Turkey Hunting Stories

THE DEVIL OF THE DIKE!

I cannot now remember how many days I have been hunting this gobbler,
but it has been many!

I should have walked away from this bird in favor of something more cooperative,
but I could not.

I have killed believing it was him, but only to find I was mistaken!

I have come close to shooting him, but only once.

I have scoured the woods only to find him strutting in the road within 100yds of my truck,
parked in plain sight.

More than once I have stood exactly where he had stood,
but 15 minutes ahead of me.

I have given up the hunt only to return the next day and find he showed himself 30 minutes after I departed.

I have sat patiently in a blind for 7 hours straight, only to have him strut to within 90yds of me and fade back down the road., offering no shot.

Now, on this next to the last day of the season, the hunt has come to an end for us both.Shot wad in gobblers feather pile 1

This game will be played no more!

I have shot the devil down!,
but only to watch him rise again,
resurrected!

Yes, I am sure of it, this was the devil!

Larry Stephens, 2:15 pm, April 19, 2014,
The Dike road, Quigley Bay.

 

Follow up….

I actually wrote that sitting in a blind waiting on this bird. All other options expended, I was reduced to just waiting him out on a grade that I knew, sometime that day, he would appear. I could hardly believe my eyes when I finally shot him and he jumps up and runs off, crippled for sure. A friend suggested I take a bird dog back and look for him. I had to recover this bird! Well, didn’t have a bird dog but I do have a bluetick named Lacy. I was incredible to watch. I put her on the track and in about 15 minutes she found him tucked in some sweet gum suckers, still alive!! I grabbed him by one foot and the final battle ensued. I finally choked him down and the day was mine! Guess he wasn’t a devil after all, just one wary old tom!

Lacy and I with the Devil Bird 4-19-14 sm

I have known many turkey hunters over the years and have guided many others. This spring I wasBrians Osceola Gobbler with Larry Stephens - Bull Creek Outfitters 3-19-14 fortunate to get to meet and hunt a guy from South East Georgia by the name of Brian Threlkeld.

We had a tremendous hunt here in Florida and Brian took a really nice Osceola with me that sported an 1 ¼” spur.

After spending 3 days hunting with Brian it became evident that we were cut from the same camo cloth when it comes to hunting and the woods. Our style of hunting is the same, We are both meticulous about the equipment, and we both have a deep appreciation for the new adventure, sights and knowledge that each hunt brings.

Brian and I hit it off right from the start and I expect will have many hunts together in the future.

After the our turkey season was over here in Florida Brian invited me to come up for a hunt on a tract he owns in Georgia.

Luckily Brian is only located about 3 ½ hours north of me and I stopped at his office on the way up to make our plan for the next morning.

Brian had already located a bird and from his sign knew he was using a few hundred yard stretch of black jack oak ridge that bordered a narrow creek drain. The drainage was predominately thick and impassible with a very small opening in the creek bottom.

The first morning we moved to a spot where Brian figured we would be in easy hearing of the roosted tom. As the light began to break to the east, Brian Owled and the Tom thundered a booming Gobbled in response.

We moved towards him owling periodically to course and distance him. He was in the tight creek bottom just as Brian had figured. There was a terrible thick cut over adjoining the back side of the creek and the turkeys had to come to the hill on our side.

We set up on the sand hill to the gobblers right on a little harrowed food plot strip. We had cut numerous hen tracks crossing the road in the dark and we surmised that they were roosting in the creek then moving up onto the hill to spend the day feeding and loafing.

I only gave the bird a few tree calls until it was time for a turkey to be on the ground. He never answered a single call! Brian was set up behind me about 30yds. After more than an hour of silence and no birds showing up, I moved over to Brian to discuss a new plan.

It was obvious the bird was not going to come to this spot. We were very close to the roost and he surly had moved away by now. Brian suggested we relocate a little and give the bird an hour to start up.

We gave him some time but it was getting late and he had not gobbled so we decided to slip into the creek bottom and have a look at where he was roosted.
It was going to take woodsman ship to kill this bird, calling alone would not get the job done.

