Jun 30, 2016

Reflection of a Turkey Hunter

By: Marc Drewek

Having recently celebrated my 56th birthday and creeping toward 60, it’s hard to grasp where that time has gone. This year I will celebrate 26 years of hunting turkeys here in Wisconsin. As hard as is it at times to remember day to day tasks, it’s easy for me to remember my first turkey hunt.

After many conversations, I finally accepted an offer to hunt in Prairie du Chien. My good friends, Dave Thiet and Steve Laur, had access to some of the best turkey hunting property in the area. I had never traveled to that side of the state, let alone hunt there. That part of the world was as scenic as a post card you buy at the store. Nestled along the Mississippi River, with rolling hills and deep ditches, would prove to be great turkey habitat. For me, learning to hunt turkeys was like entering a dark cave without a flashlight; I had no clue where I was going. I had never positioned a decoy, used a turkey call, and I had never been up close with a wild turkey. The first few years were trial and error, mostly error; the learning curve was going to be a big one. By the third year I had pretty much made all the mistakes, setting up to close to the roost, changing setups too often and moving at the wrong time. Turkeys have great eye sight, 270 degrees and supposedly three times humans 20/20. They can also run up to 25 miles an hour and fly up to 50 miles an hour. So, in the early years, many of my hunts were over in a hurry.

After harvesting a couple jakes, now it was time to get after a big tom. The most exhilarating part of turkey hunting is hearing the gobblers sound off at first light, there’s nothing like it.  I remember my first big gobbler like it was yesterday. I was on a point of a big ditch and the turkeys were roosting several hundred yards just behind it. It was a perfect day; cool, clear and sunny. I was surrounded by several toms and plenty of hens; it was going to be a challenge. As the day was coming to an end (back then we could only hunt until noon), my chances seemed slim. So I decided to get really aggressive with my calling, and it worked. I had a tom gobble just over the rise no more than 50 yards away. Needless to say, my adrenaline rush was off the charts. What seemed like an eternity, but in reality was about five minutes, a head popped out. It was a hen. She continued heading my way and right behind her was the tom in full strut and his beard dragging on the ground. At that point I wasn’t sure if I had called in the hen or the big tom. At about 30 yards the hen turned and headed to my right. My hope was that the tom would stay on the same track as she did; he did not. Instead, he let that hen go and came straight in to my decoy; I could barely keep my composure. All I could hear at that point was the tom spitting and drumming. I was so wrapped up in the whole display I let the bird get to within 15 yards. In an instant the hunt was over and a 23-pound wild turkey was on the ground. At that moment, I was destined to be a turkey hunting junkie.

Over the years I have been blessed to have been on many memorable turkey hunts throughout Wisconsin. Some of the most memorable have been serving as a mentor to new turkey hunters. As my friends had done for me, I would do for others in order to share my knowledge and experience to continue the stewardship for the outdoors. My goal is to relive those past experiences by teaching others to hunt. The 2016 season will be no different. It will start with a mentored hunt and carry me to Wyoming on a Merriam’s adventure and end up in Iola, Wisconsin.

As you celebrate your years of hunting turkeys, reflect back on those experiences and take an opportunity to share that with a beginner turkey hunter. When you head into the outdoors remember to give more than you take, hunt safe, hunt hard and respect the outdoors.