My brother accomplished a lot in his short time with us. He had a wildly successful pizza business in Minnesota and was able to retire about eight years ago and move to Oregon near me. He and his family had fallen in love with Oregon and the Pacific Northwest during their visits. This gave us the chance to participate in more activities together, including getting him into hunting and fishing.
“This year my goal became doing that for Scott’s oldest son, Jack. I had promised my brother I would be there for his boys while they grew into young men.”
The year before he got sick we went on a turkey hunt together and I was able to call in a magnificent 11-inch bearded tom for him, which became his first and only turkey (pictured above). That tom put on one of the best gobbling and strutting shows I’ve ever witnessed in my 18 years of hunting them. It’s an amazing moment when you help someone harvest their first turkey; it gives me much more joy than shooting my own. This year my goal became doing that for Scott’s oldest son, Jack. I had promised my brother I would be there for his boys while they grew into young men. Jack expressed a strong interest in hunting last year, and hunted turkeys under the Oregon Mentored Youth Hunting program with me. He got a taste of the experience. We never got one close enough to shoot, but he experienced strutting and gobbling turkeys first hand, which whet his appetite for more.Rewind briefly to last fall: Jack was finally able to harvest his first game animal when he shot his first goose and several ducks under the mentor program. This motivated him to finish hunter education so that he could hunt this year’s youth opener of turkey season with me. His Christmas stocking was full of turkey gear and he got his fill of YouTube turkey videos in anticipation of the hunt.After a year of tremendous loss and sorrow, both of us were looking forward to the hunt. Knowing how hard this past year had been on my nephew, I desperately wanted to help him harvest his first turkey. Some of my industry friends were kind enough to provide us with some gear for the hunt. Federal sent turkey loads along with some hats and shirts. The day before the hunt, we shot the Federal Heavyweight TSS No. 9s at 40 yards and the pattern blew me away.LaCrosse provided each of us with a pair of the AeroHead Sport boots featuring their AeroForm technology. I have to honestly say they’re the most comfortable rubber boots I’ve ever worn. Throughout the last several years I’ve used rubber boots more and more for all of my hunting. Dry feet, very comfortable, no laces and they can handle plenty of rugged terrain, and because of the comfort and support improvements I could hike all day with no foot soreness. It’s also great that you can roll down the neoprene uppers on a warm day.Our hunt took place in the blue mountains of eastern Oregon. This area has seen phenomenal growth in its turkey population during the past 10-20 years. The region now has a three-bird limit in the spring and one in the fall. It’s a pretty amazing story, considering there were no indigenous turkeys on the western side of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve been very fortunate that a welcoming family in the Blues has allowed me access to hunt on their property throughout the past several years. As we all know, it’s getting tougher to find affordable areas to hunt, and outfitters tend to take over most of the good areas.During the past three years we tagged out by sunrise each time on this property. On the day when we arrived, the landowners said they had heard gobbling that morning where we planned to hunt the next morning. I felt pretty confident, envisioning it would be the same show as the past three years. Turkeys would gobble like mad on the roost, fly down in front of us, strut a bit, and then come into our decoy spread. Then, Jack would shoot a big tom, we would celebrate, get home early enough to watch the Masters, and sleep in on Sunday. Well, long story short, I didn’t watch any of the Masters and there was no sleeping in on Sunday.Turns out the birds had not been roosting on the property, and we didn’t see or hear a bird on the property. We did hear a couple of distant gobbles on neighboring properties, but none of them wanted to play ball. Jack made a great observation that “the YouTube turkey hunting shows make it look so easy.” I truly believe we lose a lot of young hunters because their expectations are unrealistically high.
We decided to change tactics, and instead of waiting for them to change their tune and come onto the property, we packed up our gear and drove an hour to my main honey hole that I was hoping to save for regular turkey season opener the following week. The rancher had seen several toms on the property recently, so we had high hopes. By the time we arrived, the winds were gusting to 30 mph, making it even tougher. We hunted most of the midday without hearing a gobble, and saw only one hen. The pressure was mounting and my nephew was getting a little frustrated.
“My nephew was quickly learning that turkey hunting is about more than just harvesting the bird.”
We did find some sign that a few birds were roosting in their normal area, and we saw several birds on the lower part of the ranch when leaving the property that evening. So we felt really good about our chances on Sunday. My nephew was quickly learning that turkey hunting is about more than just harvesting the bird. You need to find areas to hunt, get permission, scout, make a plan, watch the weather, and make sure your calls and decoys are ready to go.
We had a delicious turkey burger meal that night, and before you knew it the alarm was going off at 3:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. I was pleasantly surprised to see Jack up and ready to go. We got dressed, made coffee, packed the truck and departed with high expectations.