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March 24-26, 2017: As this Florida Osceola turkey hunt slowly approached on my calendar, the excitement was building up knowing this would be the official kick-off to my quest to complete a turkey grand slam in one season. I was meeting several friends in Dunnellon, Florida and we would spend the next three days hunting Osceola Turkey in 80 degree weather in the sandy, buggy woods of Central Florida with guide, Dave Mehlenbacher. This would be my third time hunting turkey with Dave and up to this trip, our past groups had been 100% with him–we were hoping for a continued record. It would be hard to top our triple in 2011 where within the first hour of our first morning’s hunt, but we were willing to fathom the thought.
Our first morning we were out the door at 5:15 a.m. with strict instructions to be ready when we bail out of the truck because we would be parking within earshot of the resident turkey in the area. The walk in was on a dark two rut road because of the tall, eerie majestic plantation oaks that had limbs and branches that spanned over the entire trail. Several of us had to get in close and even hold on to the other to sneak through this section of woods to get to the backside of the property. Mister and two hunters, Raquel and Rebecca, stopped at a front field tucked away in the scrub oaks and heavy ground brush. Dave, myself and two others traveled on to the back portion of the property.
Once we reached our destination, I quickly set up with my back resting against an oak tree. Dave and the other hunter, Keith, were to my left and the decoys were also to my left in a sandy area about 18-20 yards. It was still really dark out and definitely too early for any gobbling. As I rested against the oak, my shins burning from the brisk walk in on sandy soil, I couldn’t help but feel the building excitement deep in my soul as to what the day would hold. We had two hunters, Keith and Rebecca, that were needing an Osceola to complete their turkey grand slam. One other hunter, Raquel, was working on shooting her first Osceola. I was working on my 5th Osceola and the first bird in my quest for a grand slam in one season. I have completed several turkey grand slams but never one in the same season….it was on my bucket list!
As the sky began to lighten up, the first gobble rang out. Then a second gobble a few minutes later. All of a sudden there was a strong gobble in the tree line in front of us followed by what sounded like a jake gobble, and it was like someone struck a nerve…chain gobbles came out of those trees for the next few minutes. At one point I wondered if they had time to catch their breath. It was music to my ears, making my hair stand up on the nap of my neck and my stomach felt as if fireflies were playing Quidditch in my gut and lungs.
I had already told Keith that if we had the opportunity at birds, he needed to take the first shot to finish his grand slam and if the opportunity was there for a double, I would follow-up. It was exciting to think that maybe a few of those toms gobbling on the roost would give us that opportunity. The birds eventually pitched down but in the other direction. We heard a single gobble a good distance off to the left of us. We waited as Dave made a few calls at varying times.
We were well into the first hour and a half of our first hunt when I heard a hen putt somewhere behind and to the left of me. I strained to hear movement…nothing. Within a few minutes I saw something very dark and round to the extreme left of me. A TOM!! And he was coming in HOT! The bird stopped for a moment, pecked at the ground, reassessed the decoy scene, went into strut, and marched right into our set up blown up like an overstuffed pinata. I knew at this point that the bird was directly in front of Keith, but he had yet to shoot. The bird walked over to the decoy, bumped into it and the next thing I knew he was on top of the decoy knocking it to the ground, and pecking at the decoy’s head.
I was thinking to myself, “shoot, shoot, shoot!” Then I thought, “Maybe Keith sees another bird coming into the set-up down the trail that I can’t see.” I heard my heart start pumping as I readied my shotgun. The live tom was doing all he could do to beat the decoy up and he paused for a moment when the shot rang out pelting his noggin with turkey shot and laying him out in the sand. Keith rushed out to retrieve the bird as Dave rushed out to upright the downed decoy. Well, the decoy needed a little work and wasn’t going to just easily get poked back into the sand. I dug my Buck Knife Bantam out of my turkey vest and handed it to Dave to work on the repairs. Dave was able to temporarily fix “Old Scar Face” and he ran out and stuck him up in the sand.
We sat on this spot another 45 mins to an hour but nothing else came into it. That was and exciting hunt and I was ecstatic for Keith in completing his Turkey Grand Slam. The other hunters had not seen a bird all morning.
After a quick trip into town for lunch at The Blue Gator, we returned to the woods in search of toms. We all used strategy to get us to where we heard birds gobbling in the morning thinking we may have a chance at them coming back to the roost. No such luck! With all the chain gobbling that took place that morning, we estimated at least six other tom’s in that area, but we didn’t hear a single gobble.
On Saturday and Sunday we didn’t hear a single gobble and we hunted all day both days with a short lunch break. Keith had a failed archery opportunity at another tom that came running into the Deception Outdoors Decoy setup. With turkey hunting, it isn’t over until the sun starts to set so we held out until the last minute and made our retreat back to the trucks.
I won’t lie, I was kind of bummed. Something that I set out to do was knocked down on the first turkey hunting trip. Was I giving in too easily? Was there still a chance? Would I have the time to come back this season and hunt again? All of this was running through my head on my walk back to the truck and on our drive home. After discussing it with Mister and bringing up the idea to Rebecca, much pondering and schedule changing, and the heart of gold of an awesome guide, WE ARE HEADED BACK TO FLORIDA! WoooHooo! The weekend of April 8 & 9th we will be back in those woods working hard toward achieving Rebecca’s first grand slam and for me, pulling off a grand slam off in one season. Wish us luck!!
