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picAs I took my faded “lucky” turkey hunting ball cap out of the dryer for the umpteenth time over the last 10 years I noticed faded dates, some completely gone with just a small smudge of an ink stain of what once was. I have to ask myself, “Has it really been ten years?”

The inscriptions on the inside of a ball cap don’t really hold the memories of the hunts, but the dates help me replay each hunt in my mind…remembering every one as if it had occurred only yesterday. March of 2007, I embarked on my first ever turkey hunt harvesting my first turkey. I was immediately hooked. The whole process from roosting the bird the night before, getting up before the crack of dawn, sitting against a young pine as the earth cracked with its haunting chill and the sun took over the sky. I was immediately mesmerized with the whole shenanigans of the Tom’s rituals to be King of his domain, his small piece of woods. How the bird put on a show for the hens when the hens seemed to act as if the Tom didn’t even exist. The whole experience was sealed with the smell of spent shotgun powder and the damp smell of turkey feathers in the morning dew. Yes, I was hooked. An immediate addict!

As I look at the dates that are left visible in my old ball cap, I relive each of the hunts…not only the hunt, but the whole entire experience. The places we stayed, the people we met, and even the hardships we faced. I have been fortunate to harvest several birds every year that I have hunted, except for one season.  However, the season did not end without its special memories in itself.

I have harvested some really nice birds and even a multi-bearded bird but I have never been able to get the right trophy beard and spur combination on a single bird to warrant a full mount. My other turkey related goal is to complete my world slam which I am planning that quest for Spring 2018. I have several grand slams and I am working this season toward a single season slam, warranting this next trip to Florida; our third trip this season.

No where in the worldWith future goals in mind, none of that tarnishes what I have experienced and the memories that I have made over the last ten years as a turkey hunter. As I remember each hunt so vividly,  I am grateful for the graciousness of the “Turkey Gods” and all the mentors, landowners, and guides that I have crossed paths with. I truly feel honored to have shared some time with them in the woods and to have experienced the hunting and calling techniques of each one of them.

I pray that as long as I have the health and the means that I will be able to turkey hunt across the nation absorbing the breathtaking rituals and shenanigans of turkey behavior, the intoxicating smells of a spent shotgun shell,  and the opportunity to “dance with a fist full of feathers.”


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!

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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.

img_1962I 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.”

 


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


Guest post by Rebecca Gicewicz

IMG_7584My 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!”

MirriamsIn 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!

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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.

IMG_5932Being 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

IMG_6670I 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.

IMG_8638We 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.

IMG_3816That 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!”

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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.


FullSizeRenderFor 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.

 

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Rebecca’s 1st turkey harvest! Photo Credit: Rebecca Gicewicz

 

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.

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Kim’s opening day harvest! Photo Credit: Kim Hessing

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.

 

2015 Wilcox CountyAs 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 I sat at my office desk, tweazing the last thorn out of my index finger that I picked up during our last hunt, my mind wanders to the great memories made while hunting with Fatal Obsession TV in Hawkins and Green County, Tennessee.

We finally arrived at our hotel at 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning where we quickly assembled the camera equipment, plugged the electronics in, packed my turkey vest, put together a backpack for the camera equipment, and laid out our clothes and boots for the  4:00 a.m. wake-up call. It was going to be a long day, but turkey hunting was on the agenda so it would be a fun day.

The alarm went off and we looked like we were practicing for a fire drill. I had my turkey vest and gun waiting just outside the door and was completely dressed in five layers of Prois Hunting Apparel. YEP! Five layers! It was supposed to be 29 degrees at daybreak and the wind was blowing pretty hard. Shortly, a white truck pulled up, two young guides walked up and introduced themselves as Eric Lowery and brother, Cory Hawkins. A few seconds later, Robert Hawkins walked up and introduced himself. Robert had reached out to me about hunting Tennessee and it was nice finally having the opportunity to meet him in person. We were excited about getting the morning hunt started so we loaded our gear into the white truck and was on our way down the road.

