This year we knew we’d face the typical rain, wind and all the other adverse conditions that seem to come out of the woodwork in southwest Wisconsin. But we didn’t realize that it would plummet to 18 degrees the first night in camp.
The first evening I was awoken, not by the usual random creature squawking outside our tent, but simply by the fact that my new sleeping bag was only rated to 30 degrees. Bottom line: It was cold as heck. It was so cold that my uncle decided to seek refuge at a nearby motel in the middle of the night. (I heckled him for being a baby, but inside I was jealous.)
Unfortunately, that first night in camp mirrored the activity of the birds—cold. OK … that’s not completely accurate. The hens were hot, ready to run across the country to get bred. That’s a turkey hunter’s worst nightmare.
For 2 days my uncle witnessed separate barrages of hens invade his decoys, including his full-strut tom decoy, which two separate hens laid in front of to be bred. What happened each time? A wise tom in the surrounding woods gobbled a few times, refusing to step foot into the open field where my uncle’s blind and decoys were positioned. Each time, the hens that had been submissively lying in front of his full-strut decoy proceeded to get up, start yelping and all but run to the “real deal” in the woods.
More proof of relentless hen activity: A hen from one of the groups that visited my uncle’s decoys beat the snot out of one of the Avian-X lookout hen decoys I had borrowed him. (She didn’t seem to care about his other, older decoys—just the lifelike Avian-X. Make what you want of that.) He recorded the beat-down on his cell phone and shared the video with us in camp. I would have paid good money for those front-row tickets. Her fighting purr meant business, and so did her beak as she pecked the eyes of the Avian-X.
For the next 3 days we were overrun by hot hens and hunter-cold toms. The gobblers knew the drill: Gobble on the roost to reveal my location to all the lonely girls, fly down, stay put and wait for the ladies. Blowing wind, songbirds and squirrels dominated the audio track of the weekend—not gobbles—from fly-down to fly-up, each day. The big boys wouldn’t budge for all the calling or sneak tactics we could throw at them.
There was some success in the air, however. My friend, Joel, managed to nail his first Wisconsin bird after 4 years of hunting with me; it was also his first eastern. No, it wasn’t a boss (we’re calling it a jake-and-a-half), but after a 4-year dry spell it was a trophy in its own right. It gobbled, had about a 5- to 6-inch beard and, from what we could tell, a full fan. But it weighed only 16 pounds and didn’t have any spurs.
And so it has been written: My 6-year Wisconsin turkey hunting streak of luck is no more…
…but wait … Ring Ring Ring, Buzz Buzz Buzz. My friend, Jeremy Dersham from Ridge and River Running Outfitters, just called. Looks like I’ve got an invite to visit Wisconsin’s Zone 1 for redemption this spring. Stay tuned!