I NEED SOME HELP…many that follow my blog or follow Life in Camo on Facebook know that I name the birds I usually chase locally in Alabama every season. El Jefe is the only one that I have not ended the chapter on so far and I am going into my third season chasing him. Circumstances have kept him safe…a metal one with barbs and some hardwoods with double painted stripes to be more specific–but I know one day he won’t be able to stand it and he will venture out of his safety zone. Our game cameras have proven that he has!
This year El Jefe is running with two other mature birds which I call the group the Three Amigos: El Jefe (the Boss), El Diablo (the Devil), and Papi Chulo (the MacDaddy). Over the past two weeks a lone tom that we have seen briefly in the past has shown up on game camera. I busted this bird pre-season the first year we scouted this property. Last season, he skirted us, unbeknownst to us he was roosted quietly in a tree within close proximity, flying down late, and using the terrace to sneak around us. He is a tight-lipped, sub-dominant tom so we can’t just come in and locate him and hunt him. I like a challenge and this bird is going to give me that.
I NEED HELP NAMING THIS BIRD!! I need to name this bird for my blog this season. I am offering a small prize for the winner of the name chosen. This prize package includes a really unique turkey call.
If you have a name, post it as a comment to this blog entry or in a response to my Facebook post. If I choose the name you posted, I will send you a prize package worth up to $100. I will give away this prize package on Sunday, March 26, 2017.
Follow along to see how this season unfolds. Good luck to all the turkey hunters this spring. “Hunt hard, harvest ethically and may your 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.
Guest post by Rebecca Gicewicz
My Nebraska hunt with The Roost was a fantastic adventure with great friends. The hunting was physical, involving covering lots of ground and enjoying the unique scenery. The style of hunting was new to me as I am a fledgling turkey hunter. I did my best to keep up with our 6 foot 6-inch guide and his long, swift legs. My companions were good at coaching me a bit to keep me on track and improve my odds of harvesting.
On our second day of hunting our other two hunting companions were tagged out and it was up to Nancy Jo and I to close the deal. It was my turn to step into the batters box and we saw at least two toms in a field along the Middle Loup River. When we got into position the guide frantically whispered that TWO LONG BEARDS were coming in hot. Nancy Jo looked at me asked, “Do you want to try for a double.” I didn’t need time to contemplate that question, the answer was, “Let’s do this!”
In an instant, the gobblers were in view and Nancy Jo asked me if I was ready? I said, “YES!” Nancy Jo fired and I shot a second later. Her aim was true and mine not so much. I had a follow-up shot opportunity, but it was strike number two. There would not be a strike three as my gun jammed. Too much crawling through the dirt, I suspect.
So my hunting buddy harvested herself a beautiful Merriam’s turkey! I was happy for her but felt like I had let the guide, the cameraman, and my hunting partner down. I wanted that double! So with mixed emotions of celebration for my friend and frustration at myself I took a few minutes to regain my perspective and composure. Once all those emotions were sorted out I was ready to be up to bat again!
We went to a new spot and called in a few jakes who were ready to brawl. It was awesome to see their displays! Our next spot was a cut corn field that had four toms and two jakes. The stalk was on! Nancy Jo stayed at the truck while, guide Dustin aka Dirt, cameraman Richard aka Mister and hunter Rebecca aka Slugger went creepin’. We set up and the turkeys weren’t visible. Dirt called and finally a few gobbles cut loose and he whispered, “Here they come.” My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking but I was ready for the fast pitch. The red heads crested over the berm and they were running into the decoy.
Two were Rios and one was a Merriam’s and Dirt desperately whispered, “The middle one, the middle one!” At about 20-yards, there was enough separation between the trio for a clear shot and I hit it out of the park. Woohoo!
The other two turkey never skipped a beat they were looking to beat up on the tom that dared to encroach on their territory. They finally eased off and I was able to check out my bird. I was thrilled to be able to take in the beauty of that Merriam’s Tom. The intricacies of the feathers, the iridescence of its coloring. Being able to convert my swing and a miss into a single felt good!
As all of us converged upon the lodge of Misty Morning Outfitters in Alden, Kansas, we were chomping at the bit to get in the fields hunting some birds. When we were sitting around the fire pit the first evening, we found out we would be hunting by a method none of us had ever experienced….FANNING aka REAPING, a term the Turkey Reapers had coined for this style of hunting through their hunting tactics. I was excited about the challenge, however I was also somewhat nervous. My Beretta Xtreme was set up to be effective for extended range shots, not rushed close range shots.
Our first morning started off a traditional turkey hunt with locating a bird that our guide had roosted the evening prior. Mister stepped out of the truck and let out a owl hoot and the silent, moisture thick air was cut with a hard gobble in return. We all scrambled! Troy, our guide, was gathering up decoys from the back of his truck and was headed about 80 yards into the field just off the road to set up decoys. Mister grabbed his backpack, video camera, tripod and chair as Rebecca and I loaded our shotguns, slung on our turkey vests and followed in right behind Mister. We quickly found us some trees to nest up against.
Troy and the gobbler rallied back in forth for the next hour, but the tom never did commit to coming into the field in front of us. The tom stayed on the property behind us at about 80-100 yards…property we did not have permission to hunt. We finally called the hunt in this spot, pulled up the decoys, gathered our gear and headed back to the truck. As we drove by the field that was behind us, we had the opportunity to see this tom and his hens. This would not be the last time one of the Ladies in Camo hunters would tangle with this bird; read Rebecca Gicewicz’s guest post to see how she saw this bird up close and personal.