Our first stop was just off a dirt road, through a fence and in a pasture. We were well on our walk in and was told we were going straight back to the fence line up on a hill. On our drive up to Tennessee the night before, I had joked around with Mister stating, “I hope these two young, fit guys are not going to put us through the wringer in the hills of Tennessee.” Then I quickly laughed it off and said, “I am just kidding. Us old farts are in pretty good hunting shape. We got this!”

Trust me! That was NOWHERE near or NOTHING remotely of what I was thinking half way up what they called a HILL! HILL? That was Mt. Everest to me in the dark. I didn’t think we would ever get to the top of it. As I was slowing my climb and Mister had gained the distance, I could hear him breathing hard as well. I didn’t feel so bad at that point. I took it a little slower and fortunately Eric and Cory were slowing down as well. Once they reached the top, they stopped. Once Mister and I reached them it took ALL I could do to keep bending over, placing both hands on my knees, and sucking in some of that briskly blowing air at the top of that “HILL” as if I just came up from a 100-foot dive with no air. PHEW!! We all kind of chuckled. I was assured that the next hill was nowhere near as bad.Set Up

We found a spot under some trees with about 15 yards between us and them. Cory was calling, Eric running a camera, Mister running a camera and I was holding the shotgun. The sun started to pop over the horizon and the wind had picked up and was blowing straight to us, head on. My nose was frozen, my eyes were watering, my ears were stinging and not once did we hear a single gobble. We did hear a hen about 45 minutes after sunrise, directly behind us. It was nearing 8 a.m. and we decided to pack it in and find lower ground to hunt where the wind would not be so brutal. It was obvious that is what the turkey was doing, feeding in the woods or where there was dense brush for cover or a lack of direct wind.

Yoder's Country Market

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Yoder’s Country Market Fresh Hot Donuts!!

Eric suggested that we go to Yoder’s Country Market to pick up a sandwich to take to the field with us to eat for lunch. Yoder’s is an Amish market with all fresh products, hand honed, hand and stone-ground mill items, baked fresh bread of different varieties and desserts of all kinds from puddings, cheesecake, a variety of icing and flavored cakes, and No Bake Cookies…I was like a kid in a candy store. Had we not been in a hurry to get back into the woods, I think I could have stayed in there and looked for about an hour. Mister fell victim to the smell of hot fresh, vanilla glazed homemade yeast donuts that wafted through the air as we walked out of the market. I had a bite and have to agree, he should have bought the THREE for $5!

We were back on the hunt! Our first top was a cut over ag field where we did not find any birds. We parked the truck a pretty good way from the field and realized when we decided to sit on this field a while and maybe partake in enjoying our lunch, we didn’t have any decoys nor our lunch with us. So Eric and Cory trekked back to the truck to get them. It was a good thing it was not a hot day.

IMG_6898Once they had returned and placed the decoys, we all settled in with the delicious sandwiches that were custom-made to our liking. I have eaten my fair share of meals in the woods and on the hunt but I have to be honest and say that fried country ham, baby Swiss on homemade sourdough with a smidgen of mayonnaise was absolutely divinIMG_6900e. I would have, without a doubt, fought for that sandwich! I sat back enjoying my meal when I noticed that Mister had picked up his binos.

It didn’t take me but a minute or two to finally see what he was looking at and at the same time I actually saw it, I heard Eric whisper, “Turkey!” We watched as eleven jakes sauntered into the field, one-by-one at about 200 yards away. They worked their way to about 100 yards from us before they veered off and eventually worked their way out of sight.

IMG_6938The next couple hours were spent riding around, scouting, where we did see some hens. We returned to the spot we hunted earlier that morning and there was nothing on this field. As Cory, Eric and Mister turned to come down of the hill to return to the truck, Cory caught a glimpse of a Tom across the road up on another hill. They quickly jumped in the truck and we drove to an area that we could park and go after this Tom.

