daylight to hunt an Osceola on Saturday morning with guide, Chris Graham. This will be our third weekend that we have been to Florida for an Osceola so I plan to hunt hard to make it happen. Then the following week we have a four day work week, a 20-hour drive for a DIY hunt in Kansas followed by a DIY hunt in Nebraska, then on to Missouri to hunt with Double Deuce Ranch. A lot of preparation, road weary days, headlight-lit highway nights, in-cab dining, tailgate meals, and a ton of great memories are in store.
Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog to follow along where I will be sharing our hunting adventures, what we are using in the field, how we plan our DIY hunts, places we visit, and everything in between…the good, the comical, the bad, and the hardships.
If my memory serves me right, this will be my thirteenth year attending the NWTF Annual Convention and Expo in Nashville, Tennessee. I was attending this event several years before I ever became a hunter or even had a clue that I would ever give in and say “yes” to going hunting that first time. I attended several expos tirelessly following Mister around like a puppy at his feet, down every single isle, stopping at nearly every single booth, perusing stuff that I had absolutely no inkling of what it was, let alone what it was used for. As hard as I tried, I did my best to be engaged in conversations, the words being said could have very well been a discussion on how to build a race car engine because I didn’t have a clue or remote idea of what a turkey hunt even entailed.
I did enjoy people watching, perusing the few booths with non-hunting items, listening to the sounds coming out of some booths that people could make with a wooden stick and something that looked similar to a hockey puck trimmed in wood. I have to admit, I never got bored but I was definitely a “duck out of water.”
Fast forward 13 years, here I am, giddy as a child headed to the state fair on our drive to Nashville, Tennessee. It’s often ironic how life plays out. I remember my first turkey hunt like it was yesterday. I remember the cool, damp morning and how I felt the coolness rise from the ground at that exact moment that the sun cracked the horizon. I remember the way the fine hairs stood at end on the nap of my neck the very first time I heard that Tom rattle off a gobble from the hardwoods. And, I distinctively remember instantly having to pee, feeling a wee-bit lightheaded as my heart beat increasingly got louder in my ears the minute that Tom strutted out of the woods into the hay field. WHAT A SIGHT!! How could something that lives in the woods, robed in feathers and topped with a rather ugly mug be so irradescently beautiful with the most brilliant red, the warmest blue and the brightest white I have ever laid eyes on.
I could go on and on about those first few hunts…some would bore you, some might disappoint you, and some would even make you laugh, but there is no doubt, I was HOOKED! I found my obsession fueled with passion! An obsession packed with determination, perseverance and a deep embedded firery passion that makes even a fruitless hunt a savored memory.
I have been real fortunate in my short 10 years of hunting turkey to have hunted a variety of states for a variety of species. EVERY single hunt has its own story! Every hunt has taught me something and found a special place in my memory reserved for everything TURKEY.
This spring should be PHENOMENAL! We will be hunting in Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and possibly Tennessee. I started this blog on my quest for a grand slam in 2009, and although I have tucked a few grand slams away in my hunting journal, I have never pulled a grand slam off in a single season. That is my goal this spring. No doubt it will take numerous hours of traveling, many really early mornings, a lot of scouting and walking–some on new land we have never set foot on–not to mention a thump of patience and a pocket full of luck. As a bonus, I get to share this experience with Mister….every mile, every step….as a team, him behind the call and me behind the shotgun, every success and every failure, we share alike. I will also get to make and share memories with hunting friends along the way, some of which I hope will share their experience as guest posts here.
The NWTF Annual Convention and Expo was the gateway to my addiction and it starts off the countdown every year for something that stays on my mind year-round, OPENING DAY! Wishing a “pocket full of luck” to all those who share in our hunting adventures through our blog, Shenanigans From the Field and don’t forget to subscribe by entering your email in the box in the upper left hand column to follow along this spring.
Hunt hard, harvest ethically and may your turkey vest be full of feathers. ~Nancy Jo
Our trip started off with a low tire when we left home this morning. Cletus had evidentially picked up a bolt on a job site the previous day and we were not going to be able to make the one-hour commute into work without adding some air until we could get Cletus by Don Duncan’s All-American Tire. Nathan Woodring quickly assessed the situation, located and removed the bolt, patched the Cooper S/T Maxx-Armor-Tek3 tire, put it back on Cletus in record time. It was a relief that Mister found the bolt and the computer on Cletus told us we had an issue before we started out on this trip.