After riding around for several hours we did spot some toms in a field and tried our skill at “Reaping” but because there were four of us, one fan and a lot of cow pasture to cover, we were not successful. I did get a taste of what to expect for the rest of the hunt: staying low, single file, crawling, kneeling, peeking and waiting.
Unlike any turkey hunting I have ever experienced, Reaping is an intense and aggressive hunt. A lead person holds a full strut tom decoy that has been altered with a handle and stake so that the person can easily hold the decoy in front of them as they crouch their head below the full tail fan and peek through the fan. The crawling, crouching, long shuffles to cover the distance to where the toms will see your lifelike decoy and take an interest is exhausting at times. Add to that, we were hunting in hilly terrain that I was not accustom to. The excitement and rush make all the effort worth every minute of the challenge–I was hooked.
After lunch, our group was split up and I was hunting with Matt as my guide and Mister behind the camera. We rode around for several hours glassing birds but most were in areas we did not have access too. We finally found a tom in an alfalfa field and we strategically closed the ground on him to get within 80 yards of him. I was on the edge of the field on a downward slope and Matt was behind the decoy working the tom closer to us. The tom had a hen with him and came within 70 yards of us but lost interest and walked back to the hen. We backed out once the bird was out of sight and decided we would come back later in the afternoon and see if this tom circled back through there. He didn’t, so we decided this would be the perfect spot for a morning hunt.
We returned to that field the next morning but never heard or saw a bird. After sitting in that spot until 8:30 a.m. we called the hunt and rode around a while seeking other birds. Several hours passed and we were on our drive back to the lodge when we saw a tom and several jakes in a small cutover ag field. Matt wheeled into the long driveway and spoke with the farmer who granted us permission to hunt the birds on his property that was on both sides of the road. We drove half the distance of the driveway and attempted a stalk on these birds by taking advantage of three short silos. Once we got to the silos, Matt crawled out on his knees just after telling me to stay tight to the silo, be ready and when he said shoot step out and be prepared to acquire my target and shoot. As he crawled out, the adrenaline I was feeling sneaking up the drive had my heartbeat blaring loudly in my ears. I heard Matt say, “They are coming. They are coming. Be ready!” I clicked my safety off. I didn’t know if two or all were coming, nor did I know if the Tom was in tow…phew, it was an intense moment as I played my role over in my head…step out, acquire target quickly and shoot!
As luck would have it, only two jakes came into the trickery of the bobbing and spinning decoy and didn’t even come straight to the decoy. They cut to the left and decided to come from behind the silos into the tom. Matt whispered to me that they were circling around so I quickly turned and repositioned myself for the shot in that direction. I caught a glimpse of one bird and it was a jake. The second bird came in and bumped the first so I had a pretty good idea that this was also a jake. We were able to back out from those birds and get back to the truck without spooking them.
The hens, jakes and one tom headed across the road and we were strategizing how to get into that pasture in front of them. We drove up the road to a higher advantage point where we were able to glass the birds and find out where they were going. Mister stayed at the truck as Matt and I went over the fence, into the pasture after this tom. Matt was carrying the reaping decoy and we were able to quickly get to the vicinity of the birds and we were lucky to have several cedars and some trees to use to our advantage. As I looked back toward the vehicle, I watched as Mister was scanning the pasture above us. I saw him look in my direction through the binoculars and when he saw that I was looking back at him, he made a sign for us to go back down low and around a little pond, he was seeing birds there, no doubt.
We had two jakes come into Matt’s calling and they didn’t commit when they saw the decoy…I had no plans on shooting a jake so we let them walk back into the woods without further pursuing. We heard a good mature tom gobble up above the pond so we quickly got up and took off in that direction. We were in a bottom and Matt made some yelps and on the terrace above another good mature gobble shook the air. We quickly climbed the hill, Matt with the decoy and fan in front of him and me glued directly behind him as if we were one unit, we were able to get to the top of the terrace when Matt saw the tom.
Being a turkey hunter, I have to be honest and tell you staying directly behind the decoy person, not being able to look around and size up the tom for myself was the hardest thing to do. I tried a few times and Matt caught me, growling under his breath, “BE STILL!” I did get a peek at the bird as it turned to walk in another direction and I saw beard…long beard. I could not tell if it were five inches or 10 inches but at this point I committed myself to take a shot at this bird.
Matt asked, “You ready?” I kneeled on my knees with my butt on my heels, clicked my safety off, shouldered my gun with the barrel pointed at the ground and said, “Yes!” I could only imagine this is what a bull rider feels like when the gate man asks that question…I had NO CLUE what was about to unfold, but I knew that this performance was up to me. Matt ducked and rolled to the left as I shot up onto my knees, quickly acquired where that tom was and I placed the bead midway down his neck and squeezed off my gun, expecting to follow up with a second shot. The first flipped the bird and he didn’t flop. I said, “GOT HIM!” as I stood up. Matt finally unfolded from his half fetal position on the ground and got up and said, “Oh yeah! Awesome!”
What a rush! I can’t tell you what part of that moment made it more exciting, not seeing the bird until the fan was moved, having to quickly acquire my target and shoot or the fact that we were slipping around in the wide open in stealth mode behind this decoy completely fooling the keen eyesight of this tom. My second Rio Grande was in the bag! I danced in the Land of Oz and I was now one bird away from my second Grand Slam.
