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By Ray Barnard

Here Turkey, Turkey, Turkey!

Keith Tarter left, one of the property owners, and myself admire the turkey I harvested that morning.
Keith Tarter left, one of the property owners, and myself admire the turkey I harvested that morning. Photo taken by Jennifer Tarter.

It was at least 45 minutes before the first light of day would be making the sky gray exhibiting the beginning of what turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day.

I had unloaded my ATV and loaded my gear on the rear of the machine, and put my shotgun in the gun carrier on the front rack. I then traveled uphill arriving at my hunting location and parking my ATV in the permanent stand that stood there. There was plywood on three sides of the rectangle making it an ATV garage of sorts. Man, talk about lazy hunting! All I had to do was get off my ATV and walk into the blind. However, I’m too old and fat to “run and gun,” after turkeys.

It was the third time I had been through this scenario. Turkey season had been open for 6 days now; and while I had heard some turkeys, I had not had anything close enough to contribute to the meal I was planning to have with the breast meat from a harvested bird--that is, if a gobbler made himself available in front of my blind anytime soon.

In days past I was presented with a few problems concerning my hunt. There is a creek that I must cross to get to the property on which I hunt. If there has been a rain, and there was, I would be unable to access my hunting territory. So, the season opened on Saturday and I couldn’t venture forth until Sunday. Usually I go to church on Sunday, but since I had been unable to go on the first day of the season I decided to forgo church to go into the blind on the second day of hunting. I asked forgiveness for that.

I had set up the blind I was to use before the season opened so that any animal in the vicinity could get used to the sight of the blind before I entered it to hunt. The blind location was in front of the steps below the tower blind mentioned earlier having been erected there for deer hunting. This tower was mounted on four-by-four posts. I dutifully erected the blind and staked it to the ground with the stakes provided with the blind. These stakes turned out to be almost no help in keeping the blind in any location if there is any wind.

There was wind two days before the season opened. There was wind!

Upon approaching the area where I had set up my blind, I saw nothing but an empty area where it had been. I could not see the blind anywhere, but decided to go over to the edge where the field runs off downhill, and there was my blind entangled in the bushes. Retrieving the blind I hunted for the stakes to anchor it back in the area I wanted it to stay. I found three of them which I used, and I also tied a bow pull-up cord (a length of cord with a snap hook on one end) attaching the snap hook to a ring on top of the blind and tying it to one of the four-by-four posts. I also utilized a ratchet strap attaching it to a ring on the side of the blind and wrapped it around the four-by-four post. Even if the wind blew the blind hard again, while it could still come loose from the stakes, I wouldn’t have to search for it again. I traveled to my local Wal-mart and purchased some longer, and more stable, tent stakes.

Sunday morning was overcast; and when I got to my hunting location, my blind had been uprooted again. However, as I said before, it was still right there having been attached to the post by the cord and the ratchet strap. I dug out my hammer and the new stakes and proceeded to scare every bird in the area away with the sound of the hammer as I knocked the stakes into the ground. Needless to say, I didn’t see or hear anything that morning.

Monday was a work day, so the next available day for me to hunt was Tuesday. This day was warmer and there was bright sunshine. The gobblers greeted the day with their sounds, and I tried my best to call one to my location but to no avail. That particular morning I saw a jake (an immature gobbler with a small beard), and two doe deer. However, nothing along the line of the bird I was seeking , so the hunt ended for the day uneventfully. I had concluded to myself that with my poor calling techniques I must be the world’s worst turkey hunter.

Wednesday was a work day, also. I did, however, lament my troubles to the security guard at my work location. He sympathized with my plight, but had no valuable bits of advice to help me improve my odds in completing a successful turkey hunt.

On Wednesday night the property owner called to see if I was going to hunt the next day. I didn’t think that I would, but he told me that I ought to come down to the property and try again. So, on Thursday morning I was in the blind again long before daylight. I placed my decoys around thirty-yards from the front of the blind. Re-entering the blind I sat down in my chair, loaded my shotgun, and waited. The turkeys again started gobbling when it started to get light. I bided my time waiting for the turkeys to have ample time to fly down from their roosts to start their day. The problem was that while I could hear the gobblers, I could also hear the hens, and these gals decided to usher their suitor in the opposite direction as the day got lighter. Again, I tried to mimic a turkey hen but didn’t seem to have any luck getting the birds to come in my direction although on occasion a gobbler answered my call.

Finally getting disgusted with my calling and not getting any response, I started packing up my gear. I placed all of the calls into my turkey vest and reached down to my right to pick up my shotgun to unload it. Lo and behold, looking through the side panel (all of the panels had the shoot-through fabric on them) I saw two gobblers coming up beside the blind headed toward the decoys I had in the field in front of me. I must admit they startled me because I wasn’t expecting to see anything at this point. Most times a gobbler will gobble and strut in the field, but these birds crept into the field in absolute silence.

I should say something about the shotgun that I was using to hunt turkey. This sporting arm is a 12-gauge automatic shotgun that will fire 2¾, 3 and 3 ½ inch shells. I was using number five shot in these 3 ½ inch loads. This was a good combination for this particular shotgun. A maximum load turkey shell, even in a gas-operated automatic, will “rock your world.” However, most times a hunter will not actually feel the recoil when shooting at game. In checking the pattern on the shotgun before the season, I noticed that the shot pattern was on the high side, but I could easily compensate for that problem, or so I thought.

Retrieving my shotgun off the ground I pointed it at the bird on my left and pulled the trigger. The blast shattered the stillness, and I saw that I had missed completely. The birds flushed but didn’t fly off like I thought they would. Instead they presented me with a second shot, and I missed that one, too. The birds then flew to the edge of the woods and looked back again. This time my aim was good and my turkey was on the ground.

After it was all over, I took stock of my sweating position and noted that I had scooted down in the chair quite a bit. Each time I fired the recoil pushed my body downward in the chair until by the time I got to the third shot I could almost rest the shotgun on my knees.

I traveled back down the hill on my ATV having secured everything I wanted to take back to the truck to the racks, along with my turkey, of course. I met the property owner at the location where I had parked my truck. He asked me if “I had any good news!” referring to my three shots on top of the hill. Upon telling him my success story, we took a few pictures and I headed home.

That was Thursday, and on Saturday we had deep-fried turkey for lunch. We also had fish, but the turkey was first in the hot grease. It was good.

In Kentucky you are allowed two birds, but you can’t harvest both birds on the same day. So, I may go again, but this time I will take my 12-year-old grandson along to observe the hunt. I had planned on letting him hunt, but he was unfortunate enough to almost lose the sight in his right eye two weeks before the youth-only weekend was to open, but that’s another story.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably not only the world’s worst turkey hunter; I’m probably also the world’s worst turkey shot. Two complete misses! I couldn’t believe it! Oh well, I still got the bird. I’ll do better next time.

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