Thursday, May 5, 2011

Done in one shot.

Everyone's first is special. I don't imagine that my first was any different than anyone else's. I was nervous of course. Stumbling around in the dark, so to speak. I didn't really know what I was doing. The courtship was rushed and I can say that I wasn't overly selective on who would be my first . I was functioning on the "first willing" rule. My excitement mounted and like all guys I was afraid of doing something dumb that would bring it all to an end prematurely. I admit I rushed it all a bit. I could have dragged out the whole process but instead I raced to the climax. Typical man I'm told. But I didn't want that stupid turkey to escape this time.

After a not so great opening day I have to admit I was feeling a little bummed. I complained on facebook about my lack of good turkey space and a friend said I should come and try the back of her farm. I stopped by her house to discuss it with her. She showed me roughly where her lot lines were. She then pointed of in the direction she heard turkeys gobbling the day before. This and a quick look at a satellite photo was what constituted a scouting trip as I planned on hunting it the next morning.

I wasn't sure what I was going to find when I arrived at the tree line the next morning so I planned to arrive early. My goal was to be there a full hour before it was time to start shooting. I followed the trail she mentioned existed to the back corner of her hay field. The trail turned east and followed the edge of the tree line. I knew I only had a fairly narrow distance before I hit the lot line on the other side of the property. I started to look for a suitable tree and set up spot immediately. There were lots of large trees but the density of scrub at the field edges was quite thick. I kept looking.

After a 100 yards or so the trail suddenly turned into the forest on a tractor path. There, on the western corner of the path entrance was a big tree. There was good cover for anything approaching from the west but directly in front of me and off to the east it was wide open. I decided this would have to do and paced twenty yards off and planted to foam hen and a jake decoy. It was a bit of depression as the ground in all directions rose to a higher level . I settled into my tree with a gentle west wind blowing in my face and waited.

Not knowing what to expect I was delighted to hear the sound of gobbling to the west of me and behind me. I listened for a while and then, as dawn approached, I made some soft tree calls. You could tell they were tree calls because I was sitting against a tree when I made them. They probably weren't the same as a hen's tree calls but I kept it soft and just tried to do some little clucks. I didn't call much or often. I used my new glass on slate call as well as my other pot call that has slate, copper and some other surface on it. My theory was that f I kept changing they would think there were lots of hot chicks waiting anxiously for them. My own version of those telephone chat commercials.

It was a little after 6:30 before there was any sign of action. The gobblers seemed to go quiet and suddenly I saw movement coming over the rise. Within moments I had two hens strolling towards my decoys. I was ready to go . Convinced I was moments away from seeing the gobblers arriving all hot to trot and in tow to the hens. They slipped past me into the bush at about 10 yards. As the wandered slowly out of sight behind me I realized they weren't going to provide me with what I needed. There were no toms to be found. I quietly put the safety back on and settled down to wait. Every 15 minutes or so I did a calling sequence with no response.

I had settled into a nice easy calling routine when it arrived. The wind. Actually maybe wind is an understatement. Not quite a tornado it probably came close. Apparently it was at least 83 kilometers an hour (50 Miles and hour) but I think it was more. I knew it was nasty when the tree directly across the path from me fell away from me. Scared the crap out of me. If the wind had been blowing the opposite direction I would have been lucky to avoid getting smashed by it. I looked out at my decoys to see them almost touching the grass sideways as the wind laid them over on their pegs. I used the string and nail trick out the back of them to keep them from spinning. I could see them straining against their tethers when suddenly one of the hens and the jake decoy folded up. I snuck out and picked them up and tucked them into my vest.

I put the three surface call way and worked the glass on slate call as loud as I could yelp. My poor little hen decoy was surviving as it stood facing me broadside to the wind. I kept waiting for it to fold up as well but it clung stubbornly to life. It did, however, slip somewhat on the peg and soon it looked more like an egret standing there. I considered sneaking out to fix it but I looked upwind to see I had company.