  • Turkey Tactics!

Brian and I went back to hunt that creek bottom bird the next morning. We now knew his roost spot was a hole in the creek where the only option for him was to move from there onto the hill. We located a small game trail that we believed the turkeys were using to enter and exit the bottom and marked it for our return in the dark.

The next morning he was exactly where he was supposed to be. It was another Masters move! Brian stayed up on the hill and kept the bird gobbling so I could course him without calling and move in silently for the kill.

I sat quietly on the bank of the little stained, sand bottom creek, a mere 60 yds from the roosted tom, watching intently for his departure from his limb. By 8:30 AM I had not seen him pitch off the limb and Brian could only hunt until about 9:45 so I slipped out to discuss a new plan. Though I never actually saw the gobbler this was a great hunt. I was within a long shotgun shot of him for over and hour and a half, tight as a string the whole time. I just knew I was about to deal the death blow any second! Wow, that was a hunt!

In true turkey form that old tom made the only play possible, short of migrating out of there that could have kept him from getting shot……He sat right there on the roost until we just had to leave him due to our limited time to hunt that morning.

  • The 6 minute Turkey hunt!

Brian Threlkeld & Larry Stephens - Georgia gobbler 11 inch beard 4-27-14

Brian had heard another tom hammering that morning so with only 45 minutes left to hunt, we charged off after him. We pulled the truck down the road and Brian got out to try to strike the bird with his wing bone call. It took him several calls but he finally gobbled. He was not far either. We raced to the truck to grab our gear and took off.

We were on a sugar sand hill with scattered black jack oak, some scattered pine etc. with a ridge paralleling our movement. We stopped to call and course the bird after about 100yds and he responded immediately, just on the other side of the ridge. We barely had time to get set up.

I picked a group of 8-10” oaks and Brian dropped back to call. In just a few moments the bird topped the ridge in front of me within gun range. He turned slightly to follow the ridge and I immediately recognized that it was time. A quick shift of the camera and a load of #6 was on its way down range. Big gobbler down! I jumped up and ran to the flopping tom. Brian was standing where I had shot from when I came walking back up with the bird and a big smile. He looked at his watch…..”you know it’s only been 6 minutes since we struck this bird! That’s got to be a record!”

Big Georgia Gobbler taken by Larry Stephens hunting with Brian Threlkled

The big Georgia Eastern had a 11” beard and 1 1/8” spurs.

We are already planning some new hunting adventures for next year and to say that I am looking forward to it is quite an understatement.

Best of hunts,
Larry Stephens

 

Here is another great turkey hunting story my friend Chris Coffey shared with me from his Nebraska hunt this year. Along with the Osceola I guided him for, this completed a 1 year grand slam, great work Chris!

 

(Story by Chris Coffey)

For those that have been following along for my quest to try and get a North American Grand Slam of Wild Turkey in a single season, I am happy to inform you that I did it! I am very proud and very humble. I have such a respect for the great wild turkey and to be able to travel around the country making new friends and seeing new places really drives home a very important point………I LOVE THIS STUFF!

Nebraska – Merriam’s

Chris-Coffey-Nebraska-Merriam-Gobbler-5-3-14
With 3/4 of the Grand Slam complete, I began to make last minute arrangements to try and get a Merriam’s hunt lined up. I was able to find a place to hunt and made room in the schedule for a weekend trip. After driving 6 hours on Friday, I found myself in Nebraska and ready for the next morning’s hunt.

My hunt took place on Saturday, May 3, 2014. With a very early alarm clock wake up, I looked outside to see nothing but stars, light wind, and cool temps. A perfect turkey morning.

I made the 20 minute drive to the hunting area and parked the truck in a secluded spot on top of a big ridge. Hurrying to get my gear together, I heard the first gobble and it was coming right from where my ground blind was situated. I made my way down to the blind and set out my Dave Smith Hen Decoy. As daylight began to creep over the landscape, the gobbles began to get more intense and more frequent!

