With the season ticking down, Team HuntStand and friends head to Oregon to tangle with a few late-season Rios.
The 2019 spring turkey season will no doubt go down in history as a wild and productive ride for several members of Team HuntStand. We were fortunate enough to wind it up recently with a few plump Oregon longbeards, during an exciting hunt shared with a few equally turkey-focused friends hailing from Team WorkSharp. As you can imagine, processing the feathered bounty for a few future mouthwatering meals was never faster or more efficient, but I digress. Here’s how the incredible late-May adventure unfolded:
Scenic Roseburg, Oregon, was the backdrop for the exciting season-ending adventure, helped along by good friend and talented turkey guide Jody Smith, on a sprawling 3,500-acre ranch the group found loaded with birds. Smith has worked hard to gain access to some 20,000 prime turkey acres, in a region some experts say holds the highest number of turkeys per square mile in the entire United States. Maybe better yet? Smith hadn’t hunted the particular property in question since opening day, way back on April 15th. Despite the stellar setup, the group knew luring the local late-season birds (primarily Rios, Smith said) would be a weighty challenge.“Josh Warren and his trusty photographer Kyle Knapp had driven up the night before from Ashland, Oregon, to meet me in Roseburg,” said HuntStand’s Mike Nelson. “Needless to say, our 3 a.m. alarm came way too quickly.” Warren, Nelson, and Knapp met Smith at 3:30 a.m. and soon, in the predawn darkness, the veteran guide was pointing to a solid setup area in the murky distance. It was a spot where he’d regularly glimpsed a flock of turkeys funneling through. It sounded like a solid gameplan.
“With my Huntstand app showing sunrise at 5:30 a.m., we were set up and ready by 4:30 a.m., using a strutting tom decoy complete with real fan, and nearby lay-down hen deke,” Nelson explained. “And luckily, almost like clockwork, the woods around us soon came alive. We could hear booming gobbles in several directions.”Unfortunately, the trio found that the main bunch of birds had changed up their morning routine and snuck off the opposite way after fly down, but all hope was not lost. Soon a couple gobblers in the distance began answering Nelson’s soft yelps and purrs.
“We knew at this point in the season that more-passive calling could pay big, and I gave it my understated best,” Nelson said. “The vocal-but-wary toms took all of 90 minutes to get to us, but unfortunately, they approached from the wrong direction. Despite being in range we couldn’t see them to get a shot, and once they eyeballed our strutter decoy they wanted no part of us. Dreaded distress putting soon rang out. We managed to call back one of those shy birds almost an hour later, but that gobbler hung up well out of range. So we removed the strutter decoy and moved on to Plan B.”After shifting to a new area and watching a dozen or so gobblers strut and fight in a large field, and then finally wander off, the trio decided to make a dash and attempt to cut them off. They were not quite fast enough; by the time they arrived at the “ambush” field the birds were already there. Unable to set out their strutter decoy the trio stood there, minds racing.
“With Josh acting as Shooter No.1 and your reporter on the call, none of our options seemed good,” Nelson said. “And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a red head bob up to my right. Gobbler or jake? I couldn’t tell. The bird was about 60 yards out in some tall grass, near the wide-open field. A quick whisper later and Josh was also locked onto the bird, and slowly got his gun in position.”
Just then the group lost its view of the bird for what would prove a good 20 yards, because of the dense grass, but it suddenly popped out just 15 yards below them.
“Finally we could see he was a mature tom and Josh squeezed the trigger,” Nelson related. “We had a bird down! Josh was pretty pumped; he hadn’t hunted turkeys in a few years and had recently moved to Oregon as part of his Work Sharp duties. But there was even more reason to celebrate. We found the big mature tom was sporting crazy-impressive 1 5/8-inch spurs. How big are those hooks for the area? Smith said that after guiding hunters to about 1,000 local birds over the years, those spurs [see image above] would definitely rank within the Top 5, and seriously challenge for the best-ever. The bird also sported a 10.5-inch beard.
“With Josh on the board I was now up to bat, but conditions were changing quickly,” Nelson said. “With temps approaching 80 degrees the birds seemed to be going into shut-down mode. It was time for some stealthy stalking tactics. Moving into a new area we glimpsed three silent toms in a field near a wooded area; Jody felt if I could crawl through an area of tall grass for a hundred yards or so, I might just get a shot. Luckily I was wearing my Sitka Apex Pants with built-in kneepads. I was able to make it about 15 yards from my ‘goal’—a spindly wire fence— without being seen, but by that time the birds had already moved out about 100 yards into the field.“With the day continuing to heat up and the gobblers well out of range, I figured my hunt was done,” Nelson explained. “But there on my hands and knees, I had to try just one more call. I let out as meek and feeble a yelp series as I could muster.”
GobbleObbleObbleObble! Came the booming reply, and it about blew Nelson away, just 30 yards to his right down the fencerow.
“All I could see was a bright red head staring my way,” Nelson remembered. “I didn’t move an inch, and the bird finally began angling toward me. As the bird emerged from behind a large oak tree, he was just 15 yards away. Now on autopilot, I locked onto the bird using my M2 Benelli 12-gauge and HIVIZ sight; the Kent Turkey loads did the rest. Soon I stood over a beautiful 2-year-old Oregon Rio sporting a 9-inch beard. What a hunt.”
Back at camp Jody Smith gave the trio a nice turkey cleaning demonstration, helped along by WorkSharp’s quality Guided Field Sharpener.
“As we watched Jody butchered each bird in just a few minutes, and not one edible bite was wasted,” Nelson said. “Both Josh and I knew the best might lie just ahead: A couple late-season victory meals to be savored with family and friends.”
From all of us here at Team HuuntStand, we hope your 2019 spring turkey hunts were memorable and productive. Like many of you, we’re already dreaming and scheming about 2020. As you plan, remember to tap into these fine HuntStand Hunting app features to show where you found the hottest patterns, sign and activity in 2019, and don’t forget to consult the HuntStand Property Lines feature that will point the way to public and private land boundaries, and helpful landowner information. Good luck!