The first bird walked into site and stopped. I couldn't see him well and I was worried he had hung up. I slowly started to reach for my call when I saw what every hunter likes to see. Full Strut. A few seconds and he started forward again to show that he was one of six toms all strutting and vying for the affections of my rather sad excuse for a hen turkey. They didn't pause and came marching forward down the edge of the trees. I quietly raised my shotgun and decided that I wasn't going to have a repeat of last year. No bionic superman turkeys allowed. I decided the first turkey in my shooting lane was going to be the trophy of the day. The red dot of my Vortex Strikefire settled on the turkey's head and I started to track him from behind some wild grape vines. I gave him about two steps into the clearing and hammered him with a 3 inch load of #6 Remington Hevi shot. He was ten yards away.

He fell like a ton of bricks and immediately two other toms jumped him. Feathers were flying as the poor guy got the crap kicked out of him. Fortunately it wasn't a repeat of last year. I finally managed to retrieve my first turkey. He weighed in at 19.25 pounds and had a nine and three quarter inch beard and three quarter inch spurs. So now the first one is done and I still have another tag to fill. I'm already thinking there should be a grand slam in the future.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

No birds but a happy child

Opening morning of turkey season came early. I trundled down the hall to get my 10 year old side kick out of bed. Usually this is an easy task but I knew we were going to have a slow start when she mumbled about having slept through two alarms already. We hustled around getting ready and soon it was departure time. This was Ainsley's first trip out for anything other than our rabbit trip. She didn't have any camouflage of her own so we had to make do with some of mine.


I think the whole baggy look could qualify this as hip hop huntware.

    I had decided to hunt the best spot I had last year. I hadn't actually scouted it yet but figured we stood a good chance as well as we had a good place to set up a ground blind. As we walked in I heard a tom gobble in the dark. It was far to the east from where we were but sounded like the same piece of bush. Last year they were roosting daily right behind where I was setting my ground blind up.

    We settled in and placed the decoys out in front of the blind about 20 yards. Ainsley was excited but before long the early start caught up with her. It wasn't long before her little head was resting on my knee and she was asleep again.

Sadly the distant gobble we heard on the way into the field was the only bird we heard or saw. We lingered until about 11 am and then I took her home fed her lunch and started to hatch an afternoon plan. We had until 7 pm which is the end of hunting time in Ontario

    I have a few pieces of crown land in my area that I considered. Some of the bigger pieces I knew would be full of people today but there was one small piece called the Kirkwall Tract that might just do the trick. Back into the truck we climbed and we headed off to plan B.

Plan B didn't happen.

As we were passing another, much larger piece of crown land, a turkey flew across the road in front of us. It was in the south end of a 350 acre piece. About a mile to a mile and a half away from the parking lot.

    Not to be deterred by the distance or the rain Ainsley and I headed back into the bush. It was going to be lighter hunt this time with no ground blind to hide in. We rolled up Ainsley's pant legs as best we could and started.


It was a long an soggy walk. I have to give her credit she was quite the trooper. Some of the water we had to skirt was a little deep and pretty tangled. All the while it rained.


    We made our way to the back corner opposite of where we saw the bird. It was a challenging trp. Between swampy bits and lots of hawthorn bushes and tangle it was a slow and prickly trip. We finally found a good tree on the edge of a promising field where we set up and waited. It wasn't long before we heard the gobbler arrive a little north of us in the bush. I teased and cajoled him . He got closer and closer until it sounded like he was on top of us. We couldn't see him but Ainsley was thrilled. Sadly he eventually wandered back to the north leaving us behind. With three hunting hours left we decided we were too wet and too cold to linger any longer. A long trudge out left me with a happy little girl keen to go again…in her own camo.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The End of Innocence

It was inevitable I suppose. That's what comes with education I'm told. It makes me sad though. To see her shed her innocence so soon. It went something like this…

Me with my diaphragm turkey call "Putt Putt Cluck cluck cluck"

My wife "honey would you stop that."

Me looking a little wounded "but sweet heart I'm wooing you like last year (putt putt cluck)"

My wife, "It's not working because you're trying to call a boy and I'm not a boy"

It was like watching a child shed their belief in the Easter Bunny. On the upside I'm under strict orders to redeem my deer season by getting her a yummy turkey. Fortunately that's a set of instructions I can live with.

    This is Easter Sunday and I want to wish you all a Happy Easter. For those of us in Ontario it is also the day before spring Turkey season opens. It's also voting season. Naturally I voted in the advanced poles this weekend. Can't have a piddly little thing like the future of the country interfere with a good day of turkey hunting. So while the rest are making X's on May 2 I'll be free to gobble and cluck my way across the Ontario countryside.