After fly down, I began to call in hopes of drawing in one of the many gobbling birds I had heard. With each call, I began to hear the hens getting more aggressive. I stepped up the calling and before long, I had a whole group of hens coming right towards me. Final count had 12 very upset hens surrounding my decoy only 20 yards away.

It is amazing how well concealed you are in a Double Bull Ground Blind.

The hens began to fighting purr and flog the decoy at will. Having spent a lot of time in the turkey woods, I thought I was getting close to seeing it all……I was wrong. As the hens continued their assault of the decoy, one of the hens began to strut! I had never seen a hen reach full strut before, but she put on a show. And then, I heard it, the same hen that was strutting, let out a gobble!! If the hunt had ended there, I would have went home a happy hunter for that experience.

As you can imagine, with all the commotion, the gobbling birds finally made their way into the picture. As more and more red heads came into view, I got more and more excited. I then began to realize that all the birds that were now 20 yards and surrounding the decoy, were all jakes! Yes, 8 of them!! At one time, I had 20 turkeys within 30 yards of me and not a long beard in the bunch.

After things settled down and the birds finally started to move off, I happened to look to my right and noticed a full strut bird with a full fan coming my way! He was only 30 yards away and locked on to the DSD decoy. As you can imagine, I only let him walk into the first opening and took the 20 yard shot to anchor my first Merriam of the trip! He was an old bird, had good spurs and a double bird. What a start!

After gaining my composure and trying to take some solo pictures, I moved on in pursuit of my 2nd bird. Only traveling about 100 yards, I sat up and made some calls only to be cut off by an explosive gobble. I moved quickly to a cedar tree and began to call aggressively. Soon I seen 4 red heads headed my direction once again. As the birds got closer, I realized that they were again all jakes!

So, after some close interaction, I let them pass and moved on to my 3rd location. As I was slipping into position, I heard another gobble directly above me and not 100 yards away. Once again, I began to call and had an immediate response. There were hens with the birds and we began a cutting match that would have impressed any contest calling judge. That’s when I heard more gobbles from my right. With each call, they were cutting the distance in half. I moved my gun in that direction just soon enough to see 3 red heads heading right toward me. My eyes strained to make out the beards, but once again, I had called in 3 more jakes. After calling in 15 jakes in the first 3 set ups, I was beginning to think that I needed to try a new mouth call! LOL A quick look at the watch told me that it was 11:30 am and I then made my way back up to the truck for some lunch.

After a short bite to eat, I headed to the other side of the ranch in hopes that I could get away from the jakes and locate an older bird. Walking for what seemed like a mile, I finally found a set up that looked too good to be true. The large cotton wood tree was just off the edge of a picked cornfield with a dirt two-track lane right down the edge only 25 yards away. So, I set up my DSD hen decoy right in the road and settled in for the afternoon hunt. I made some calls and then looked at my watch to see that the time read 1:57 pm.

With all the excitement of the morning, traversing of the hilly terrain, and the long drive to get out west, my eyes began to weigh heavy and eventually closed shut for a quick siesta. Drifting off to turkey dreamland, I was woken by the sound of a spit-n-drum. I opened my eyes to see a turkey in full strut, 40 yards away, walking right down the road to my decoy. That’s when I saw the long beard hanging from his chest and knew that I was going to get my chance at another fully mature tom. “Just let him walk to the decoy”…I told myself. He is in love, so just let him come. You know, it is so hard to let a turkey walk by the first good opening. LOL You guessed it, the Benelli moved into position, the crosshairs were settle on the Nikon scope and the Nitro shells hit the turkey’s head hard. After a short walk to the bird and a glance at the watch, which read 2:15 pm, I had taken my 2nd Nebraska Merriam’s!

Chris Coffey - Nebraska Gobbler

Chris Coffey - Double Bearded Nebraska Merriam 5-3-14Taking solo pics is much harder than I anticipated. I will definitely have to practice a little more. Times like that sure do make me wish my Dad could have been there to help with the picture taking and to experience the joy of chasing Merriam’s gobblers out west!

