Hunting is so much more than taking game, filling the freezer and mounting a trophy. This time of year in late May, if those were my goals, I would have to work hard at it. Instead, my choice was to give the final week of the turkey season one last try, just to be out in the spring woods again. I had been fortunate enough to take a young tom with the bow a few weeks earlier, so this time around it was more about enjoying the sights, sounds, smells and changes the big forest goes though and a chance to hunt with an old friend-you know, the real reasons we hunt.
We jokingly call this late May weekend “Turkey Twang” a Spring version of an annual fall hunt “Twangfest” near Black River Falls, where seven of us have gathered for the past 28 years from all over the Midwest to pursue white tails with archery gear and have that chance to rekindle long friendships. For most of us, it’s the only time we can get together from year to year. In the spring, just a couple of us hunt turkey, so this past weekend I had a chance to meet up with my old college roommate, Kirk from La Crosse and spend some quality time in the lush green forest.
Rain and thunderstorms were predicted for the weekend, but tucked snuggly in camo tents-Kirk armed with an old family Winchester Model 12, and myself with my Mathews Monster, we’d give it a go. I’ve seen turkeys out feeding and chasing in the worst possible weather; so a little rain didn’t worry me at all. The spring woods come alive early, so after a 4:00am alarm, quick breakfast and thermoses of coffee filled, we were on our way down the steep coulee logging roads to our blinds in the dark. The sounds of unseen deer (?) crashing through the brush on the otherwise silent hike in can be a bit unnerving, but again, it’s part of the experience I love. We’d set blinds up in good locations, mine hopefully close enough to turkey traffic to allow a good shot with the bow. 30 yards was the longest I’d try here, so the decoy sets were arranged to pull wary toms in close. I have had mixed luck with decoys-I’ve seen toms sprint to them and others totally ignore the best set-ups. Guess I don’t always know how a turkey thinks.
Our first day out hardly allowed time to finish a steaming cup of coffee-gobbling started early and continued often and with my limited line of sight, I tried to be prepared at anytime to draw back. The “safety was off” (release clipped on the bow string) several times, as I expected the strutting birds to step into my shooting lanes at any second. But as luck would have it-the toms remained elusive, just out of sight and in my mind, strutting their stuff with unseen hens. No amount of calling was going to sway them my direction. Kirk had about the same luck, but we stayed all day and had a second round of gobbling later in the afternoon. The result was the same however, and we called it a day and would give it another optimistic go Sunday.
The great thing about the “Twangs” is hanging out and rehashing stories. For Kirk and I, that can be reliving our time at UW La Crosse, music, cars but most often our hunts of the past. This weekend was no different. We also spoke of how with all the action we’d had, the following day would surely yield a successful hunt. Storms had moved through during the night, but the day dawned dry and quiet, so we were hopeful we could bag a bird. The turkeys had other ideas, and polishing off all my coffee was no problem, as neither of us heard a single tom all morning. The snorting of a deer and screams of a broad wing hawk were the only sounds. Trying another location proved fruitless and by mid-day we decided to clean up the trailer, pack up and head back to our homes-always a bitter sweet moment. No game was taken, but friendships were re-kindled and maybe more importantly, the soul renewed after the many hours away from our daily routines. That, to me is what this passion of the hunt is all about.