I grew up visiting my aunt’s parent’s (Darrel and Lois’) farm in Greenwood, Wisconsin, as a child. I’d help with simple chores, such as shoveling manure in the barn, and I loved every second of it. (Yes, I literally had a $*#%-shoveling grin.) Later on during those trips I started tagging along with my uncle while he bowhunted—those were the first moments when I became a hunter.
That farm is also a symbol of my realization that, despite growing up and continuing to live in the urban skeleton of Saint Paul, my heart lies in the country. No, that doesn’t mean I want to live the life of a typical country western tune. For me, it’s mostly about open fields, endless woodlots and backyard hunting opportunities. It’s about walking pure ground that hasn’t been tainted by careless humans. There are parts of the city hustle and bustle I love, but each minute spent in traffic or facing the stressors of city life cause me to add one or two more out-of-town trips to the calendar each year.
It was time for my little brother to experience the same city escape, on a spring turkey hunt, in Greenwood.
We woke up for opening morning of Wisconsin’s youth turkey weekend, not fully knowing what to expect. I had only hunted whitetails on Darrel’s land prior to this trip, but had seen turkeys many times. We got out to the field well before sunrise so we wouldn’t be rushed in setting up. We chose to set up on a field edge that meets a pine stand, which is in the center of some hardwoods. Down the hill there is a the Black River (filled with trophy muskies, might I add). I quickly popped the Double Bull ground blind into position, set out two of Zink’s new Avian-X decoys (feeder and looker) and made sure we were seated comfortably for a potentially long ride.
As the sun started to rise, I started in with several calls (mouth calls, box calls and a pot call). The weather was still cold and I was told local birds were still mostly grouped up, so I decided early on I would attempt to mimic a flock. I started with tree yelps, then some flydown cackles, and then I started in with clucks, purrs, kee-kees, yelps and later some intermingled cutting.
I heard three gobblers behind us toward the river, but couldn’t tell if they were on our side. If they were across, I knew there would be little chance for them to cross the river and investigate the scene. One gobbler in particular seemed to be responding to one particular call—my Quaker Boy Hurricane Supreme box call. He answered a few times, sounded like he was getting a bit closer and then shut up.
Approximately an hour passed. I continued to call periodically. I figured the tom hadn’t actually been closing the distance, but that his gobbles were playing tricks on me (typical for turkey hunting). My brother began to nod off, bobbing his head like a river buoy. Suddenly the unmistakable sound of spit drumming vibrated the blind from behind us. I tapped him on his knee as my heart started pounding. I told him there was a tom behind us spit drumming. He was in disbelief. I had him quietly ready his gun as we looked out the blind window in anticipation.
“There he is,” the 12-year-old hunter said as he pointed over my left shoulder. There stood the vivid red head of a full-strut, spit-drumming tom only 15 yards to our left. I fumbled to get the camera to shoot a photo of the brilliant bird. The youngster’s wisdom kicked in as I made some racket, and he warned me to stop, so I ditched the camera idea. The cautious tom strutted in and out of view of the left blind window, but thankfully he was fully fixated on the decoys sitting in the field in front of us.
Finally, he stepped out just far enough, periscoped his head and neck and presented a shot. My brother delivered a swift load of HEVI-Shot No. 6s and dropped him where he stood.
We got out of the blind and I danced like a madman as my brother laughed. It was a God-given morning in Wisconsin farm country, and we were blessed with a youth-season boss gobbler. I’ll add that to my list of memories and reasons why the country is where I need to be. I think my brother is catching on.