Northern Idaho Spring Turkeys
Marc Warnke and I did an Orofino, Idaho spring turkey hunt for the last week of the season. He had a spot that he had been hunting for years and knew it well. I was excited to do an Idaho spring turkey hunt with somebody who knew what they were doing, all of my friends and I just sort of winged it every year, learning as we went. We were always successful, but I felt like we got lucky most of the time. Marc has turkey hunted in a lot of different states with some experienced people, so I was looking forward to learning something.
Marc hunted Idaho spring turkeys with his wife Sue and his mom for a few days before I showed up. They worked some birds, but didn’t get anything put together. I drove up to meet him on the day that Sue and his mom went home. It was pretty nice because we camped in his motor home… stylin’.
The first morning, we worked a few birds, but nothing came in. That afternoon, we did a blind set-up in a spot that Marc had worked birds in the past. We had a tom sneak in silent behind us. He came to within 10 yards before we knew he was there. Marc saw him just before he spotted us and took off. Later, we drove to the neighbor’s camp to B.S. with them and found out that they had killed a nice tom that morning. On our way back to our camp, a bear crossed the road in front of us, so I jumped out and chased it up a tree. Marc had a tag and was going to shoot it with his bow, but it came out of the tree and took off before he could get there. That was kind of fun.
The second day was kind of uneventful. We had a good time, and heard lots of birds, but weren’t really able to work anything.
On the third day, we went up kind of by where we had called the first bird in. Right off the bat, we heard a bird that seemed pretty fired up. He was in a good spot for Marc to try for him with his bow. Marc set up above where we thought he would come into view. I set up about 90 degrees to Marc right under a big cedar tree. The plan was if I thought that the bird was onto us, I would shoot.
The bird came in pretty fast. I could see further down the road than Marc could, and watched him for quite a while. He came right up to where we wanted him and starting drumming and strutting. It was really cool. I thought that Marc could see him, but he wasn’t shooting. The tom was strutting about 15-20 yards in front of me and I’d say 10 yards below Marc for about 20 seconds. All of the sudden the tom dropped his head and “got skinny” like he was spooked, so I shot him. I’m not real sure if Marc was disappointed or not, because it was a good setup for his bow, but I really think that if I would have waited much longer, he would have taken off. He was a big tom with huge spurs and a 10” beard, my biggest turkey by far. We were pretty excited, because up to that point the hunting had been tough.
While we were packing my bird out, we heard another tom gobble, so we stashed my bird and took off after him. We were able to walk within just a few yards of the birds due to the terrain, and we could hear them making noise just above the road that we were on, but we weren’t able to call them in any closer. The birds slowly got further and further away and we decided to circle around through “Sherwood Forest” and get above and in front of them. The forest in this area is super cool. Lots of big, old growth trees and moss. It felt like we had gone back in time. Our planned worked pretty well and we were able to get in front of the birds, but we ran out of cover before we could get within easy range. The tom was still gobbling as it walked past us with his hens, and there was no way that it was going to work with a bow, so Marc grabbed my shotgun and took a shot. He hit the bird, but it flew off out of sight and we were never able to find it. Later, he said that he had shot through some twigs, and thought that maybe his shot had been deflected. Had I known that, I would have told him that I had a clear shooting lane that I was looking through. You just never know though and hindsight is always 20/20.
We went back, picked up my bird and hiked to camp. While we were taking pictures and cleaning my bird, our neighbors came by and invited us to go with them to hunt a new spot for the afternoon hunt. They knew of a place that was surrounded by public land, but it had an easement that you could walk through to get there. Nobody else knew about it. We went and it was an awesome area, but we didn’t see much.
The next morning was our last chance at an Idaho spring turkey, because we wanted to leave around noon or so. Because of our limited time, Marc decided to shoot his shotgun. We didn’t really know what to try so we decided to go back to the new spot. We worked a few birds right off the roost but it didn’t work out, so we took a hike almost to the bottom of the canyon. Just when we were getting ready to turn around and head back, we heard a far off gobble. It sounded like it was a few hundred yards away in a small clearing below us. We set up just off of a logging road against a huge Ponderosa Pine. The tree was big enough that we were able to sit side by side at its base. Marc started calling and the bird slowly made his way toward us, gobbling as he came. We saw him cross a small ravine 70 yards below us, and then he went out of site. We didn’t hear or see him for a few minutes, but knew that he was still coming. Eventually I saw him come around a tree 25 yards in front of us, but Marc couldn’t see him yet. I kept whispering for Marc to get ready, but he couldn’t hear. Eventually, he got to where Marc could see him… super close, and he shot him. It was pretty cool. We had thought that Marc was going home empty handed, but we ended up with another big tom. It just goes to show you that if you just keep hunting, good things are bound to happen… eventually.
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