As we made our way to the area in which this Tom was headed, a gobble belted out cutting the air like a chainsaw. It was comical from my view because all three of the guys were in front of me and when that gobbled erupted, you would have thought they were being pelted with a shower of paint balls…all three of them bolted in surprise and went to ducking and dodging looking for a place to set up. We never saw or heard another sound from that bird.

After riding around for about 30 minutes, we got a call from Robert that he had spotted two Tom’s in a field. We rushed over there. We had to wade through the creek and cross an AG field but there were indeed TWO Toms in that field. We were unable to close the distance and with the it being about 30 minutes from roosting time we made the decision to back out and return to this spot in the morning. It was evident these birds would roost in close proximity to the last place we saw them.

headerWe decided to call it a day with a plan tucked away for the morning hunt…but our night was not over! A place called The Farmer’s Daughter Restaurant was recommended for supper and we had about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get changed and get there before they closed. We made it….and let me tell you, I sure am glad we did! That was some of the best country-style eating I have had in a while. Served family style. You pick a variety of meats and all the fixings come with it…nearly more side-bowl fixings than we could fit on the three tables we put together for our group! The food and service were absolutely amazing!! I am glad I kept my mouth talking because I could have made myself sick overeating, no doubt!!

We had another morning to hunt and a well laid out plan. Would our plan be successful? You’ll have to check back to read the next blog entry–better yet, subscribe to my blog and you will get notification anytime a new adventure, great product or a short video is posted.


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

NWTF 2016: The Hottest Turkey Hunting Gear

 

 


This past weekend was our final hunt of the 2015 Spring Turkey Hunting Season. This season was plagued with horrible weather, important appointments on the calendar, trips out of state, and a loaded plow with my day job and freelance work so no matter how the mornings unfolded, we were going to enjoy our time in the woods.

Our Saturday hunt started off with torrential rains so we decided we would sleep in and hunt mid-morning between the two bands of storms that were predicted by the Weather Channel. We arrived at Woodham Farms at 10:00 a.m. and took up our favorite spot. The humidity was high after the rain and the sun was beating down on us for the first hour. You could hear a breeze in the treetops but you sure could not feel it on the ground where we were sitting. Besides watching “Bully”, the farm’s Black Angus bull, plundering in the weeds and the newest bull calf kicking up his heels at the wind, the morning was pretty uneventful. We had not heard a tom our entire hunt–not even in the distance. Harvesting the “El Jefe” was not going to happen this season but a bird like that leaves a fire in your desire and gives us something to look forward to for next season–that old rattle box gobble will haunt my dreams until then.  This morning I was reminiscing about our April 4, 2015 hunt at Woodham Farms…

Every moment of idle thought, my mind brings me back to the sights and sounds of the piney woods of Alabama. The sound of the “El Jefe” rattling off his revelry just before the break of dawn. The sounds of that old bearded boss hen arguing with any hen or call she hears, cutting it off and far surpassing the number of yelps she took in. Some mornings there is a chill in the air but some mornings like this morning, there is a mugginess that makes your camo stick uncomfortably to you.  We were here, in this exact spot last weekend. We sat an extended time using the logic that these birds were frequenting the fields late morning from what our game cameras had provided. That was an unsuccessful hunt. Once the birds hit the ground they were off onto the neighboring pine plantation and we didn’t hear another word from them.

B&C Custom Turkey Calls proved to be the El Jefe's favorite call.

B&C Custom Turkey Calls proved to be the El Jefe’s favorite call.

This morning we waited under the pine located in the middle of the cow pasture of Woodham Farms. The cows moved in to investigate. The cows were somewhat stealth compared to their size and as I glanced over to see if “Bully” was in close proximity, I noticed that the heifer with her new calf was the closest to us. Ironically, my mind quickly formulated an escape plan just in case she were to charge us…a subconscious effort that I am sure hog hunting ingrained in me. As we stood for what seemed like half an hour listening for “El Jefe” to sound off, the only sounds we were hearing were that of a rooster which we coined as a Georgia gobbler (from an earlier story) and the sounds of the new bull calf taking in its morning meal.  Finally, a couple owls sounded off and a hen made a soft yelp and “El Jefe” let out a gobble. They were no more than 150 yards from us, roosted on the property line. We grabbed our gear and took out for the edge of the cow pasture. We decided to set up in the same spot that we sat in last weekend. Mister put the decoys out about 18-20 yards, an Avian ¼ strut Jake and breeding hen and a Dakota Decoy breeding hen that he put on a stake.