 

Your friend,
Chris Coffey

 

This is story Chris Coffey  recently shared with me from a hunt with he and his father in Iowa,  great hunt Chris!

 

Story by  Chris Coffey,

Once again, I had the pleasure of taking my Dad out turkey hunting here in the great state of Iowa. To date, he has been 100% successful on opening morning and this year proved to be no different. But don’t let that success fool you, this year was tough!

Chris Coffey with big Iowa Gobbler photo by Chris Coffey 4-21-14

The morning before season opened, I had my Dad scout/listen in an area I knew was holding birds, but I wasn’t exactly sure where they were located. As first light began to come over the Iowa landscape, the gobbles erupted from the area I sent my Dad towards. He conveyed back to me that there had to be at least a 1/2 dozen birds gobbling and 4 of them were very close. With that knowledge fresh in the MRI (Most Recent Information) bank, we decided to start in that area opening day. Typically when hunting the farm, I start from the other end, but with that much gobbling, my Dad was convinced we needed to start there. Hard to argue with that!

As daylight broke on the first morning, we stood in the dark waiting for the best sound of Spring…..the gobble. Our wait endured but we never heard a single bird gobble. I can’t tell you the last time that I have stood in the turkey woods on opening day and not heard a gobble. I knew it was going to be tough hunt from then on.

The good news is that the morning was perfect. There was a light South wind and it was clear, crisp, and cool. With high pressure settling over the area, it was the kind of day that turkey hunters dream of. After gathering my thoughts, we decided to move to a corner of the woods where I had seen birds in the past. This spot would also provide a higher elevation so that we could hear any potential candidates for the rest of the morning. As we approached our spot to set up and make some calls, the morning got even worse………Booom! Someone in the next timber had apparently been having better luck than we were. So, we continued on to another area where the birds like to hang out. As we slipped into position, I began to call in hopes of a response. I got a response, but it wasn’t the one I was looking for. As I called, I began to hear clucking and then the same yelping sequence over and over. When the calls then closed the distance on us, I knew it was another hunter. Yes, I had called in another hunter to my location. So, we picked up and moved once again.

Moving toward our 3rd set up of the morning, our heads were hanging a little low. We began to move towards my “hot spot” where I was going to start that morning when I spotted a gobbler strutting out in the field. Great news right? Well, yes, but he also spotted my Dad walking in the tractor two track about 10 yards out from the edge of the field! It was frustrating, but hey, what can you do. Like I said, I am blessed to be hunting with my Dad and the fact that his knee was bothering him and he needed to walk on solid ground, just made me smile to know that he is doing what he can to chase turkeys with his son. So, the birds spotted us and slowly moved up the hill. This is a good sign, because usually they take off right away. We continued to the strut zone very slowly and realized a hen was still hanging around the area. As we slipped into position, I saw a big ol’ gobbler strutting at the end of the field 100 yards away. The hunt was back on!

As is typically custom, My Dad gets to shoot first. I am not sure if it is because he traveled all the way to Iowa to hunt, or if it is just my feeling like I need to repay him for all the wonderful turkey woods lessons he has taught me over the years. Regardless, it was Dad’s turn to shoot this morning in Iowa. With the turkey spotted, Dad mentioned to me to go ahead and crawl down by the field edge and get set up. He later told me that he was wanted me to shoot first because he knew I was chasing my single season slam.

As I positioned myself against a tree, I noticed that Dad had stayed back about 15 yards behind me. Not thinking too much of it, I began to call and immediately got a response. This bird was working! The more I called, the more he gobbled. Back and forth we went, and he slowly made his was toward me, strutting the entire time. 35 minutes later, the bird was still coming and had moved into range. The only problem was that there was brush in the way and I needed the bird to come another 10 yards closer into my opening.

