A recent attempt to hunt Merriam turkeys in South Dakota left us unsuccessful when some bad weather accompanied our arrival. After deboarding the plane, we immediately changed into our turkey gear and head out to the hills. I had 5 jakes come in 20 yards in front of me, being distracted by them I didn’t realize that the big gobbler had closed in so quickly. I slowly took a look over my shoulder and I had a very nice tom walking up 10 yards behind me. Unfortunately, we had no camera angle so I could not take the shot. The bird soon disappeared and the hunt continued on.
The next morning we arose at 0400, got us some breakfast and headed out to the Black Hills, which was a bit of a drive from the lodge. It was 5 degrees and over a foot of snow in most of the terrain. It’s important to know what the birds are doing after flying down every morning. This can help you pattern the bird if you are not able to get him to fly down into your lap right off the roost or if he has a harem of hens at his beck and call. We put a bird to bed that night so we knew exactly where we were headed. After hiking what seemed miles to get to this particular tree, I tried to save my energy as I was quickly wearing down in this fast pace traveling up and down the snowy hills.
I knew I wouldn’t have much time to gather my thoughts before the bird came out of the tree and I didn’t want to be overworked before it was game time. Sweating profusely from the multiple layers I was wearing to keep warm, we found our tree. I sat down and I scrambled to get situated. The bird gobbled one time and I knew this was going to be my morning. He wasn’t far away at all. I got my gun ready and was waiting for his landing. I heard his wings flap and watched him fly….all the way to the bottom of the hill that we just spent countless critical time hiking up. Game over.
That evening we came up on a bird quickly and backed out on how to get good coverage in the nasty conditions that we were hunting in. The gobbler that is coming to your calls is going to want a fairly open area to travel through so he can strut and see well in the direction of your calls. Avoid areas with tangles and thick brush; this gives him just once more reason to hang up outside your shotgun or bow’s range. We closed in on some yardage and set up in a spot by a brush pile next to some open lanes. We called and called as he talked back for what seemed like eternity yet the sounds weren’t getting closer. When the sounds stopped for a long enough period to remember that I could no longer feel my toes, we decided it was time to relocate. By the time we reached our next destination we discovered the birds had already roosted well before their normal hours. The bad weather and snowy conditions dint make out for the opportunity to take my first Merriam turkey.
Two weeks later I decided to come back after the bad weather passed and give it one more try. I went back to the same location where I had a chance at Tom I saw on the first night of my previous trip to see if I could get a better set up. I brushed myself in with some pine trees when I heard some jakes nearby. I sat quietly and motionless as the jakes soon appeared in view. I could hear a doe blowing directly in front of me for what seemed like an hour until the jakes relocated and I was left alone. As soon as I relaxed and accepted that I was probably not going to see another turkey around that location I looked over my shoulder and saw the very same Tom quickly walking in and making his way to my shooting zone. I had about half a second to react and swing my gun up since this bird had caught me off guard. I fumbled to click the safety off and aim down the barrel.
Without any of the considerations that I promised myself I would go through before firing I had already pulled the trigger. I forgot to take the deep breath and slowly squeeze the trigger to prevent myself from jerking the gun up with my shot. I also forgot to consider how fast and frequently turkeys like to move their heads so to be sure that he was in a good position before shooting. I even forgot where I was aiming at the time of the shot all I know is after the shot I immediately reloaded another bullet so I could shoot since all those things that I forgot flooded my mind after impact. I watched the bird carefully and realized there was no need for another bullet. He was down instantly and did not move. Perfect shot, dead bird and I could not believe it all happened so fast. Words cannot explain how thankful I am to get the opportunity to harvest one of God’s beautiful and difficult creatures. It truly was and is an unforgettable experience and I had no intentions on giving up.
Say Hi to Randi on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RandiRowlettBucketListOutdoors