Guest Post by Rebecca Gicewicz
I am here in Alden, Kansas enjoying hunting camp with old and new friends. Part of my mission for this trip was to do my best to harvest a Rio Grande. Our first morning in the woods was spent with Nancy Jo, Mister and our guide, Troy; which is truly a treat as I am usually in the woods alone. I don’t mind the solitude but sharing the experience with friends was really a special element I was looking forward to. That morning came and went with just a few gobbles from turkey in the distance, but no shot opportunities. No problem, it is hunting after all.
Our plan for the afternoon was to use a different strategy by splitting the group up. I was kind of bummed but I just rolled with it. This turkey hunting gig is all new to me so I thought, :Let’s do this.” The afternoon involved driving on country roads past known areas and unknown land. Lo and behold, there was a nice Tom strutting near a creek but we didn’t have permission to hunt that particular land. Troy had a plan; a few clicks on a smart phone app gave the property owners information. So off we went on a mission. A few knocks on the door revealed that no one was home, but the show must go on. Undaunted, we went on with our turkey quest.
We drove and drove, but as fate would have it nothing came together. The final act of this show was to go back to the morning spot where all four of us had started of and try to catch the birds as they circled around to roost. The decoys were set up and I sat back against my tree from the morning hunt. I was missing my other two companions and kept wondering how their hunt was panning out. As an hour or two ticked by, Troy called and there was intermittent distant gobbling but it didn’t sound as if it was closing the distance. The sun was beginning to set and I started to think of what our morning plan might be.
That is when I saw something red and black about 100 yards to my left; it was a Tom! The tom was running up the edge of the field towards my position. I frantically whispered to my guide “to my left, one is closing in.” My guide was not able to see and just kept saying hold still, don’t move, and let him come. That is what I did. The tom slowed up at about 50-yards and of course he was standing in my one and only blind spot. I thought, “Oh no, he is suspicious, has turned and gone into the woods.”
That was not the case at all! The tom continued to move into range and I could now see him but didn’t have a clear shot. Troy gave me the “Shoot when your are ready” command but I had to wait for a clear and ethical shot. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the tom moved into a shooting lane. I clicked my safety off, lined him up in my Ghost Sight and squeezed the trigger. Down went the bird and Troy shouted, “Good Shot!”
There were two other mature toms behind my downed bird. They kept closing the distance but I only had one tag; no double for me. Finally, they moved off into the woods and we got up to check out my harvest. I was anxious to see him up close. We looked at his spur on one side and it was a rounded nub; I have to admit I was disappointed. So, I focused on his fan, which was beautiful. I finally got brave enough to look at the other spur and when we did I was ecstatic. There was my unicorn; a stout, sharpened, 1-5/8” spur. I thought, “It’s ok that the tom only has one spur. He only needed that one.” I was super stoked! That is how I found my unicorn in the Land of Oz.
For me, this hasn’t been a very successful turkey season. With spending the least amount of time ever spent spring turkey hunting in the woods, my lack of success was to be expected. As I scroll through social media and see all the successful harvests at each of the outfitters that we are traveling more than 15 hours to hunt with, I have high hopes that my luck will change at the two Ladies in Camo turkey hunts we are about to spend the next seven days hunting. Six ladies from four different states are converging upon Misty Morning Outfitters in Kansas to hunt Rio Grand turkey, and four are traveling on to The Roost in Nebraska to hunt Merriam’s turkey.
Rebecca, from Florida, is traveling with us…asleep in the back seat of Cletus as I type this entry. Kim and Marla are traveling together from Illinois. Sherry and Connie are traveling together from Michigan. None of us “NEW” to turkey hunting, however, this is Connie’s first guided outfitter hunt; this will be Rebecca’s 2nd and 3rd bird and species as she recently harvested her first turkey, an Eastern in Alabama; and Kim and Marla were just in the woods turkey hunting this past weekend.
I have been fortunate enough to have hunted some place at a point in time with each of these women, except Connie. I am looking forward to gaining a new hunting friend. It has been nearly eight years since I have hunted with Sherry, who attended my very first hunt I organized. It has been nearly four years since I have hunted with Marla and just last September that I hunted with Rebecca and Kim. I feel blessed to be able to call these ladies friends.
My plan is to share as much of this hunt with all of my blog followers and subscribers, as well as my social media friends and followers. I will post some contributed blog entries and photos from the ladies attending this hunt if they wish to contribute. Look for stories of our travels, our good times at the lodge, photos and tales from the hunt, and of course, all the shenanigans. Check out the Ladies in Camo and Life in Camo Facebook page, search the hashtags #LICMMO16 and #LICTheRoost16 in social media to keep up with posts from the Ladies in Camo Kansas and Nebraska turkey hunts.
As we are rolling through north central Oklahoma, crossing over into Kansas, with just two more hours of travel, my mind is already on the turkey hunt…wishing these ladies the best of luck in the coming days.
I hope we ALL have the opportunity to “dance with a fist full of feathers!”
As hunters and consumers, we are all looking for quality products within our own personal budget, that appeal to each of us and are practical for the products intended purpose in the field. I use every product that I write about and I bring readers the technical information about that product, not necessarily my personal opinion, but my unbiased opinion of that product and how it performed in the field.
My ultimate goal is to get as much positive exposure on the Internet and through social media of a product for a company from my field testing and personal use of their product in the field.
I had the pleasure of talking with Laura Eakin and Kadi Horrocks of The Hunting Widow Podcast a couple weeks ago. What a blast! I have not laughed that much in a while. We laughed about many things. Check out the podcast by clicking on the photo below or the following hyperlink: The Hunting Widow Podcast/Episode 24 Nancy Jo Adams.