Chris Coffey's Father with big Iowa Gobbler photo by Chris Coffey 4-21-14

Its hard to describe what happened next in text, but I will do my best. The field edge we were hunting has a grassy cove at one end where the bird was strutting. As he made his way toward us, the field turned into dirt from where it had been plowed. The bird worked all the way to the plowed portion, and instead of coming the extra 10 yards that I needed, he decided to cut to my hard left up into the timber! I think the bird didn’t want to get his feet dirty! As the bird moved into the timber, I had no shot. That’s when I realized that the bird was walking right towards my Dad. Yes, you guessed it, the bird walked right in front of my Dad’s Benelli and was down. There is not much better than a 9am bird. The 3yr old bird ended up weighing 24# and had a huge double beard. I guess Dad’s kindness paid off well for him because, in the end, he got to shoot first.

After some pictures and high fives, it was time to move on. We only went about 200 yards to the top of a ridge where I knew was turkey central. Once in position I threw out some cuts and followed with some excited yelps. This lead to an immediate response from a gobbler not 100 yards away. We were back in the game! As my calling got more excited, the gobbles began to erupt from all over the area.

There were birds gobbling to our left, in front of us, and even to our right! We were surrounded. As I continued to pour it on, the birds were definitely moving in closer. As any turkey hunter can relate, it is difficult to choose which way to point the gun with birds coming in from multiple directions. As my ears picked up each gobble getting closer, I began to move around the tree. I would set up to the left, and then in front, and then back left again. But when the gobble exploded from my right, I knew it would be my last move. As I got into position and threw out a sweet, sweet yelp, the bird gobbled so loudly it almost rang my ear. I then spotted the beautiful red, white, and blue head moving through the timber and moved my gun into position. With once last cluck, the bird raised his head into my crosshairs and the Benelli did its job. Earlier in the story I made the comment that there is not much better than a 9am bird…..well, I believe this 11:30 am bird topped it! After picking up the bird, we realized that the bird was a good one. The 4-5yr old bird ended up weighing 21# and had 1.5″ spurs! 

big Iowa Turkey Spur photo by Chris Coffey

gobbler hanging by his hooks photo by chris coffey 4-21-14

The more turkeys I get to hunt, the more I realize how special each and every hunt is. Whether hunting with friends or family, I am just glad to be able to enjoy it all and follow my passion of this great sport of turkey hunting. This Eastern in Iowa has now landed 3 of the 4 birds need for the Grand Slam of turkeys in a single season. With only the Merriam’s left to go, my hopes are high!

Chris Coffey

The 2014 Spring Gobbler season has come to a close and it was one outstanding year!

We closed the year with a 93% success rate! Only one of our hunters did not kill/miss or have an opportunity to shoot a gobbler. I am confident that had that gentleman been able to hunt more than one morning, we would have gotten him killed also.  We did work a bird that morning and I actually called him across the ocklawaha River, if you can believe that but the tom would not come closer than 90 yds.  He was able to harvest a Super trophy of a bar hog however and had a great hunt.

Besides the success rate, the other impressive stat was the spurs on some of these birds!Most of the birds had outstanding spurs that were 1 1/4″ or better!

One of the best was this 1 1/2″ monster killed near the Ocklawaha River.

Monster Osceola spurs - Bull Creek Outfitters

Monster Osceola spurs  - ice picks

This next bird was a pasture bird that we have hunted for at least 4 years. At 1 3/8″ he was a super trophy and it was an outstanding hunt for this Mature Tom.

Exceptional Long Osceola spurs -Bull Creek Outfitters

Many of the birds we harvested this year had 1 1/4″ spurs. That is a really great Osceola and a tough mark to beat. Here’s just a few……

Trophy Ocala Osceola  Bull Creek Outfitters

Black spurs

Here are a few of the other exception spurs taken this year including a 1 15/16″ Freak! Following courtesy of my friend Roy Huff.

Freak Hooks - Osceola Spurs

Awesome Osceola spur 2014

Super Osceola Spurs - long and sharp

Black Hooks Osceola spurs

We also harvested a large tom with a very unique deformed foot…..incredible, even the spur was deformed with an unusual hook to it? The normal spur was 1 1/4″!

