Field Report: My First Turkey!
Jon Stokes 11.14.14
[Editor’s note: Chris Cheng is a Staff Writer over at our sister blog, TheFirearmBlog.com. Cheng is an occasional guest writer for us here at AO.]
I am a new hunter who is getting my feet wet with different guns, ammo, and tactics. My background is USPSA, IDPA, 3-gun, and defensive shooting, and so hunting is a way for me to not only balance out my skillset, but to also gain a greater appreciation for nature, our food, and conservation.
This past week, I went on my fifth turkey hunt. The first four hunts were busts, and numbers two through four were all at the same ranch. We didn’t see a single bird the whole day. My guide was going nuts because she had never had a client who went 0 for 3, so I guess there’s not only a first for everything, but this is also why it’s called “hunting” since you sometimes go home empty handed.
I woke up at 3AM in San Francisco, got breakfast ready and drove to pick up my buddy at 4AM for our 5AM meet up time. After completing paperwork with our guide, we geared up and drove to the blind and were settled in by 6AM, thirty minutes before sunrise.
As the sun rose and started to warm up Mother Nature, I really enjoyed the moment of having a blind as my “office” for the day. A bad day hunting is better than a good day at work sure rings true, but I was hopeful that this was going to be a great day hunting.
Some gear I like to bring with me on turkey hunts is a thermos full of black coffee and a second one with soup. I also have jerky and nuts to munch on. These are comfort foods for me and keep me warm in the early morning. As I was sipping on some piping hot coffee, I played solitaire on my phone (weird that with all the games at my disposal on my iPhone, I play the most simple card game). I have spent hours in a blind with zero action, so I was ready for the same thing to happen this particular day.
About an hour in, our guide taps me on the shoulder and slowly pointed at our 11 o’clock. I peer out of a port hole and holy smokes, there are about 20 birds about 40 yards away! They are on the other side of the property line though so I couldn’t shoot quite yet. Our guide started calling them in. They moved to our 9 o’clock and my guide motioned for me to position myself at the 9 o’clock port hole.
Now here comes the problem. My buddy who was with me was a first time hunter. He just got his license three weeks ago, and I took him pheasant hunting for his first hunt so he had a good chance of bringing something home. I wanted to give him the first shot but he was out of position and shuffling around in the blind, which was spooking the birds.
I lined up the crosshairs on my scope and had the perfect shot. The bird had crossed the property line’s fence and it was a mere 10 yards from me. I then noticed about 10 birds all coming toward the front of the blind in a quick fashion, and my buddy would have a view. My mind quickly decided that I should wait so that we could both take shots at the same time.
However, my n00b-ness got the best of me. It was really hard to coordinate two shooters at once, especially since the birds were moving fast, and my buddy didn’t have electronic ear pro, which meant I couldn’t talk loudly enough where he could hear me. As I was trying to verbally and hand-motion my intention, all the movement and such scared the whole flock away. The whole thing was a bust. I was so bummed out that I didn’t take the shot when I had it, but I really wanted my buddy to get a bird.
So we re-grouped and analyzed our options. Our guide said that the flock ran back across the property line and that they were probably gone for the day. She knew of two other flocks known to frequent the property, so we considered going after them. We hung out in the blind for another 30 minutes, and then our guide decided to get in the Kabota and locate another flock. Within 5 minutes, she radioed into me that she found them.
She came back for us and we hightailed it over. We saw a huge flock of 25 birds hanging out near the road next to the fence line. The road was below the fence at the bottom of a small hill. Our guide said that she could drop me off and I could climb up the hill, using the trees and shrubs as cover. However, she said that this was probably a one-man job since my buddy was so inexperienced. I had to strike while the iron was hot so down I went in her truck.
As she dropped me off, I loaded my Mossberg 930 turkey gun and started crawling up this hill. As I approached the crest, one of the most wonderful views appeared in front of me. I saw the entire flock sitting right in front of me, and I don’t think many of them saw or even cared about me. I did a quick scan for 5 seconds, flipped my safety off and took aim at what I thought was the biggest bird. One shot, and it was over. The hen dropped straight to the ground. The flock jumped up in unison, and I thought it was interesting that they just hung out for 5-10 seconds. I was expecting them to scatter and fly away, but there was a delay. They started moving out once I got up and went back down to the road to tell my guide I bagged my first bird. She said that these birds probably didn’t freak out since they had never been shot at.
My buddy was positioned in another blind about 300 yards in front of me, and so our hope was that my shot would drive the flock in his direction. However, the flew right in the opposite direction across the property line where we couldn’t go.
We took some pictures of my bird and drove up to my buddy in the blind. We had one more play. Our guide was going to drive us to the top of this mountain and we’d walk down this trail in a valley. One of her clients bagged a bird two days prior in this location, so there was hope. We had no idea if the flock was down in the valley, but up we went. As we walked down, we kept our eyes and ears at attention, hoping to see or hear a gobbler. After about 15 minutes, we reached the bottom and no dice. We packed it up, tipped and thanked our guide, and off we went back to the city.
My buddy had a great time even though he didn’t fire a single shot. He’s itching to go back, and we have another hunt planned in three weeks. I’m excited to have brought a new hunter into our heritage, and I’m so, so excited to finally have bagged a bird! It was too small for a Thanksgiving meal, so I’m having sausages made. I’m sure it’ll be good eats.
I hope everyone has a great turkey season!