The 2017 spring season: turkey hunting with my dad

Well, it’s Day 2 of my 2017 Illinois Turkey Season. I decided to apply for first season because my dad always gets first season permits. Other than a few coon hunts last fall, I hadn’t hunted with him in a while, and was hoping for the chance to hunt with him.

On opening day, in the wee hours of the morning, I awoke to booming thunder and blinding lightening — not a great way to kick off the week. By 5 a.m., the rain was gone, but 15-20 mph winds continued. Undeterred from the gloomy weather, Dad picked me up and we headed to the “turkey woods.” (Boy, does that sound weird. I’m used to saying, “deer woods!”) We sat crunched underneath a permanent blind in a corner of dad’s timber, and ended up waiting out another small shower. After calling several times and getting no replies, we decided to call it a day.

For some reason, turkeys have been more difficult to pattern than normal this year, at least on our property and other locations where we have permission. Their roosting spots have seemed to be more unpredictable. And, as any turkey hunter knows, roosting birds the night before are often key to a successful hunt.

This morning, Dad and I made a second attempt. While no bird was harvested, this was far more exciting. Not long after we got situated and daylight began to break, the first sound we heard was the bossy pluck of a hen turkey, followed by multiple gobbles echoing through the treetops. It’s a noise that immediately rids the eyes of any remaining sleep and jump-starts the ol’ blood flow.

Dad started calling, and it became as humorous as it was obvious that it really ticked off a couple of hens because they went berserk. After fly-down, judging by the loudness of their vocals, turkeys seemed to be headed our way. But then, the cuts, clucks, purrs, and gobbles quieted, and it became apparent that they’d meandered off in the opposite direction. We decided to make a move.

As my dad was resetting the decoys, I saw a couple of quick red-headed flashes just on the edge of the timber, about 60 yards from us. After many years as a heavy equipment operator, Dad doesn’t hear as well as he used to, and it took me a few hisses to get his attention. We quickly got into place.

Within a minute of him rapping off a few hen vocalizations, followed by using a gobbler call, a group of Toms and Jakes quickly closed the distance to about 40-50 yards. A Tom, in full strut, dispersed from the rest of his buddies until he was 30-35 yards away and close enough for a shot. Unfortunately, he stayed hung up behind a downed tree. All I could see was the top of his fanned-out tail feathers. With my shotgun steadied on my right knee, my heart raced as I prayed for a clear shot. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.

We’re definitely not giving up yet and will be awake again before daylight tomorrow. I wish I liked coffee sometimes. Honestly, though, it didn’t matter if my morning ended with a tagged turkey or with me sipping tag soup. The time I got to spend with my dad was truly epic, and a memory I’ll forever carry with me.

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