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Turkey Mystique

VingumBy Sherry Lee Vingum

-- The anticipation is always high when a turkey hunter's name is drawn for a turkey tag. This is especially true when there are reports of success from other hunters, including family and friends. To say I was chomping at the bit when my name was drawn would be an understatement. I was ready. I was more than ready!

A great decision on the part of the Wisconsin DNR this year was to extend the hunting hours for spring turkey. This would allow me to save more vacation time for fall bowhunting. So I took off of work at 1 p.m. for my first day's hunt.

Even though the morning hunts are always my favorite because I love to hear the woods come alive as the sun rises, I knew my odds were pretty good in the afternoon since my boyfriend, Larry, and I have been scouting the turkeys since the middle of March, and we've been seeing birds consistently in the same areas. All of this added to my anticipation.

I'd be hunting on my own again, because Larry had to work and my son, Kaleb, would still be in school at that time. I admired the beautiful spring afternoon as I walked slowly to my first spot. I knew ultimately where I wanted to be a little later but thought I'd try a spot in the woods first. I set up a hen decoy in a small clearing in the woods so it would be visible if any other turkeys were wandering through the area.

I picked out my spot next to a downfall of trees and settled in. After about an hour and a half of no action, I decided to move to the edge of the picked cornfield where we had seen hens and toms coming through. The birds would show up around 6:15 p.m. I wanted to set up early to assure I wouldn't bump any birds.

I put the decoy out into the picked corn and tried my best to blend my camo into the field edges. I needed more green - and the first hen that came into the picked cornfield let me know it right away. I watched the hen as it walked toward my decoy. The hen went into alert mode when it was 20 yards away from me. Amazingly, she walked right up to me, putting the whole time. I closed my eyes and the hen walked off jabbering the whole distance. I was sure the hen would ruin my day.

After about 15 minutes, I picked up my slate call and scratched out some calls. It was a bit windy so I called loudly, trying my best to sound like a raspy old hen. It was working great for calling in hens. I could hear birds coming from over my right shoulder, and then saw them weaving their way through the ground vines and out into the field. They fed their way toward the lone decoy and once again, picked me out like I was a banana in an orange bowl!

One of the hens started putting and made its way back into the woods. The other hen stood in one spot for a few minutes just wondering what the fuss was all about, turned and made her way behind the first hen. It was enough to get me to make another move. I relocated over about 10 feet to my right and tried to blend in a little better. I remained at a good shooting distance from my decoy, so I picked up the slate and started calling again.

I sat motionless for about 10 minutes watching two hens weaving in and around the cornstalks. Then I heard a faint gobble. I couldn't tell if it was from far away, or just muffled by the ditches and hillside. I waited a few minutes, then picked up my slate and hammered out 10 loud yelps!

A minute passed and I could see bright red spots in the standing corn. I knew I had toms wandering through the maze in my direction. And then I made out the huge fan of one of the birds. One was in full strut while another followed as if to say, "You go first." The strutter made its way through the stalks with the less dominant bird in tow.

I was in awe of the bright red colors and the fluorescent feathers of the big tom. The bird never broke its strut ... turning its fan through the aisles of standing corn. In what seemed like an eternity, the tom finally made its way to the edge of the tall stalks and continued strutting in the picked corn for a few more minutes. The less dominant bird took the lead now and was starting to meander its way back into the corn. I was getting worried that the strutter would soon follow and disappear.

I trusted my Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun and knew its capabilities with a 3 1/2-inch shell. The strutter was still 40 yards at my best guess. A stiff wind blew through the field and made my decoy dance a quick step. The big tom immediately came out of strut and started to turn a circle. So I put my TRUGLO sights on the bird's head and pulled the trigger. The big tom crumbled into a pile instantly. I scored a 23-pound turkey with 1-inch spurs and a 10 1/2-inch beard.

It's hard to explain the emotion, excitement and anticipation that a person goes through for something such as turkey season. But these are the REAL reasons that we all hunt. The successes are just the bonuses that we receive when we do our homework and everything comes together. While it is always fun to share the experience with someone beside you in the field, I can guarantee, with or without someone beside me, I'm goin'!

Sherry Lee Vingum
McFarland, Wisconsin

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