We are always excited about attending the NWTF Annual Convention and Sports Show to visit with turkey hunting friends, see what is trending and new in the world of turkey hunting and to plan my editorial calendar with product reviews for the spring. This year there was a multitude of companies releasing new products and Life in Camo Media is fortunate enough to be taking many of these to the field with us as we hunt the “El Jefe” in our home state of Alabama, travel to Tennessee to hunt some big gobblers with Eric Lowery with Fatal Obsession TV, travel to Kansas to hunt with Misty Morning Outfitters, to Nebraska to hunt with The Roost and to Georgia to hunt with great friends. Our first hunt is this Saturday morning as we take to the woods in search of that haunting bird, the El Jefe on the grounds of Woodham Farms; just shy of 45 minutes from home. If you would like to read about the items we found at NWTF and in our research of product releases, you can click here for the full article on 1800GunsandAmmo.com.
I want to wish good luck to all of our turkey hunting friends this season…“May you dance with a fist full of feathers.” ~Nancy Jo and Richard
The Archery Trade Association Show is always an exciting show to attend for the media. We get a first-hand look at some of the years new releases in the archery/bowhunting world. This year was no different. I found everything from new crossbow cases, technology, electronics, hunting clothes, scent destroyers…you name it, it was there on the show floor.
I had so many favorites that I found and have many of those promised for future product reviews that I cannot wait to share with you. Some of these products will not release until late spring…and the anticipation is killing me. I will be sharing any published works right here on my blog in the coming months.
A sneak peek of a few of the items I will be sharing:
The Lakewood Products Drop-In Crossbow Case is going to replace the humongous and somewhat cumbersome crossbow case that I currently own. The Drop-In Crossbow Case is a convenient, top-loading, stand-up design case that conveniently fits when packing. The soft-sided hard case offers maximum protection to your crossbow with designated areas for a loaded quiver and 18 additional bolts. The case measures 11.5″D x 37″L x 26.25″H and incorporates built-in wheels for easy transportation. This case is airline approved with zipper tabs that allow for a lock for secure travel. Made in USA with a Lifetime Guarantee. The case has an MSRP starting at $299.
I hunted with a crossbow this season because of a shoulder issue and found it somewhat troublesome in un-cocking the bow each evening after the day’s hunt. Having to travel with our practice target in the back of the truck, unloading it to un-cock my crossbow, loading it back up for the next day. My problem is solved with the BIGShot Targets Iron Man 14. The Iron Man 14 measures 14″ X 14″ X 8″ and weighs 14 pounds. The triple compressed military fiber and ever-last nylon target face is rated at 450 fps for crossbows. The Iron Man 14 is perfect for travel when a practice shot is critical in making sure your crossbow is still on and to discharge your bolt at the end of the hunt. The BIGShot Targets Iron Man 14 has an MSRP of $34.99.
The new Muck Boot Company Ladies Arctic Hunter boot in Realtree Xtra definitely was of interest to me because of the issue that most women complain about not having enough calf room once they tuck their pant leg in during wet terrain or rainy conditions. The mid-calf design makes it possible to comfortably tuck in pant legs while hunting. As with all Muck Boot Company boots, the product is made quality materials and designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind. The Arctic Hunter has an extended rubber exterior for durability in the field and 5mm of neoprene lined with warm fleece. The boot incorporates a dual density EVA midsole and slip-resistant rugged outsole for a comfortable and secure fit. The boot has a 10″ height with a back pull-on tab. For the ladies that don’t like pink on their camo, the Muck Boot Company Arctic Hunter only has a slight splash of pink on it.
The trend of using electronics in the field is ever growing and it was evident by many of the new products I found on the showroom floor. One that got a lot of attention and was unique in its own nature is the Cirrus Hunt Vape Technologies Wind Indicator. The patent pending design detects the slightest wind or thermal currents with an easy to operate, one push, to expel a puff true vapor into the air. The small, lightweight unit requires a minimal amount of movement to operate and replacement cartridges are available. The unit is USB rechargeable and one cartridge holds thousands of puffs. This product will not be available on the market until later this quarter and an MRSP was unavailable at the time of this writing. Watch the video below to see how the Cirrus Wind Indicator works and to find out more information about this product.
Another vape product that was getting a lot of attention is the WyndScent Electronic Vapor Hunting Scent . Check out the informative video below for all the information and features of this product. This is a product I am looking forward to taking to the field with me next fall.
There were so many fantastic and useful products that I found and many that I will be writing about in the coming months as some of them release or as I am able to field test the products personally. Stay tuned to my blog for publication announcements and information about these great products and a plethora of other great products released at #ATA2016.
All photos and video are the property of the rightful owner and used within this writing as reference only in efforts of product exposure for these owners/companies. Per the guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission, the products reviewed in this published material is an endorsement and the writer may have been compensated by “in-kind” or monetary payment to review the product.
This Sunday was our last hunt of the 2015 Alabama Spring Turkey Season and the weather was looking promising for a great morning hunt. There was heavy dew on the ground and a slight chill in the air. We drove Hank the HuntVe to the center of the property to wait for the first gobbles. It seemed like we stood there for a long time–eventually my mind wandered and I started looking for and following hog tracks on the dirt road. I had wandered about 60 yards from the cart when I heard Mister “Pssst” at me and motioned for me to come back as he was getting on the Hank. I thought to myself that he must have heard something. When I got back to Hank, Mister said, “I don’t think this bird is on our property but he may be close enough that I can call him in to our set up on our property.” So we were off for the north side of the property.