As we settled in and I slide on my face mask and pulled on my gloves, I noticed the cardinals had started their morning serenading and several other birds were sounding off. Mister made a soft yelp on the B&C Custom Turkey Calls copper call that we brought to the field with us to review. No sooner had he struck the third yelp and the boss hen cranked up with her angry yelp and “El Jefe” sounded off with a rattling gobble and I caught the faint half gobble of a jake at the end of “El Jefe’s” gobble. There was a 7-10 minute intense conversation between the hens roosted in the trees, El Jefe and, every now and then, the sounds from the B&C copper call.

Waiting…..

I had already raised my gun and rested it on my shooting stick and was waiting until I heard the sounds of wings. I heard a bird tree hop so I slide the safety off and I instantly could hear my heart rev up in my ESP hearing protection…KaThump, KaThump, KaThump.

It was at this point that I thought this could very well be the morning we take down the El Jefe. “Would the sun come out for good photos?” “I wonder what size spurs he has.” “I hope he doesn’t hang up just below that terrace.” “Will the bearded hen come in angry, looking for the hen cutting her off.” All of this ran through my mind.

The first flop of wings finally gave us a clue that the birds were pitching down. About four, then a pause, and one more set of flopping wings and then a big rattling gobble sounded off. They were either just inside the pines in front of us at the property line. All we could hope for now was that the hen come seeking the hen she believed was encroaching her area. I could feel my heartbeat in my neck and my eyes were watering from straining as I was searching the edge of the pines for any movement. El Jefe gobbled two more times then everything fell silent in the woods in front of us.

After fifteen minutes, I got a gut sinking feeling that the birds were moving into the pine plantation on the adjacent property, an area we did not have access to so there was no way to get up and get in front of these birds.  Finally, a faint gobble proved what I was already thinking. So I put my shotgun back on safety and pulled it down into my lap. I looked over at Mister who shrugged his shoulders. We sat there another ten minutes before we decided we would sneak around the edge of the property line to the back fence and see if we could get an idea of where the birds were going once they hit the ground and how we could get between them and the planted pines to cut them off. We used the Trimble Hunt Pro program to get a visual on the terrain. We laid out a plan for a morning hunt and made plans to come back in the afternoon to see where the birds would roost.

Mister crow calling to see if we could get a return gobble.

Later in the afternoon we returned. We walked into the area close to where we found the birds roosted that morning. We could not find a decent spot to set up and the only spot was smack dab in the middle of an area with this spring’s new crop of poison ivy. I figured if I didn’t bother it, it would not bother us. We sat until after roosting time and did not hear or see a single turkey. It kind of took the air out of us for a morning hunt. The birds were roosted deep into an area we did not have access to. I decided with a loaded plow of work that I needed to get done, maybe I would just stay home and get an early start on my To-Do-List.  Of course, with that said, don’t think that the “El Jefe” was not the last thing on my mind when I laid my head on my pillow and drifted off to sleep.

The El Jefe will continue to haunt my dreams until I can haul him out of the woods stuffed securely in my turkey vest. Next season, my old friend, next season!


Heavy dew laden grass on a chilly morning.

Heavy dew laden grass on a chilly morning in the south. Photo Credit: Life in Camo

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.”

I had just snapped this photo to show the size of this hog track when a gobble rang out behind me. My LUCKY DOLLAR. Photo Credit: Life in Camo

I had just snapped this photo to show the size of this hog track when a gobble rang out behind me. My LUCKY DOLLAR. Photo Credit: Life in Camo

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.

