2020 Spring Thunder: My First Wild Turkey Harvest

With the arrival of April and my departure from the daily grind at Goldenvoice this last August, I found myself greeted by a long-awaited prospect – a free April for Spring Turkey hunting here in California. My history of turkey-hunting success could be summed up simply with one frantic sprint from my back door, clad in pajamas and bare feet, narrowly missing a tom at full strut. This year, however, I was determined to make different, covered head-to-toe in camo, with a pot-call in hand. Yet, as is often the case, my plans seemed to exceed my reality, and with three weeks of the season already elapsed, I realized I’d only managed a mere two sits for turkey.

I was up early and had planned on going out to sit for several hours after my pre-dawn Saturday meeting. Yet, I managed to fall prey to distractions in the form of emails and other projects that should’ve been left for a later hour. When I finally walked out of my office, it was well past dawn and well past the time turkeys were typically moving across our property. So, instead of donning the camo and heading out, I made the decision to head downstairs for my workout.

About halfway through my workout, I glanced at my phone to see a text “Toms in the front yard!”. This promptly spurred (pun intended) me to sprint out in my gym shorts and t-shirt, don the camo Crocs and bomb into the office to grab my shotgun. I caught a glimpse of two toms and a hen near our fenceline heading towards the neighbor’s property. Having observed their behavior time and time again in this area, I sprinted around the backside of the property, Crocs flapping as I ran. I have permission to hunt several of the properties around ours, so I ran two lots over in the direction they were headed and found a suitably large tree to hunker down behind.

True to the script I’d witnessed countless times, came sauntering across the lawn and right towards me. I regretted not taking a moment to snatch my pot-call from the pocket of my turkey vest. They took their time, hanging up several times, scratching and pecking the dirt as if they knew their audience was waiting with bated breath. Some unknown commotion startled the hen that was with the tom, causing it to take flight in a flurry of feathers. For an instant, I believed my chance had passed. Yet, the toms pressed on, unphased. The larger of the two toms slowly continued to work his way within 20 yards. I braced against the tree, leveled my shotgun and squeezed the trigger on 3 1/4 inches of #4 steel shot. The strutting tom was sent to the dirt with a solitary flop.

I grabbed my harvest and walked the 300 yards back to my house to grab some photos and quarter him out. For those that like the stats, he was approximately a 15lb bird with a 10″ beard and 1″ spurs, putting him at around three years old. For those that like the usage, I took the beard, fan and spurs to mount and took the breast, liver, legs and heart for frying and some delicious wild turkey pozole, courtesy of a recipe from The Meat Eater Cookbook.

One turkey for this season has been accounted for, a long-desired trophy as a result of patience, instinct and a generous helping of luck. My remaining two spring tags beckon. Perhaps, in pursuit of the next bird, I’ll stick to the ‘proper’ methods. Or maybe, I’ll find the same excitement in another unpredictable moment rather than in the generally accepted execution of things.

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