Turkeys have grown on me over the years. Not in the weird way that requires a surgeon to remove a growth. More like a dog that you don’t think much of at first, but he kind of grows on you because he is around all the time and you start to see his redeeming qualities. It took a while for me to see what some fellow hunters were so passionate about when it came to turkeys, but eventually I figured it out.
It was about 36 years ago when I shot my first turkey. I was in my early teens, and to me it was a bonus animal. I was happy to have harvested it, and I was tickled with the meat. But through my young eyes, it was just a notch above a fox squirrel.
When I got into my late teens and started pursuing turkeys in the spring, the bug still hadn’t bit me bad yet. I was having a blast because I was out in the woods, but it was still all about the deer. Turkey hunting was more about just keeping me out in the woods so I could scout deer and pass the time until deer season came along again.
It wasn’t until I became a better caller and started actually calling birds in that I finally caught the turkey hunting bug. It drove me crazy sometimes, but the challenge is what I enjoyed. And when I started hunting them with just a recurve, I really became hooked.
Turkeys are tough, despite their size. So when it comes to my equipment, I use the same setup that I use for big game. In my opinion, the best shot is through the lungs. If you hit a bird through the lungs, they rarely go more than 20 to 30 yards before dropping. To hit the lungs on a broadside bird, I aim right behind the wing butt (where the wing attaches to their chest). A straight-away shot is also a high-percentage shot. I shoot right at the vent in this case. I also like a slightly quartering-to shot, and on these I aim just in front of the wing butt for a good lung shot.
As I got older. I started guiding turkey hunters in Florida, Nebraska, and Colorado. I enjoyed hunting them so much that I decided to try for the turkey Grand Slam — Osceola, Merriam’s, Eastern, and Rio Grande — with my recurve. After completing the Grand Slam a few times with my recurve, I decided to expand my horizons and try for the two other lesser-known turkey subspecies — the Gould’s and the Ocellated.
I will admit to being a little shocked at the prices to hunt the Ocellated, so I decided to go after the Gould’s first. I traveled south of the border last spring to hunt with Rio Sonora Outfitters, and I was very impressed with the amount of birds they have in Mexico. To be honest, to me the Gould’s looks an awful lot like a Merriam’s. There are subtle differences, but it takes a pretty good eye to spot them.
I know some diehard turkey hunters will cringe, but I shot the first Gould’s — a huge jake — that came into my calls and showed itself in front of my Ameristep blind. I’ve always said a trophy is in the eyes of the bowholder. In this case that was me, and I say it was a trophy!
I have one more to take for what they call the World Slam, and that is the Ocellated. It’s found predominantly in the Yucatan Peninsula, and to me it looks more like a peacock than a turkey. It doesn’t even gobble really — it whistles. I am going to try for an Ocellated this spring, and I will keep you posted. According to my wife and friends I am not much of a whistler, so who knows how this adventure will go!