My end of the season tom: 20 pounds, 10 inch beard and 1 1/4

My end of the season tom: 20 pounds, 10-inch beard and 1 1/4″ spurs left and right. It was Mister’s calling that put him in my lap. Photo Credit: Life in Camo

Always grateful for a harvest and for Richard Holt aka Mister. Life in Camo…the GOOD LIFE! Photo Credit: Life in Camo

Always grateful for a harvest and for Richard Holt aka Mister. Life in Camo…the GOOD LIFE!
Photo Credit: Life in Camo

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!!


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Recently, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with two of the many industry greats of turkey hunting; Preston Pittman and Eddie Salter. They were both kind enough to share a few of their tried and true tips and tricks in the turkey woods and what they felt was among the most important skills to have when hunting turkey.

In April, I hope to bring you some more great turkey hunting articles along with some great tips and tactics for late season turkey hunting from Alex Rutledge and Brenda Valentine.

Check out this article and please leave a comment at the website to let them know how much you appreciate them sharing their tried and true tips, tactics and sound advice…

Click here to take you to the full article: Turkey Hunting Tips and Tactics from the Pros


The Turkey Gypsy aka Nancy Jo Adams, with her first double bearded tom harvested in Pike County, Alabama.

The Turkey Gypsy aka Nancy Jo Adams, with her first double bearded tom harvested in Pike County, Alabama.

In NINE sleeps I will be stepping out into the turkey woods for opening day of the 2015 Alabama Spring Turkey Season; it is always with much anxiety that I count down the days, never knowing what the season will bring. I will spend Sunday in our gear room preparing my turkey vest for the new season. I have already broken-in my Danner Pronghorn snake boots from being stored all year by wearing them this past weekend doing some scouting. I have a thump of gear I will be taking with me to the woods this season for product reviews. Starting this weekend with the T.O.M. Targets and then I will be carrying several brands of calls into the woods with me; YAK Game Calls, B&C Custom Turkey Calls, Flatline Custom Turkey Calls to name a few. I will be taking some great decoys in the field with me from Avian-X and Dakota Decoy and even the new rage, the Turkey Fan.

I have already started dreaming of the “El Jefe”…I can’t wait to dance with him. I have studied up on decoy use and published an article; Using Turkey Decoys for Success. I have even visited with two of my favorite turkey hunters, Eddie Salter and Preston Pittman and brushed up on my tips and tactics–the article should run next week and I will post it here as well.

Let the TURKEY GYPSY CHRONICLES begin…….


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.

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Third Bird and I made it on the cover of Mike’s Outdoors Turkey Season Sale flyer. Photo Credit: Life in Camo

 

 

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.


I started off this season quickly learning that there existed an Alpha Bird on our turkey hunting property. This bird was the first to gobble every morning and had no mercy on any other toms that came within 60-80 yards of his eleven-hen harem. I coined this bird “The Grand Poopah”. This bird quickly made his way to the top of my hit list. The problem–my feathered foe didn’t become the Alpha Bird by being an EASY HUNT.

I passed up shooting some good birds waiting on the opportunity to harvest The Grand Poopah; GP for short. I watched on several occasions as he strutted in all his grandeur with his eleven hens early in the season. The property that we hunt is primarily cow pasture; which actually is some of my favorite type terrain for turkey hunting, not only because turkey frequent cow pastures to feed on the grub and bugs under flipped cow patties but also because of the longer sight and shot opportunities. However, this type of terrain is harder to navigate without being seen when birds are already on the ground because any tree lines that you have to navigate in have a cow browse line and you can easily be seen walking in them by turkey from a long way. So, ultimately, getting in close enough to set a decoy and call a bird in after sunrise is trickier and requires knowing the pastures and every terrace.

