Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Spring Chicken

I've been back in Ontario for 9 months. Having never hunted in the province it's been a learning curve, more so me getting over my general disgust and annoyance with the amount of private land in the region. I left my deer tag unfilled and fled west this past fall - see D. Raab's post - so it was time to regroup and go for a spring turkey.

Turkey were largely extirpated in the province (early 1900s) but thanks to a reintroduction project in the 1980s more then 70,000 now inhabit the landscape. Canadian Geographic wrote a little blurb if you're interested. While they're not as prolific as deer across the southern Alberta fall landscape, you see them, everywhere.

Disclaimer: I can not take any credit for this hunt and need to introduce Cole - former student, northern Canadian fishing guide, and all around good dude who grew up in the area and has bagged his fair share of birds. He'll be be drinking for free at the Shafong residence for the next little while. This was the setup Cole had put together: a cozy blind next to a cornfield some 400 meters from the road.

This field also happens to be 10 minutes from campus and we planned an opening day hunt. I had an exam to proctor and Cole had a Cuba trip to pack for so time was a luxury we did not have. We arrived 1 hour before legal shooting light, short on sleep and high on caffeine.

With a couple hours to kill in the blind we swapped stories.  With hunting tales we all tend to exaggerate, and Cole had some epic stories about his old man that normally I would question BUT it turns out his dad was a Canadian Olympian - for shooting! I was in good hands. Noteworthy - his old man also texted us right at shooting light with a photo of the Tom he just took.

As the sun rose I got my first view of this classic southern Ontario setting. There was a nice adjacent wooded area where the turkeys were roosting and loving life.  We had two decoys set up and the trail camera had birds coming in around 7:30.

Like clockwork a lone hen showed up at 7:30. This was a game changer as: i) morale was waining, and ii) we both had to piss and were contemplating getting out of the blind. Hens make or break hunts they say, and this one in retrospect saved us as we would have almost certainly spooked the males had we got up for a bathroom break. 

The female hung out for twenty minutes, at times coming within 10 yards of the blind. Nothing beats a live decoy they say, so we were happy to have her around. The rest happened pretty quick. The hen, doing her thing (which was eating) had moved just out of sight and further into the field. Cole then spotted two males across the field - at this point little black dots - b-lining it for our decoys, the hen, or something in between. This for me was the most interesting part of turkey hunting as a fair bit of time passes while you wait for the birds to arrive and you have this ebb and flow of adrenaline and anxiety. They chose our decoys over the hen, and at 18 yards Cole gave me the all clear. And I bagged my first turkey, simple as that. 

It's a pretty exciting hunt that I hope to replicate. Calling will take some practice but the biggest trick in this area is land access.  That's something Dustin, Joe and I will work on when they move here.  

Of course an SS&S post wouldn't be anything without the classic trophy shot, the second one I did not know was a thing but I'm excited to see how it turns out.

Also not to be outdone by his oldman - Cole landed this bruiser in the afternoon. 

The classic dead bird lansdcape shot to end the post: