Turkeys prove wily, barring a siren's call

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 19, 2012 - 8:44 PM

The opening day of the season began in wet gloom, threatening to keep birds under cover. But the weather, and prospects, improved.

A tom turkey

Photo: Joe Blake , National Wild Turkey Federation

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Whether wild turkeys are dumb is a question our brightest minds should tackle. Certainly these oversized fowl look dim enough as they plod through suburbs or peck lazily along freeway roadsides. Then again, if you put a shotgun in your hand, or a bow, and try to shorten the distance between you and one of these big birds, particularly a tom, you'll learn quickly enough that wild turkeys, more often than not, are smarter than you think. Literally.

Wednesday morning, opening day of Minnesota's gobbler season, rain fell heavily at 4:15. I was hoping that wouldn't be the case, and a half-hour later, when my son Cole and I pulled out of the driveway, the downpour continued. The concern wasn't so much that we would get wet; we'd hunt from a tent-like blind. Instead, in the rain, turkeys lose enthusiasm for trotting, or moving around. Also, they often don't like to strut or pirouette for girls as they might on sunny mornings, reducing hunters' chances.

Yet, this was the season's first day. So, wipers flapping, we drove on.

When we left the truck a half-hour later still, the rain had stopped. Moving through wet grass toward the blind a quarter-mile distant, we carried Cole's 12-gauge, two small folding chairs, assorted calls, face masks, two hen decoys and, for me, a large cup of what truckers call motion lotion, or coffee. If this was father-son bonding, it would be short-lived: Cole had only an hour to hunt before he would leave for school.

Arriving at the blind, I worried over where to place a decoy, and whether to use one or two. Matters less weighty have perplexed heads of state. In the end, I followed Bill Marchel's recommendation, based on scores of mornings he has spent photographing these birds:

One decoy, a hen, is best.

Except when it's not.

Then you might try two, a hen and a jake. Or just a tom. Or whatever.

Light gathered slowly, and I sensed no real need to scratch out a first call until just after 6. Plaintive and tentative, with just a little Cartagena-like come-hither tossed in, this yelp was issued pianissimo, as was the next, maybe four minutes later.

Hearing no reply, I figured the morning might be a bust.

Then, from a tree in the far distance, gobbled a gobbler.

Not wanting to appear over-eager, I waited nearly a minute, and called back. A return gobble came quickly enough, and another followed. And another.

Among the relatively few legal ways to suspend concern completely over one's problems, or the nation's, or the world's, imagining a tom turkey working his way slowly toward you through the woods, advancing as if being pulled by a string, ranks near the top.

Each gobble issued more closely than the previous paints for the hunter an imaginary picture of the bird's location, not unlike watching a blinking icon advance on a Google map.

"Getting closer," Cole whispered.

A half-hour passed, yelp following gobble following yelp.

Then a fan of feathers appeared, or parts of a fan, along with as pretty a picture as a turkey hunter can imagine: an all-American head -- red, white and blue.

Nearly completely obscured by trees and brush, the big fellow wasn't running for the decoy. But clearly he saw her, and bore in his billowed feathers the confident flirtations of the boss tom he probably was hereabouts.

It was then that my decoy-placement mistake became apparent.

Had the bird approached from the front, or to our right, Cole would have had a clear shot. As it was, the tom would have to present himself nearly point-blank to the decoy for Cole to squeeze off a direct hit.

Which now seemed unlikely, as the gobbler alternately strutted and collapsed his feathers, tiring, perhaps, of advertising himself to a mannequin.

Soon enough, as if in a huff, the bird simply exited stage right, having had his fill of love that clearly was unrequited.

But his departure bore a fatal flaw.

He paused to fan one more time, as if to issue a final goodbye, obstructed still by low, loose brush, but appearing now closer to our blind, say 15 yards.

With a heavy load of chilled 5s, Cole took him when he cleared between two trees.

Perhaps we'll never know whether turkeys are relatively dumb, or smart.

We do know that, in the end, it's their mistakes that kill them.

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis 1 Bottom 7th Inning
Pittsburgh 3
Texas - C. Lewis 2:40 PM
Seattle - E. Ramirez
Washington - D. Fister 6:05 PM
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick
Tampa Bay - D. Smyly 6:05 PM
Baltimore - K. Gausman
Boston - J. Kelly 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Stroman
NY Yankees - S. Greene 6:08 PM
Detroit - D. Price
Atlanta - J. Teheran 6:10 PM
NY Mets - Z. Wheeler
Chicago Cubs - J. Turner 6:10 PM
Cincinnati - M. Latos
Cleveland - C. Kluber 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi
Minnesota - P. Hughes 7:10 PM
Kansas City - L. Hendriks
Oakland - D. Pomeranz 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Peacock
Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo 8:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw 8:40 PM
Arizona - W. Miley
Miami - H. Alvarez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
Colorado - F. Morales 9:15 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close