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The property that I turkey hunt is primary cow pasture. The property is lined with hardwoods and pines and each cow pasture is terraced; which some are pretty steep. Photo: Life in Camo

Many of those reading this have followed along on this quest and know that I have actually put the time into hunting this bird while taking several others that were just too good to pass up. I even had an opportunity to harvest the GP at 35-yards with the camera rolling but Mister and I both had second thoughts if the bird in front of us was indeed the GP by the way he was skirting the decoys. That bird just did not act like an alpha bird so I decided to let him walk. Both Mister and myself started to think we both needed a kick in the butt for that decision.

IMG_9868This bird became “THAT” bird!! He started to consume my idle thoughts. Harvesting him became a challenge; a triple-dog-dare, almost. “THAT” bird was the last thing I thought of when I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. every night and the first thing I thought of when my feet hit the floor the next morning. Time was getting short as the season was coming to a close. The GP’s scorecard was starting to look like that of an Olympic Gold Medalist compared to my own. He was winning by outwitting me, out strategizing me, and the worst part of it all, consuming me as if he were taunting me.

With the Alabama season coming to an end, this weekend was the last full weekend to get it done and I had plans to bring my favorite hunting partner along with me and use his skills in calling in hopes it would entice the GP to his doom. FIRST, we had to find the GP!! Our hens are setting on the nest and we removed 3 other toms from the property causing the GP to get lockjaw and to go on a HIATUS by completely moving to another roosting area deeper into the woods. I spent the past week in the woods nearly every morning waiting, praying, straining to hear a gobble and it just did not happen. I studied the Topo maps that Mister had saved for me. We looked at them together and strategized where I needed to go the next morning. All that work was to no avail.

On Friday night, Mister studied the Topo map and told me the plans for Saturday morning’s hunt. As we waited at the designated spot per the plan first thing Saturday morning, the GP gobbled exactly where Mister had assumed he would be. We hurried to an area that Mister felt was going to be the best advantage to our plan. We settled in with one hen decoy set up at 25 yards in front of us. The GP gobbled twice more before he pitched down to the ground. Mister made calls off and on for the next 45 minutes but it was obvious before long that the GP was not interested in whatever this lone hen was offering. We packed up our stuff and headed into the woods to see the area he was roosting in for ourselves so we could plan to set up close to him on Sunday.

Richard watching the tom, 6 jakes and 4 hens that were in the middle of the field. We were on lock down and waiting for the birds to move out of sight.

Knowing where The Grand Poopah was roosting helped put new strategy into play. Would it work?

About an hour and a half later, the plan was laid out and we knew we were going to need to give ourselves an extra 15-20 minutes in the morning to move into the thick woods quietly to set up close to the GP’s suspected roosting area. We also agreed that we would not try to come back in the afternoon to hunt or roost the GP for fear of bumping him into another roosting area. We loaded Hank the HuntVe up and were on our way home.

Sunday morning started off with odds against us. The first thing I noticed when I woke up was the thick fog outside my bedroom window. This could mean a later fly-down. We loaded up and were on our way to the hunting land in record time leaving us the extra time we needed to creep into the area we decided on starting at the previous day. The woods were thick with a green patch that looked to be an old roadbed where I set out a single upright hen decoy, the Hunter’s Specialties Suzie Snood, and I had hopes that she would entice the GP into shooting range. The second odd against us was that the GP never gobbled nor did any other birds in these woods; matter of fact, even birds of other feathers were quiet. It was already well past prime fly-down and I found myself leaning against the small pine thinking how odd that the cows were not even braying as usual…or could it be that we were in the thick woods and I just could not hear them.

The Suzie Snood decoy by Hunter's Specialties is so realistic looking, earlier this season we had 4 coyotes gang up on her. I hoped it would fool GP too!

The Suzie Snood decoy by Hunter’s Specialties is so realistic looking, earlier this season we had 4 coyotes gang up on her. I hoped it would fool GP too!