I almost hated to pull the trigger on this bird! There was so little turkey sign to be found this weekend he reminded me of the movie “The Last of the Mohican’s”! He was like….the LAST ONE. At Least it sure seems that way anyway.

High pressure Gobbler!

This was the next to the last weekend of the Florida Spring Gobbler season here in central Florida. The last couple of weeks has been some really tough hunting. The hens have been nesting and the gobblers have shown little interest in responding to calling. The gobbling has been reduced to next to nothing compared to the first two weeks of the season.

This weekend was not looking to good. Not only has the activity been slow but we have a front passing us.

I actually hunted in 3 different counties on Saturday! No telling how many miles I put on my ole’ Chevy.

One of the larger tracts I hunt is being timbered right now (good timing) and there is right-of-way work going on as well?

I spent three hours scouting there on Saturday and saw very little turkey sign. It had rained Friday so that did not help much. I finally cut a gobbler track on a hard sand road on the westerly edge of our tract of land. The bird had worked down the road strutting every so often but he would only leave a strut mark about 12″ long. He was on top of the rain from Friday so I knew he had been there that morning. One vehicle had run it over but had not noticed the tell tale marks in the road!

Only seconds to live!

Only seconds to live!

There were several things working against me on this one. For one, this bird had been heavily hunted!! He was actuallyliving and roosting across the fence so I was limited to making him come to me….good luck! Secondly, I only had Sunday to hunt him before the loggers would be back. Third, he’d been hunted real hard for weeks.If you haven’t’ noticed, daylight is coming pretty early now and gobble time is about 6:15 AM. I am about worn out from weeks of chasing turkeys….. guiding, videoing, roosting, running trail cameras and trying to keep my design business going. I was a little late this morning.

By the time I got to where I planned to hunt it was about time for the birds to be on the ground. The only way to really hunt this spot is to hunt the road which I do not like to do. It’s a good way to get your hunt ruined.

I stood in the road and listened for a gobble. There were various owls, crows, etc. going off but no gobbling. I owl’d and crowed and got no response. I decided to do some loud aggressive yelping and cutting on a new mouth call I just added to my call arsenal. I know that seems to go against what you would do when dealing with a highly pressured tom but my gut told me that was the thing to do. I wanted anything within hearing to know I was there and then I’d shut up.

I ran a series of aggressive yelps and followed up with a cutting sequence……nothing! I was committed to putting some time in here so I set up a decoy on the edge of the road and found an oak tree that I could tuck back in about 20yds off the road. It was a great set-up with good visibility.

I had not been there long when I heard a bird free gobble across the fence about a hundred and a quarter. I called at him real quick with some raspy yelping and he immediately answered. It sounded closer than the initial gobble.

I decided to let him make the next move. I wouldn’t have to wait long! The next thing I know he gobbles again and now he’s just on the other side of the fence. I remember thinking, he must be coming on the run to cover that much ground that quickly.

I readied for the confrontation that appeared eminent!

Just then a big black bird with a flaming red head emerged from the bushes! “THERE HE IS!”

gobbler down 4-14-13He looked at the decoy and checked his wings, usually a nervous reaction. He was just to my left but if he moved to his right, getting a shot might get a little dicey! I decided to call at him and take my shot! Needless to say the video is going to be a little short but that is real hunting and if you want to go home successful, you need to take your first best shot!

At the report of my 11-87, the wary old tom hit the ground and the hunt was over, just that easy. There is no telling how many hunters this bird had eluded but there is also something to be said for catching a tom in the right mood.

I spent some time taking pictures to honor the bird and another great hunt. If I could I’d breath life back into him and do it all over again tomorrow.

The Tom was one of the smallest mature gobblers I can remember killing. Though he was a three year old bird with sharp 1″ spurs, he only weighed 14.48 lbs! He did have a nice, fairly heavy beard at 9 3/4″. I haven’t reviewed the video yet but hopefully I had the record button pushed!

Awesome Osceola Gobbler

Best of Hunts,

Larry Stephens

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