Turkey hunting is something that few people really get into, but those who do REALLY get into it. People like to draw comparisons between turkey hunting and elk hunting, and I do think a lot of the same characteristics apply to both. You’re calling to a male animal, and trying to convince him to go against his instincts and venture over to the sounds of a sweet-talking female. You have to set up just right to give yourself a shot as the turkey or elk comes in, and then you have to calm your nerves and shaking hands enough to pull off a clean shot when if and when you get the opportunity.
I’ve hunted Rio Grande turkeys in the Utah general turkey season for the past few years, mostly due to the fact that I can get to Utah turkeys about an hour from my house. Wyoming turkeys are several hours away in the central to eastern parts of the state, although their range is expanding so that may change in the near future.
This year I did something I have never done before, and that is kill a turkey on the opening morning of the hunt. Come to think of it, I’ve never done that with any animal. Some may look at that as getting cheated out of a lot of quality time in the woods, but more often than not I end up short on time and short on success, so there was no way I was going to pass up this shot.
As I got to my spot opening morning, I heard a Tom gobbling down the hill from me as I loaded up my gear. I took off in his direction, and although I was able to get him to respond to me, he was very quickly moving away. The last gobble I heard was almost inaudible, and I decided to call off the chase. I started working my way around the mountain headed toward the other side of the road where I’ve seen and heard turkeys in years past.
As I was sneaking along I heard a gobble not too far ahead of me. I grabbed my Pistol Creek slate call and have a few yelps, getting him to respond and nearly cutting me off. We continued our conversation as we moved closer to each other’s location, and I found a good spot to set up on the edge of a small clearing with a backdrop of a couple of pine trees and some good shooting lanes. The bird went silent but soon enough I saw his bright red and blue head peeking through some brush as he made his way into the clearing I was set up on. At this point he was under 40 yards and as soon as I had a clear shot, I let the Winchester bark.
Hunting turkeys out west for me involves big country, and there is almost always a good breeze or wind blowing. I’ve had the best luck calling with crystal pot-style calls because they tend to cut through the natural noise better than true slate calls. The Cut Over from Pistol Creek has become my favorite because in addition to having the right frequency and volume to reach turkeys across the landscape, it also sounds very realistic and natural when you are calling softer to turkeys in close range. It has become my go-to call without a doubt.
Time to fry up some turkey strips and celebrate a successful opening morning!