I can’t say that the workday crept…it was 3:30 p.m. when I finally was able to take a minute to evaluate the amount of work I had left to do versus the amount of time I had left in the “concrete jungle.” The last 1.5 hours flew by! As Cletus’ diesel motor turned over and started purring, we found ourselves strategically placing the last few items we had left to load in the cab of the truck. Snacks directly behind the console, bag of ice in the cooler behind my seat, a roll of paper towels behind the driver seat headrest, my computer bad at my feet…it all becomes second nature when you have shared over 450,000 miles on the road hunting together over the last 10 years.
I plugged in our destination into the square box mounted in the dash, Big T Motel in Tarkio, Missouri, and the “crazy lady that lives in that box” politely told us that we would reach our destination 14 hours from the current time. We were on our way!
I have spent many hours in the passenger seat typing, editing, uploading photos and even paying bills, shopping on Amazon. Some time in this 14 hour stretch, I have some typing for a women’s boot article that needed to be completed. But first, i was responsible for the entertainment of the evening. I put an audiobook on, James Patterson’s 11th Hour, and cranked up the sound and we were settled in for the long haul.
After a stop for fuel at the Love’s truck stop, it was time for a snack. We have eaten many meals in the cab or on the tailgate of our truck–I have to admit, we have shared some of our favorite meals together there. Tonight, captain wafers, cheddar can cheese and jerky snack sticks. Okay, maybe not the healthiest of all snacks but surely much better than some of the alternatives while on the road.
Catching up with friends on social media is probing that this unseasonably warm weather is putting a damper on deer movement. We can only pray that we made the right decisions on the dates we picked and have chosen some good ground to hunt. This is what makes Do-it-Yourself hunts exciting; you never know what will unfold on the trip. As we made our way through Nashville, I can feel my shift at the wheel coming up in a few hours so I better catch me a nap. If you are hunting this weekend/week, good luck to you, safe travels and remember to ALWAYS wear a safety harness.
We were really disappointed that we didn’t make the Kansas draw in our favorite unit for this fall. It didn’t take but half a day of sulking about it for us to come up with PLAN B. We got the calendar down off the wall, pulled up Google Earth on the computer, and the Missouri Department of Conservation website and started brainstorming. There was a long weekend coming up and if we were going to hunt unknown area and if we were planning for success, it had to be scouted.
Narrowing down our search to the northwest counties of Missouri, Mister researched, gathered information about each area from social media, maps and from MDC personnel–the research was done and now it was time to gather our maps and data and hit the road over Labor Day weekend and do some scouting.
Unfortunately, I was not much help to Mister with the scouting. I was on the mend from a torn ligature from the bottom my hamstring that attached just below the front of my knee on my right leg. I had a brace; which quickly was no help after extended walking because my muscle fatigued and I felt I was having to do struggle harder just to climb the sloping hills of the first 5,000-acre property that we looked at. After a few stops and a couple leg brace adjustments, I told Mister that I felt I was doing my leg more harm than good since it was just recently starting to feel much better–either from rest and icing or from the flood of anti-inflammatory medicine I was taking. The fact that I was less than a week from leaving for the 5th Annual Double Deuce Ranch Ladies Archery Hunt also played a major factor in my decision to sit out on the rest of the scouting. Being confined to Cletus was the perfect opportunity for me to do a little research on local hotels/motels, laundromats, grocery stores, and gas stations; and make a few calls.
We started this trip with five areas of interest and we narrowed it down to three. Ultimately, we were really impressed with two of the three areas. I was extremely excited about one that we stopped at…I actually saw the largest deer tracks I have ever personally witnessed. I have seen hog tracks this large but the track was actually almost as large as my entire hand and just as wide. Not just one set of tracks, this buck had laid down a trail in that particular area. The area was nestled between a soybean field and a corn field. Granted, the movement of these deer will change anywhere from slightly to drastically after the crops were harvested and the rut kicked in–but I knew what area I wanted to be in.
We stopped at the town closest to the areas we had chosen to hunt and stayed at the only motel in town, the Big T Motel. The motel being older and limited to less than a dozen rooms, I made sure to book our room in advance for our hunting trip. I did the research, found a not so local processor for several reasons. First, with limited time, it only makes sense to have someone else do the labor so that we could be back out in the field hunting and doing some photography and filming. Secondly, because earlier this year Alabama enacted a ban on the import of deer carcasses from states where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed. If we were planning on mounting a buck if we were successful, the deer needed to be completely capped out and the skull plate with antlers only. Unless European mounting and then it needed to be completely cleaned. That was going to take the expertise of someone else leaving us more time to scout, hunt, and film. Everything we needed was right there within easy access: lodging, fuel, grocery store, and a few restaurants.
The scouting was done, the motel booked and we were on our drive home with a plan in place. Next, the washing, drying, and packing begins…