When we arrived to the area on the north side, we never could get a tom to gobble, nor could we tell if the birds had pitched down into the pasture quite a ways from us on the adjacent property that we did not have access to. As we were standing there, a bird gobbled toward the middle of the property and it did not seem to be too far away. Mister looked at me wide-eyed and said, “That is on us and pretty close.” We drove back to the middle of the property in a hurry.
Standing there in the middle of the property not too far from where we originally started, we patiently waited for the bird to gobble so that we could go towards it and set up or get in front of him and wait on him. Mister made a few hen yelps; nothing came in return. We looked at each other and Mister shrugged his shoulders. No sooner did he do that than a bird gobbled, behind me, and on the north side of the property. Knowing that this was the bird we had just came from and he was not on our property there was no sense in getting excited about this gobble. Our hunt was over; our season was done here in Alabama.
As we drove Hank back toward the truck which was parked on the north end of the property I got a little cold so Mister asked me if I wanted to be dropped off at the truck while he drove the road system inspecting the green fields on that end of the property. As I was sitting in the truck I posted to Facebook:
“We only heard two toms gobble this morning way off in the distance. I feel a nap coming on before I have to get working on some writing that is due this evening. Feeling blessed to have spent the morning in the woods!”
I hit the post button as Mister rode up to my window on Hank. He said, “Come on! I want to show you something.”
We drove up the road a little ways and stopped. Mister showed me a really big hog track along with an average sized track and piglet tracks. As I was taking a photo of the track with a one-dollar bill to show the size of the track, a bird gobbled loudly about 80 yards behind me. Mister, who was walking away from me, stopped in his tracks and spun on his heel. I looked at him and immediately pointed behind me and he looked at Hank as if trying to quickly access our situation. When he looked at me, I mouthed, “My ESPs are in my vest…at the truck!” Pointing toward the truck. The shotgun was on Hank…but he knows I will not, under any circumstances, fire a gun without my ESP hearing protection in my ears. As his shoulders slumped, he said, “Go! Go! Hurry up!”
I was on my way back in a flash and Mister was standing on the edge of the road waving for me to stop Hank, leave it and come on! I knew that the birds were close so I took off on foot, shotgun in one hand and turkey vest in the other….I didn’t even have time to put my vest on. We set up in a hurry. Mister was about 20 feet behind me. He called, a tom gobbled. He called again, this time TWO toms gobbled. The birds were about 60 yards in front of us in thick hardwoods and pine trees. About five minutes passed and the birds still were in that same spot and did not commit to coming in any closer. About fifteen minutes into the sit, the birds gobbled further away from us and Mister used a gobble tube; which immediately brought the birds closer. The calling and gobbling went on for a while.
Mister decided to get up and move further back behind me to make the birds think the hens were moving away. This kept the birds gobbling but still from where they were. Finally, the birds moved away from us and toward the pasture on the other side of the hardwoods and pines. We walked toward the area that the birds went and we heard them gobble in the pasture across the fence…on property we didn’t have access to and too far to call back.
For the second time, we called the hunt and were on our walk back to Hank the HuntVe to leave for home. As we were walking, Mister mentioned how fun the morning was with all the excitement and I agreed that it was a neat last hunt of the season in Alabama and that I was looking forward to hunting Kansas next month. We were over half way back, when the toms gobbled in unison pretty close to the spot we had just left. So we ran back up the hill and down the road. Mister quickly put out a Avian X LCD Decoy breeding hen and sat at the base of a pine tree about ten feet behind me.
Between Mister’s hen yelps and a gobble he made now and then and the return of the two tom’s gobbles, but with them never committing, it seemed like I was not going to have the opportunity to take a shot at a bird after all….talk about highs and lows in one hunt. These birds were stuck in the same spot and didn’t seem to be interested in closing the gap.
I was straining so hard to see a bird. Those birds were literally gobbling right in front of me and I could not see them. I strained to see ANYTHING move…NOTHING. The gobbling kept coming and I still could not see anything. They had to be RIGHT THERE in front of me. Why am I not seeing them? Gosh, it was so close I could feel the gobbling in my chest. My breathing was somewhat labored and my heartbeat was about to explode in my ears; I simply could not see ANYTHING.
All of the sudden, I saw RED! Then white! Then movement! There they were!! Both gobblers were at fifty yards in front of me; one-half strutting and the other just walking along in front of the dominant bird. They were so close to each other! I could not make this shot without taking both birds out which is illegal in Alabama. In my mind I kept thinking, separate, separate, separate. When one bird stepped forward a step the other was right there with him. They mimicked each other for about 10 yards, footstep for footstep, too close to make a shot on the larger of the two. Then the younger one put its head down and the older tom gained about three steps over the younger. Here is my chance—but wouldn’t you know it, a tree in front of me was in the way so I put my gun barrel on the other side of the tree trunk and decided I would take the shot when the tom cleared it.
That seemed like a good plan except for the younger tom was now right back beside the older one. Just two to three steps and I can take this shot…I just kept thinking to myself. For a minute, the thought even crossed my mind that “This is not going to happen this morning!” The younger tom stopped behind a bunch of brush and put his head down so I had it in my mind that I would let the older take two steps and I would take the shot. So, on step two, I placed my finger lightly on the trigger and mid-squeeze I saw red…I flinched and was able to stop in time to keep from shooting both birds. ARRGHHHH!! Are these birds ever going to separate enough for me to take the shot? They were passing the decoy and will soon be on their merry way and I won’t have a shot. Then the opportunity presented itself! The younger bird stopped and turned back to catch a bug. The mature tom stopped to admire the decoy and I squeezed the trigger.
