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Surrounded By Turkeys

gobblerBy Jason Shipman

Calling up a wary gobbler can be challenging. The exchange of calling and the return gobble makes for exciting competition between the hunter and the hunted. Soft hen yelps on a box call, enticing a thunderous response from an approaching tom, is the very thing that draws hunters to the woods to chase spring turkeys. Baked turkey and dressing or fried turkey breast are two treats of the hunt.

Add some young hunters to the mix, and you have all the makings of a great time. In this story, I set out with my kids after spring turkeys. Nothing is more rewarding than hunting with your children and teaching them about the outdoors.

Hunter gets a gobbler

It was spring of 2023, and my oldest son, aptly named Hunter, who absolutely loves to hunt, was 8 years old. Although he is young and just getting started, he is somewhat of a natural with his 20-gauge single shot shotgun. He has taken a couple of deer but really enjoys bird hunting, and so a spring turkey hunt was on. Brooke, 10, and Tristan, 6, would go along for the excitement of the hunt, and the portable blind was big enough for all of us.

Early before sunrise we picked a likely spot and set up the blind amongst some oaks, not far from the Atascosa River bottom. We strategically placed the hen decoy in a small opening within 20-gauge range and were ready. The sun began to peak over the horizon, waking everything up for the coming day.

We tried our owl locator call and got an immediate response from a group of gobblers. Hunter’s wide-eyed look of approval was all the encouragement needed. I quickly switched over to the hen call and let out three soft yelps. Several toms answered quickly. Being careful not to call too much, we waited motionless, as quiet as a mouse.

Excitement builds

The anticipation was building. Three more soft yelps provided another quick reply, and this time closer. “We knew turkeys were coming to us and I was getting kind of nervous,” Hunter said. After a couple more loud gobbles, the turkeys emerged on the opposite side of the clearing. “They were strutting, and I had my eye on the biggest one,” Hunter said.

The toms homed in on the hen decoy as they closed the distance. “Now, Daddy?” whispered Hunter nervously. “Hold on,” I replied. “Let them come all the way in.” They made it to the decoy and Hunter could hardly contain himself any longer as he pulled back the hammer on the single shot 20-gauge.

“OK, now,” I whispered. The words barely made it out—then BOOM! The shotgun roared and everything scattered except for Hunter’s big bird that went down for the count. Hunter ran over to inspect his prize gobbler. “I was so excited to get a turkey with Dad. It was my first turkey,” Hunter said. The smile on his face said it all as we snapped photos. We made a cherished memory on a great morning.

Brooke’s gobbler

After seeing Hunter’s success, my daughter Brooke expressed interest in trying for a turkey of her own, to which I happily obliged. At my house, no one complains about getting up in the wee hours of the morning to go hunting or fishing. Brooke, Hunter and Tristan were all ready to go the next day at morning light.

We were in “turkey country” well before sunrise. I tried our owl locator call and heard a distant gobble. As the sun came up, we made our way in that direction and set up where I thought the gobbler would be. We called and waited for a while, but had no turkey responses.

So, we gathered our blind and gear and hurried to another location. We quickly set out our hen decoy and got in the blind. There was plenty of activity and we could hear turkeys, so we skipped the locator and went straight to the hen call. I called out a few soft yelps and the response was overwhelming. Gobblers responded from all directions as we were surrounded by turkeys. We had found the spot!

Working the box call

I rapped the hen box call a few more times and watched the kids faces light up with excitement as the gobblers responded. “It was really neat listening to the turkeys as Daddy called them in,” Brooke said. The birds were coming to the call, and I could see them approaching. I momentarily lost sight of them and let out a couple of very soft yelps. The response was quick and loud, as a group of four big-bearded toms gobbled near our blind.

They were all dandy gobblers coming right in, making a beeline to our little hen decoy. The big toms covered ground quickly, and were soon strutting around the decoy hen. “The one on the right,” I whispered to Brooke, as she wasted no time cocking the hammer on the old single shot 20-gauge.

Commotion erupted as the shotgun blast interrupted the calm morning silence. The big tom was leveled at the shot, going down in a spectacular cloud of dust at a mere 19 steps. We quickly went over to the bird and Brooke knelt down to inspect her gobbler. “I was so excited and happy to get a turkey and I can’t wait to go again,” she said.

It was all smiles as we took photos. I’m not really sure who was prouder at that moment.