    May 8 is my anniversary. It's the first one. Apparently it's paper. I'm not sure what I was expecting along this line but my loving wife surprised me with an early anniversary present. I mentioned that it wasn't paper and she grinned and pointed out the paper price tag attached to it. So now I have a cool turkey vest.

It's a pretty cool vest. It has a nice big puffy seat and good back pad. Takes a water bladder and room for my mouth calls as well as box, pot and locator calls. It has three pockets that have magnetic closures for strikers. More importantly it has the single most important thing you need to ensure you'll always get your turkey. It has this
How can you go wrong with a great turkey picture on your vest?


    The shotgun is almost ready. It just needs patterning which is today's project. The choke of choice for this year comes from Indian Creek.

The rest of the shotgun setup was a little stressful. I needed a picatinny rail installed and had to have a gunsmith drill and tap some holes. The job was good but the three days that turned into more than two weeks certainly stressed me out. I got the shotgun back Tuesday of this past week.
The coolest part is why I needed the rail. The aiming system of choice is the Vortex Strikefire.

This thing is great. No parallax past 50 yards and only a tiny bit under 50. The red dot is adjustable in brightness and the glass is good. It makes my shotgun look like a real threat to turkey's. I'm looking forward to trying it on waterfowl as well.

After I took this picture I moved the site farther forward on the rail. I think I like how it performs better but shooting it will be the real trial.

    So now we count down the hours. I have a spot all picked out for the morning. The vest is packed and my sidekick for the day, ten year old Ainsley, has been briefed and we're good to go. The Easter Bunny arrived today and in her basket was a webkinz turkey. Hopefully it isn't the only one she gets to see this week.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Look out turkey's. The kid's got your number.

 So the grind of school is drawing to a close and the sun is coming out. I was all excited last week as I saw the snow vanish. My thoughts turned to the looming turkey season. That euphoric feeling ended when I woke up the other morning and saw a frozen world buried in snow. I'm trying, however, to stay focused on the positives. Like 5 days until the end of class, Thirty days until the opening of turkey season and 32 days until the end of exams. As you may notice there is a bit of an overlap. This could pose a problem. For the exam.

My spring journey to the Toronto Sportsman Show has come and gone. I had only one day to go this year which was fine. They didn't have the Gold Whistle Retriever trials this year so that reduced what to do a lot in my books. I also didn't get to check out the Thompson Center Arms Venture. I've heard good things about it as a very accurate entry level rifle and I really was hopeful. Sadly Thompson Center decided not so send a display and none of the dealers had one. I managed to check out Tikka and Savage entry level rifles. I have to admit that when I got to Bass Pro yesterday to finally see the Venture it seemed much better than the other two. Now I just have to figure out how to get one without spending any money. I'm considering trading a couple of old bows and some odds and sods for one if I can get the dealer to say yes. Wish me luck.

The guys I met at the Trophy Line booth weren't there with a trophyline booth this year. That made me sad because I know they've found some additional things such as a climbing system to go with the tree saddle I really wanted to see. Kevin Bartley from Gobblestalker Calls was there again this year. After a bit of a discussion I handed him $45 for a hand turned custom crystal on slate call.
It's a great call. At first I thought it was a tad pricey. Then I went to bass pro and discovered I don't know what I'm talking about. I saw calls between 70 and 90 dollars and I don't think they're nearly as good as this one. So score one for me. Now I plan on entering his video contest to win some more calls. It will be my first attempt to video a hunt of any kind. I'm thinking this might finally exceed my blackberry's photographic ability.

After last year's poor turkey success I made some decisions for this year I didn't think I would make. I've hung the bow up for now. I might still use it a bit but I have this nice new shotgun that hasn't seen any work. So I've decided that the plan for this year is no bow until I can prove I can actually get one with a shotgun first. If I can shoot one in the head, knock him down dead and watch him come back to life, with a shotgun then I had best perfect that problem before I try the stick and string approach. So I attended a seminar given by Adrian Hare while I was at the show as well as shopped for shotgun.

