By Boyd Barnett
This past weekend, I was able to take part in a turkey hunt down in Union Springs, AL, with some of our writers from Grandview Outdoors. Our group of nine folks converged on Master Rack Lodge on Thursday afternoon, and it didn't take long for all of us to feel right at home. The main lodge was where we would spend most of our time when we weren't in the woods or sleeping, and it became our breakfast/dinner table, meeting room and lounging area.
I would be hunting turkey with my new Bowtech bow for the first time, and as soon as I got settled in I took to flinging some arrows at the target to make sure nothing got out of place during the drive down from Moultrie headquarters in Alabaster, AL. After a few flights, my groups were consistent and I was confident that my bow would not be the weak link in my quest for the elusive Eastern turkey.
That night, we were all paired with our guides and given an overview of the rules. We weren't to shoot any hens, naturally, but jakes under 2 years old were also off the list. Master Rack employs a "one shot" rule for turkey hunting, meaning "if you shoot – whether you hit your bird or not – that's your bird and you're done". Ok, so the nerves started to creep in a bit at this point...
Any nervousness I felt was quickly replaced the confidence I had in my guide, Jim Trullinger. Jim has been hunting turkey for a long time, and with his mastery of the box and slate calls I felt confident that we'd be just fine.
Friday morning, Hunting Day 1
I got up at 4:30am and was out of the shower quickly (as, for some reason, the pilot light on the water heater had gone out and there was no hot water!) and ready to go by 5:00am. Everyone else was up and getting their morning jolt of coffee as I got all of my gear packed into the truck. Bow, check. Turkey vest, check. Tiny folding chair, check. Guide, check. Cameraman, check. Yes, we had our very own cameraman for this hunt. Scott Brown from GrandviewOutdoors.com was going to film our hunt from the safety of a shooting house at the edge of the field about 40 yards from our blind. There was that nervousness again. Shooting and missing is one thing; shooting and missing with video evidence is quite a different animal entirely. My main thought at this point was, "Don't embarrass yourself!"
We were able to get into the blind well before daylight, but our first bit of bad luck was waiting for us on the edge of our field – a lone doe was standing there watching us. Of course, as soon as she saw us, she turned and bolted back into the treeline...directly toward the roost where our birds were just waking up! We hoped this minor setback wouldn't cause too much trouble, so we settled into the blind and waited.
That whole morning, we didn't hear the first gobble. However, we were treated with a beautiful hen who came into the field right in front of our blind and fed there for at least half an hour. Scott was able to get some great footage of her, and she eventually came in so close Jim told me, "Move your bow, she's coming to sit in your lap!" All joking aside, she literally came within 2 feet of the blind; close enough that I could have thrown an arrow at her. She was definitely a lucky bird that day!
We didn't see any toms that morning, and we headed back to the lodge for breakfast around 10:30am. After one of the best breakfasts you could ever ask for, we all headed back out for the afternoon hunt.
Again, we didn't see any toms but did have 3 hens come and feed in the field. I began to wonder what it was going to take for me to actually get a shot at a gobbler!
Saturday morning, Hunt Day 2
With no deer waiting in the field for us that morning, we were treated to gobbling fireworks as the sun came up on Saturday morning! We had 3 gobblers that morning - one to the left, one to the right, and one straight ahead who sounded like he was getting steadily closer. Now we were cooking. I had put out the new M-80XT in a small pine directly to the right of the blind and set it on Plot Stalker mode, so we'd have the whole thing on time-lapse mode. All we had to do was wait for him to make his way up the hill from the roost to the field.
Of course, this is when Mother Nature decided to make her presence felt with a huge thunderstorm at about 7:15am. We could have rode out the storm in the blind with no problem had it not been for the lightning that started getting WAY too close for comfort. I wanted a bird, but not enough to get fried myself in the process. So back to the lodge we went to wait it out and dry out all of our gear.
The skies cleared for a bit after lunch, so we decided to give it one more shot before the next line of storms came. I pulled the SD card from the camera and popped a new one in. I was anxious to see what had come through the field while we were gone. After about an hour and a half, the weather took another turn for the worse and we headed back without seeing a tom. We did, however, spot a HUGE hen that came out and fed right near us.
That night after a wonderful meal of wild pig barbeque and pork chops, I pulled out my laptop to play the Plot Stalker video from the M-80XT. Lo and behold, about an hour after we had to leave the blind our bird finally made his appearance! He came into the field to feed with that same beautiful hen we'd seen the day before, and he'd hung around about 20 yards in front of the blind for at least 20 minutes. Bingo! Now we had a plan for the next day (and the last morning of the hunt); we'd be there when he came into the field around 8am and I'd finally get my shot!
To be continued...