The tom flopped on its side and he never moved again. The younger bird jumped in the air and then stood there looking at the other bird. It was not until I turned and looked at Mister and said, “I didn’t think they were ever going to separate!!” that the younger bird finally started to move away and then he took flight when we stood up.
What a way to end the season….a very unexpected harvest on a hunt that we had already called off TWICE. Not only were the “Turkey Gods” good to us, Mister worked his magic with calling and did a fantastic job as always. I am definitely grateful for his mentoring and companionship in the woods, we make a good team. I appreciate Richard Holt aka Mister sharing his sport with me nearly ten years ago, for mentoring me and sharing many, many hours in the field.
This Barbour County, Alabama tom weighed around 20 pounds, had a 10-inch beard and a 1 ¼” left and right spur.
Next up, Kansas Rio Grande Hunting in northwest Kansas. Stay tuned at the end of May to see how that trip unfolds. Hunt hard, harvest ethically and may you dance with a fist full of feathers!!
With turkey season fast approaching, I have NOTHING but turkey hunting on my mind. I am going this Saturday afternoon to scout new property, Woodham Farm. I will not share the location of this farm because it is private property but I will tell you that it is in my home state of Alabama, in Henry County. I have been told that there are several really nice trophy toms wandering those cow pastures and one that I have coined “EL JEFE” (pronounced L-Hef-A) which translates from Spanish to English as THE BOSS . We are setting out game cameras this weekend and I hope to share the photos of El Jefe with you real soon. I feel fortunate and I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity to hunt this private farm. I have always believed that all things happen and occur for a reason and this opportunity is one of those situations that truly bring this thought to full circle. As I did last year in my pursuit of the GRAND POOPAH, I will be sharing more of this years hunting the EL JEFE right here on my blog, so stay tuned for another great turkey season; the highs, the lows, the tactics, the tips and the gear–it will all be shared right here at Shenanigans From the Field. Don’t forget to subscribe on my home page and you will get notified of every new post.
I published two turkey hunting related articles this week in preparation of the season: Using Turkey Decoys for Success and With Turkey Season Fast Approaching, What’s in Your Vest?. And, also published this week was the photo of “Third Bird” from last season on the cover of Mike’s Outdoors Spring turkey season sale flyer. I hope you enjoy! Good luck to you this season….I hope you dance.
As our annual hunting pilgrimage to the West comes to a close we can be thankful for the time we spent in the woods enjoying nature. It is always bittersweet when we head back South; thankful to be headed home for a little rest but sad to be ending our adventure.
Unfortunately we are on our way home without a harvest this year, however you can not measure the great memories made. How can one not be thoroughly satisfied sitting 20 feet closer to Heaven with a front row seat to the Show? That is what this journey is all about.
Our 9-day trip started off rifle hunting in Kentucky. After pulling our camera cards we didn’t have anything new so we decided to stay in the stand we had hunted on our earlier trip. We seen 3 young bucks and 6 does during our Saturday hunt. On Sunday, a wind advisory was issued four our area and the wind was absolutely terrible; it was so windy it was a struggle for Richard to pull the cameraman stand we were taking to Kansas with us. We decided to head to Kansas half a day early to bow hunt; leaving Kentucky at noon.
We were excited to be in Kansas—one of our favorite states to hunt. It was really looking good for us since on day one of our Kansas trip, we no longer had Hank unloaded and was on our way to the field to pull camera cards when our first sight was a nice big buck chasing a doe across the field in front of us. Later in the week, I sat in awe as I watched a young 8-point come into our set up looking for a fight after a rattling sequence; not only once but 4 times. On one of our last few days, we watched as a young 6-point approached our decoy in a submissive manner trying everything he could do, short of touching it of course, to get the decoy to acknowledge him.
A nice buck did come up behind us at 60 yards following a doe. I caught a glimpse of a doe over my left shoulder that was on a trail going straight to the field in front of us. I giggle about that buck sighting because of what happened to Richard.
When I spotted the doe, I whispered to Richard letting him know the location of the doe. His cameraman stand was on the right side of me facing opposite of the doe’s location. As soon as Richard seen the doe, we both stood up hoping a buck would be following her. At this vantage point, I saw the buck and I immediately whispered, “Don’t move, buck!” I gave the location of the buck, but Richard never had the opportunity to see the buck; a huge tree with two trunks directly behind us blocked it.
I tried several times to tell him and to motion where the buck was located without getting busted. All of the sudden I heard Richard’s heavy breathing. Then I glanced slowly over at him and only caught glimpse of his legs…they were shaking. Then I heard the shake in his voice when he asked me if I could still see the buck. I was concentrating on the buck when out of the corner of my eye I saw a few smaller branches shaking on the tree. I could not help but to silently belly chuckle. I could physically feel Richard shaking the tree.
The buck never did produce himself for a shot and when the doe turned back and trotted into the woods parallel to the field, the buck followed walking out of sight. I looked at Richard and said, “He walked out with the doe.” Richard let out some air and sat down. I asked him with a giggle, “You going to be alright.” He laughed and said, “I don’t know why I started shaking and got so excited like that.” He said, “Buck fever, I guess.” I laughed about it a few more times while in that tree that afternoon. I could physically feel and hear his emotion—I don’t know why I didn’t catch it and start shaking myself. What is so odd is he was behind the camera not the weapon and ironically he doesn’t get buck fever behind a gun.
