RED WING, MINN. — To paraphrase Forrest Gump: Turkey hunting is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get.

But it's almost always good.

Some thoughts from the turkey blind last week:

• As night dissolved to dawn, I sat in my tent-like portable blind on the edge of a lush, green alfalfa field surrounded by woods and ravines. The first sound I heard was not a turkey gobbling but a turkey flying down from a tree just behind me, a flap-flap-flapping that jump-started my heart. The bird, a hen, soon appeared in the field, then disappeared.

• A half-hour later, four turkeys -- responding to my calls -- popped their heads over the ridge and approached my decoys. They strolled within 15 yards of me, looking warily at my decoys. All were jakes -- young males with just nubs for beards. I'm not opposed to putting a jake in the oven, but it was the first day of my hunt and I elected not to shoot, hoping for a big-bearded tom.

• The jakes gave me a show, strutting and fanning their tail feathers in the sun for more than a half-hour. Then a loud gobble from directly behind me shattered the silence and I readied my 12-gauge. But the tom never showed itself or sounded off again. And the jakes eventually disappeared.

• There were surprisingly few gobbles from the woods. After six hours, I called it a day. Still, I can't think of a better place to watch spring unfold.

• A friend spotted four toms and some hens in the field a half-mile north but had no luck calling them in. Still, the sighting was encouraging.

• The next morning the woods and fields smelled heavenly sweet following a nighttime rain. At 4:30 a.m. in total darkness I hiked up a wooded ridge and across the wet field, then set up my blind and slipped inside to await dawn.

• As the darkness ebbed and wind whipped the still-bare trees, the woods echoed with gobbles -- some near, some farther away. I felt confident.

• But this day, despite my persistent calling, no birds showed themselves. Bagging a bird isn't easy. Which is why two-thirds of Minnesota hunters go home each spring empty-handed.

Count me among that group this year.

Turkey harvest continues

Minnesota's turkey hunters continue on a record pace, with no help from me. After the first four time periods, they bagged 6,362 birds, compared to 5,455 at the same time last year -- an increase of 907 birds. And last year was a record harvest, with 9,412 turkeys killed. Conservation officer Bob Wallace of Kellogg reported that several turkeys weighing more than 24 pounds have been registered.

Citizens council coming

Hunting and angling groups have said they want a citizens legislative council to oversee spending of about $91 million that would be raised under a constitutional amendment on the ballot next fall.

And it looks like they will get it. But it's uncertain what form it will take.

The Minnesota House passed a bill last week that includes formation of a council. But it differs substantially from one passed by the Senate earlier. The Senate calls for a 16-member council, the House 12. A conference committee will try to reach a compromise.

Garry Leaf, executive director of, wasn't thrilled with the House version.

"They gutted a lot of features for hunters and anglers and weakened the authority of the council,'' he said.

Did you know?

• The crappie bite has been fantastic on area lakes, including Lake Minnetonka, officers report.

• The Root River State Trail in southeastern Minnesota, damaged by last year's flood, has reopened. In several places where washouts occurred, the trail surface remains unpaved. It will be repaved soon.

• Conservation officer Scott Fritz of LaCrescent was awarded the State Medal of Honor by the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association for rescuing six people, including four rescuers, from a flooded creek last summer. Another man died in the flash flood.

Doug Smith •