I was brought back from my deep thoughts by Mister making a few feeding purrs I placed my shotgun down across my lap. I glanced over at Mister and he shrugged his shoulders. I looked back forward and thought to myself that we should wait about another 30 minutes and then we should pack up and go home, I had a list of things I needed to do to get ready for our turkey hunt in Missouri that we would be leaving for mid-week. About 15 minutes had passed when Mister made some more feeding sounds and shortly after he shifted his legs. As he did, I caught movement in front of us and to the left. I strained to see what it was. I didn’t see anything but I heard shuffling in the leaves. I shot my eyes over to Mister and he gave me that “WHAT?” look as I slowly pointed to my ear and then in the direction of the sounds.

I was caught with the shotgun lying across my lap and The Grand Poopah was staring at the decoy that was in my line of vision...any movement and I would have been busted. Photo: Life in Camo

I was caught with the shotgun lying across my lap and The Grand Poopah was staring at the decoy that was in my line of vision…any movement and I would have been busted. Photo: Life in Camo

Mister looked in that direction and then he glanced back at me. I shot my eyes back over to that direction as Mister struck a yelp on his call. The tom let out a good strong gobble. I think we instantaneously jumped. My shotgun was lying in my lap, I didn’t have a clear view of the tom so I didn’t want to move until I knew he wasn’t able to see me. It took just a second to hear the leaves moving and then I saw the white of his head. THERE he was looking in the direction of the hen decoy as he crested a little a terrace. I was in a predicament. The tom was 35-yards in front of me looking at the decoy that was directly between us in his line of site and my shotgun was lying across my lap while I was casually leaning against the pine tree. WHY? WHY do these things always seem to happen? How am I going to swoop up my shotgun, shoulder it, aim and shoot without this tom “putting” and taking off down the terrace—out of sight.

I could feel my heartbeat in my neck, hear it in my ears, I felt a bead of sweat pop out on my upper lip as I realized this was THE GRAND POOPAH!! My last chance to seal his doom and I am not even ready. The bird was in half strut as he walked forward about two strides and stopped, and then he turned sideways. NO!! NO, please do not bust out of here. Then, as if someone popped a piñata with a stick as he “popped”, with a spit and drum, into full strut. He looked as if he were floating as he slowly started turning away from me. As his tail fan shielded his head, I set into motion by quickly raising my gun and shouldering it. The GP turned back to the right as I focused on the bead of my shotgun, raising it to my mark. Mister saw I was ready as he putted. The GP raised his head and looked in Mister’s direction. Time seemed to have stood still as I placed the bead of my shotgun under his ear, steadied myself, drew in a breath, slowly released half of it and squeezed the trigger.

I think I was holding my breath as I heard the sounds of shuffling in the pine straw and leaves, watching the GP as he ran to turkey Heaven bicycling his legs in the air. I racked another shell in, put my gun on safety and I was standing up before I knew it. As I got closer to the GP lying on the ground his legs drew in and he quit moving. Mister walked up to me and we both high-fived and hugged as I yelled, “WE GOT HIM!!” as it choked me up emotionally. All the energy, time and emotions that went into hunting “THAT” bird, The Grand Poopah were now rewarded.

The Grand Poopah weighed in at 20.3 pounds, sported a 10.5" beard, a 1 1/6 right spur and 1 1/8 left spur. Photo: Life in Camo

Finally…..The Grand Poopah!! Photo: Life in Camo

20140427-180126.jpgAs I reflect back on my 2014 Alabama spring turkey season I feel blessed, not only for several successful harvests, but also for my health and the means to have had the opportunity to spend so many days in the field. I am not only lucky in the fact that we have a long season but also because our birds are challenging enough to keep you on your toes with a grit of determination in your soul; The Grand Poopah was prime example of this. Harvesting The Grand Poopah was bittersweet for several reasons: first for the fact that this old bird ALMOST won and I will be the first to tell you he put up a good game–he only had three more days to outsmart me. Yes, just THREE days and he would have not only won, but he would have haunted me for the next 10 ½ months until opening day of the 2015 season.

I truly danced with a fist full of The Grand Poopah’s feathers…a hunt that lasted longer than expected but reaped more in memories than I could have ever asked for.

 

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It’s been a great quest and finale….The End..

 

 

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