The winds started picking up as the week progressed in Kansas. The forecast was not looking good for the weekend and although our deer camera photos where showing a few promising bucks, we had not seen much deer activity on any of our hunts. With the 25-30 mile an hour wind and the fact we were not seeing much rut activity or deer sightings, we decided to leave Kansas several days early, returning to Kentucky to rifle hunt.
Kentucky proved to have more deer movement, just not the deer we were looking to harvest. Sunday’s rain and thunderstorms found us packing up early and driving home. But before we left, we put out 5 deer cams to do a little scouting for us in hopes of a successful trip during the 4-day Thanksgiving holiday. Yep, that’s right..3 days work at our full-time employment, a night of washing and drying hunting clothes, a 7-hour one-way trip and we will turn around and do this all over again. Some call us crazy. Some say we are obsessed. Others may say we are dedicated–we settle with simply “doing what we love and loving what we do.” Our Life in Camo is not about what we harvest. It is about enjoying the journey and making memories along the way.
We left Montgomery, AL at 5:15 p.m. Northwest bound to the Kentucky Farm; but first we took a small detour to pickup Hank the HuntVe from the dealership where it was getting a preseason inspection. We drove into the driveway at the farm at 2:45 p.m. I set my alarm on my cell phone for a 2.5 hour nap.
Preseason is always exciting for me. We put cameras out earlier this summer and this was going to be our first opportunity to see those photos. Although there were a few good bucks caught by the game cameras, I was more disappointed that one of them took about 110 shots of nothing. So evidently the sun caused this or a few weeds that may have blown in the wind…although, undetectable to our eyes. In any case, I am very anxious to be sitting in the stand, bow in hand.
On this trip we had a hefty to do list: replenish the Trophy Rock, pull game cameras, set cameras up in new spots, put up 3 ladder stands with 3 cameraman lock-ons, bushhog the lower field, and scout out a few spots to place muzzleloader/rifle stands.
We started at day break…with a low-tire on Hank. After taking a few minutes to fix that we headed to the fields to check the cameras. The first camera–nothing earth moving. The second camera–better than the first, this spot has potential. The third camera–BINGO!! This is what we are looking for…bucks, several bucks. Some young, one impressive at this point of the season and yet a couple more that needed another year or two. We have photos of fawns; good size fawns…especially since our does in Alabama are just now putting fawns on the ground and will be doing so the next two months.
The weather was nice with the temperature in the mid 80s; this was a pleasant change for us. We were a little disappointed to see that a couple of the summer food plots were not satisfactory. The deer consumed the sunflower that was sowed in the mix as soon as they bloomed in one field and there were only several dozen that made it to maturity in another. The iron clay peas in the other plots made a good stand are a week or two from blooming.
We were at the parking area putting together ladder stands when we stopped long enough to enjoy lunch. DIVINE ribs from Rendezvous Barbeque in St. Louis, brought to camp by Allen Plunkett, a friend that leases and hunts the adjacent property. Food at camp is ALWAYS the best and usually something spicy: deer chilli, jambalaya, ribs…THEY WERE DELICIOUS and about made me worthless. I had to take me a quick nap shortly after eating.
Shortly after lunch we were back at work scouting out some stand locations that we had plans of putting up on Sunday after we finished some bushhogging.
Sunday morning got off to a slow start and with a new flat tire on Hank. The flat was repaired rather quickly and focus was shifted to a repair on the bushhog.
It didn’t take Richard and Joe long at all to get the bushhog repaired and for Joe to head to the field to bushhog an area that Richard had scouted and planned on putting a stand on since he first set foot on the property.
It is amazing how bushhogging a half-acre area can make EVERYTHING look so different. Richard was, once again, indecisive about stand placement….
Finally when he picked a spot, and we placed the ladder stand and cameraman lock-on, he had a bit a limb clearing to do. This is not only going to be a great bow stand; it will also be a great gun season stand. We decided to place a game camera close by to help with the scouting.
Our last stand to place on Sunday was another favorite spot. This one was overlooking planted iron clay peas. Every trip we have made to this area has flushed deer out of the woods so timing our trek into this stand was going to have to be a science. Even with a second trail to get to this stand we were going to have to be stealth. This stand took nearly 2 hours to place and clear shooting lanes because it was so thick on the edge of the woods.
It is always important to leave thick enough cover around the stand to conceal the hunters, but it is also important to always have multiple shooting lanes since deer are so unpredictable. We scouted several more spots and found numerous white oak trees with a bumper crop of acorns. This is a southern hunters’ dream….
We had many creatures ride along with us, several for a short visit, others a little longer. Thank goodness we found no snakes. As usual, I also found some things to take home along the way. And of course we had a great time and made good memories. But the memory I would like to forget are of the unwanted guests that ended up traveling with me….SEED TICKS!! Yep, the DEVIL’S spawn. I wore snake boots, sprayed down good and them little turds still found a way to make it to my skin. Note to self: ADD A SECOND DOSE OF SAWYER’S TO CLOTHES NEXT TRIP!!
Next trip, Gator hunting with Dave Mehlenbacher of Woodland Guides Outdoors in Crystal River, Florida with hunting friends Shannon and Amber Markley. TWO days to harvest FOUR gators, stay tuned to see if we get the job done!!