So as sad as I was to not find anything as exciting as the tree saddle this year it wasn't without it's cool moments. I found the trophy line guys at the Vortex booth working the room. My neighbour, Rick Bullman who was invaluable in giving me advice this past season introduced me his friend and pro staff member Rob Pade . This is where the day gets exciting. Rob invites me turkey hunting. Rob is  a die hard turkey man and full of information. So now I'm stoked. He immediately starts giving me advice. I have to admit when these guys give me advice on what to buy and what not to buy it has always been good. My favourite piece of the day was when he told me that if I showed up with one of those little turkey stools he was just going to through it away. His solution was a bit of burlap and a cheap trailer inner tube. Sadly the Vortex Strikefire he showed me for my shotgun wasn't nearly so cost effective. And I fell in love.

So I'm almost ready to start patterning the my Benelli spaghetti gun. The Indian Creek choke has been purchased and installed. The ammunition is selected if I can ever find it. All I need to do now is buy an inner tube, select an aiming system, organize a useful videography  solution. I'm completely stoked. My 10 year old is intrigued too. I told her she could come and be my official caller so she's started her practicing.

I guess we're going to have to get her some camo. Hope I get a turkey before she gets old enough to beat me to it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Staring at the snow wishing I wasn't studying

OK so clearly the fact that I'm blogging is a good sign I'm not studying. I have 2 days before my next exam so I'm sneaking in a minute or two to bring you up to speed. There's some news but not a lot considering it's the off season.

I keep tabs on the forums on the Magazine Ontario Out Of Doors website. A week or so ago someone set up a blackberry group from there. I decided to join and it's been an interesting experience. a great way for new hunters to immediately ask a question as there is usually someone with an answer within minutes. We were trying to organize a coyote hunt for yesterday. It was going to be great. A couple of experienced guys sharing their experience with us newbies. Sadly the weather didn't co-operate. It rained. And it rained. And it rained.

I'm not sure if I told you what's happening this summer but it's pretty exciting. We were in basspro a few weeks ago and it went like this...

Me : How about this pair

Alissa: You are NOT dressing our baby in camo

Yes it's true. We are expecting. Another little hunter on the way. Not sure if it's a boy or girl yet but we have an ultrasound scheduled for this afternoon to find out. Stay tuned.

On other related wife news my super wife did a great thing for me the other day. She was having a meeting with a family for work and somehow the topic of hunting came up. Next thing I know I'm talking to a guy about joining their hunt camp. Moose, Bear, Deer etc. It's all very exciting. I think I'll have to hang up the bow for the big game with them due to the style of hunting they do. That's ok. Gives me a reason to buy a rifle now. I'm considering a .270 so I can use it all over the province including on coyote down here. Lots of Moose guys use rifles above .300 which I can only use in the north. My uncle in BC always used a .270 on moose so I know it can be done so I'm not sure using something bigger is necessary. Oh the decisions.

He was off to talk to the rest of the camp this weekend but figures it won't be a big deal to them. They do a trip in May for the opener of walleye. He suggested I join them to see how we all get along. Wise idea I think. It'll be some seriously remote bush we'll be in and bullets flying. Always wise to know and trust the guys you're going to be in that environment with.

So now I'm waiting for the Sportsman Show. Turkey season is coming so I'l have to start getting organised for that. Looks like opening day is 2 days before my last final exam this season. Good thing it wasn't on the same day. Would have been sad to miss that exam and fail the course.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How it all ended

I know, I know. Where have I been and how did it all end up?

For those who have been following along since the beginning last year you'll recall I decided I needed and MBA and went back to school. That's been very busy of late and therefore my blogging has suffered greatly. Today, however, is a snow day. All the family is home due to a big storm shutting most of southern Ontario down. I'm busy online doing research but figured I better get this post up before someone sends a search party to the bush thinking maybe I had disappeared and was dangling from a tree somewhere. Not a bad way to go if you think about it. Doing the thing you love.

So it was tag soup for me this year. Exceptionally frustrating considering the two that should be in the freezer. I'm optimistic for the spring turkey hunt. I've decided it'll be shotgun until I get one and then maybe the bow for the second bird. Hopefully my schedule will be free for it. Exams are in April so as long as the school is smart enough to schedule them before turkey season opens. Hmm...wonder if they'd like a copy of the regs as they start planning their schedule?

Other than that there isn't much going on. We're living in a B&B as our house is repaired. One of those nasty cold nights caused our pipes to burst and now the insurance is busy repairing the house. The kids are out back turning snowbanks into igloos and all is right with the world.