As I spent the weekend packing for my annual trek to Southern Minnesota in pursuit of the illustrious wild turkey, excitement grew. With both of my sons able to make the trip this year, the weekend started to feel more like preparing for old times. Calls made back in forth on what to bring and possible scenarios made it clear that I was not the only one getting excited.
Don’t get me wrong, despite the challenges of last spring, our annual trip brought some success, but what I missed the most was the camaraderie, relaxation and adventure usually associated with all of us getting together. Sitting around the campfire telling stories of what might have been or what was about to happen the next day has always been the highlight of our adventures.
Due to a commitment of social distancing and the campground being closed last year, all hunters would arrive separately. The plan was to hunt Friday and maybe Saturday morning, a short get-together to say the least.
Most of the party planned on making the hour and 15-minute trip from Minneapolis on Friday morning. I on the other hand arrived late Thursday night. Packed and prepared to spend the night in my truck, the plan was simple. I would set the alarm for 4:30 a.m., brew a pot of coffee on my Mr. Heater and have a quick breakfast before the rest of the crew arrived. My passengers seat was lined with body pillows and blankets. I would park in the lower field along Cold Creek, eliminating the possibility of spooking any birds.
With shooting time around 5:30 a.m., we agreed to meet at the barn at 5 a.m. and head out to our predetermined areas.
What I hadn’t planned on was the farmer spreading fresh manure on the very same field I was to call home for the evening. Despite the smell I was reluctant to find another parking area given the time of night. Not as comfortable as anticipated due to the odor and the chilly spring air, it was no surprise I was up before my alarm clock sounded.
The morning was beautiful. Several toms made their way to the field as the sun rose. In full strut, it was clear to all the turkeys around who was in charge of each flock. A latecomer snuck in 20 yards behind me just after sunrise, letting out a gobble that truth be told (let’s just say surprised me). As I turned to prepare for a shot, I failed to notice a hen a mere five yards to my left trying to discern what I was. Needless to say, the opportunity was gone. One of the toms on the far end of the field made it a little too close to my brother-in-law who tagged his first turkey ever.
As morning turned to mid-day, I found time to catch up on some much-needed sleep. It was slower than expected with little day-time action. Since I was comfortable, I decided there wasn’t much sense in moving around. Text messages back and forth with my son validated my decision.
As an occasional hen made their way out to the field, I remained confident that there was still a possibility that the action might heat up. The thought of another night in the truck fueled those hopes. Though it wasn’t really that bad, a bed, even a tent sounded more inviting. After witnessing two rooster pheasants fighting right in front of me I almost missed a small group of hens making their way to the field.
Then what I so patiently had been waiting for appeared two hundred yards away. It was a mature tom, his 10.5-inch beard dragging along the ground as he made his way towards the center of the field. A deep prolonged gobble answered every call I made as his neck stretch towards my decoys.
Though I had his attention, it looked very doubtful I would be able to pull him away from several hens that had accompanied him.
With 20 minutes to sunset I noticed the tom was on the move heading my way. Unbeknownst to me, my son had left his homemade blind on the other side of the field causing the bird to move my direction. As the beautiful bird approached, stopping only to come into full strut in front of my decoys one final time, giving me the show I came for.
The day which had started at 4 a.m. Friday morning, five hours south of Grand Rapids and ended back home at 1 a.m. Saturday. My bed never felt so good.
Though I successfully filled my tag and had a great day I look to a much more fulfilling trip this year camping along the river with friends and family. Awaiting the stories of another adventure in the making.