April 06, 2022
I haven’t always been superstitious, but the deeper into my bowhunting career I get, the more I can’t help but notice how strange coincidences seem to repeat themselves. For instance, many of my most successful hunts seem to begin with something bad happening.
Take the best turkey hunt I’ve ever been on, for example. It occurred about 10 years ago. Hoyt’s Marketing Director, Jeremy Eldredge, and I have sons that are roughly the same age, and for several years he and I had been taking them to Nebraska each spring to hunt turkeys. That particular year, the two of us were packed in with four of our young boys, driving through the middle of nowhere in Eastern Colorado, when my shiny new SUV broke down on us. We barely made it to the closest town around for miles, only to find out that the local mechanic was in the process of closing up shop for the weekend. It appeared as though our bad luck was going to cost us half our turkey hunt!
After a little begging and pleading, we were finally able to talk the good-natured mechanic into staying open for a few more hours to help us get back on the road. Thank God, because on that trip, the six of us went on to take a dozen toms with our Hoyt bows! That is a pile of turkeys, and a feat made even more impressive when you consider the oldest boy in our group was only 14!
Bad luck and turkey hunts, like the one I just described, have happened to me more often over the years than I’d care to admit to. So frequently, in fact, that I have become a bit superstitious in my old age to the point I’ve actually come to anticipate — and look forward to — a lucky stroke of bad luck at the beginning of any hunt, which is exactly what happened when Bowhunter Editor Curt Wells and I went back to Nebraska last spring to film an episode of Bowhunter TV.
Having been invited to come hunt by a buddy of ours from the Pope and Young Club named Joel Klammer, Curt and I drove into Central Nebraska on a beautiful day. The next morning, however, bad luck showed up. A storm front was rolling through and dumped six inches of snow on us — and temperatures were expected to stay low for the next several days.
Day One of our short trip was a bust. With blowing snow and little visibility, the turkeys were laying low…but I had a feeling a bit of bad luck in the beginning was just what we needed!
The next day, I decided to drive an hour or so to some ranches I used to hunt back in the day with Jeremy, and I was surprised to find the snow hadn’t impacted that area to nearly the same extent. I visited old friends and was able to gain permission for us to hunt on some dryer ground. But it was still cold, the turkeys were flocked-up, and Curt and I both knew we were going to have our work cut out for us.
On Day Three, I set a ground blind near a thick stand of cedars where the rancher had been seeing a flock of turkeys on a regular basis. Not long after daylight, cameraman Ken Sciacca and I heard some distant gobbles. With a little calling, we were eventually able to entice a couple of toms away from the rest of the flock to come check us out.
The “snowbirds” stood backlit atop a hill in the cold morning air. Steam billowed from their beaks as they strutted and gobbled in an attempt to convince our small flock of decoys to come join the rest of their group.
In late March and early April, when turkeys are often still in their big winter groups, it can be difficult to pull toms away from the flock. I often combat this by creating a small flock of my own with my decoys. I typically use a minimum of three, but sometimes when it still feels like winter and all the birds are really packed together, I figure the more the merrier. So, on that particular day I opted to set up four decoys: A strutting tom over a bedded hen, flanked on both sides by feeding hens, and it worked!
The toms on top of the hill were eventually joined by a third gobbler, and the trio decided they needed to steal those hens from the lone tom and bring them back to the group. It didn’t work out well for one of them, and the bad-luck barrier was broken!
Curt and I had three tags each, and with the first one filled, it was time to get to work.
After watching the flock of 50 or so birds retreat into the cover of the thick cedars, I figured it was time to leave the blind and take the fight to the turkeys. I gave them some time to settle into their midday lull, and then donned a bow-mounted Stalker Decoy and headed their way.
Occasional gobbles allowed us to zero-in on their position as we worked through the thick cover on hands and knees behind the decoy until we saw movement. After a long stare-down with several strutters that were within range but offered no shots through the clutter, we finally watched one perch himself upon a stump.
Inching my way along behind the decoy, I was able to sneak within 15 yards of the slumbering tom, at which point I knocked him off his perch with a well-placed Rage broadhead! Now we had two down.
The next morning, Curt and his cameraman, Cody Worley, set up a stone’s-throw from where I’d set up the day before, and I went just down the road to another location. Ken and I popped up a ground blind, started calling, and soon heard gobbles coming our way.
I’d set a Browning trail camera out in front of our blind, pointed back in our direction, and had four gobblers strut into our decoys, right in front of it — capturing an awesome reverse-angle HD video of the action as I filled my third and final tag. It was amazing!
Now, if you ever want to see the Editor of this magazine get grumpy? Just put him three turkeys behind in a turkey killing contest! It wasn’t really a contest, of course, but Curt is a competitor who doesn’t like to be down by three under any circumstances — especially when it comes to bowhunting! Let’s just say that when Curt got my text informing him that I’d just filled my third and final tag, Mr. Wells suddenly became more determined than ever to get on the board…and it didn’t take him long to do so!
Cameraman Cody also happens to be a turkey guide in Florida, and Curt had assigned him primary calling duties. Shortly after receiving the news that I’d killed another bird, he had Cody get aggressive with the flocked-up turkeys, and although he was probably speaking Osceola to those Merriam’s, two toms broke from the flock and came over to investigate. When the encounter was done, one lay dead in the middle of Curt’s decoys. Not long after the tom’s quivering had subsided, another redhead was lured in, and by lunchtime Curt had two of his three tags filled.
The next morning, Curt had his third and final bird pitch right into his decoys from the roost, and he soon had him flopping. At the same time, after purchasing a tag for my cameraman Ken, he and I were able to sneak in on another group with our Stalker Decoy, and Ken made his opportunity count.
We’d filled all seven of our tags, all with archery tackle, on a hunt that had been cut substantially short by Mother Nature. Thank goodness it started out so badly!