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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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home : outdoors : outdoor news
May 25, 2019

4/20/2019 7:28:00 AM
Natural reaction
Youth turkey hunt full of sounds and surprises
Jacob Friede
of the Lakeland Times

As my nephew, Truman Leisses, and I climbed our way up a massive hill through the early morning darkness last Saturday, the gobbles of turkeys, the colloquial cries of sandhill cranes and the honking of geese blended into perfect prehistoric harmony.

Those beautiful bird songs of spring set the soundtrack for this year's youth turkey hunt, and we couldn't have been more optimistic as we reached the crest of the hill. The high hopes, however, were short-lived as we rounded the top of the hill and were almost blown backwards by a booming southeast wind that washed out all sound around us.

Nevertheless, we set up our blind, which buckled and shook with each gust, and did our best to cut through the breeze with our slate calls. It was futile. The wind stole the sound of our calls the second the striker hit the slate. There was no way to reach the ears of the birds we knew were taking refuge from the wind on the other side of the woods.

After a couple hours, as both of us plotted and schemed how to adjust to the conditions, we decided to go mobile and take a walk.

We entered a patch of pine trees and it was like walking into an empty church. The silence was staggering. With our ears back with us we had new life and we brought the calls out again. The varying clucks and yelps scratched off the slate were sent through the trees with great volume and we trusted that the vibrant sounds would be able to catch the attention of birds clear on the other side of the woods.

They didn't have to.

Seconds after we started calling we heard a crash in a tree right above us. A turkey had been roosting right there the whole the time. The nasty April skies and roaring spring winds had kept it up in the branches for hours past sunrise. The turkey took off so fast all we could do was watch the giant bird glide through the trees and out of the woods and fly clear across a marsh.

We were not deterred and continued on to another location.

And then we saw it. The sight of all sights. The most terrific scene a turkey hunter can see.

As we approached a backwoods parking lot, right at the entrance to the public land, we saw a tom, completely fanned-out, strutting in front of a hen. And we could do nothing.

Turkeys seem to have no fear of machines. They were completely undeterred by my vehicle as it crunched across the gravel, but we knew that as soon as the doors opened and they caught sight of a body, it would be all over.

They would surely run.

We just laughed and for the next half hour all we could do was watch the courtship play out in front of us.

Eventually a shed hunter pulled up and headed into the woods and the birds bailed.

We then drove around and scouted for future locations and I then got to hear all about my nephew's new job at the Dairy Queen, the details of his freshman year in high school, and his fascination and passion for snowboarding.

And beyond any gobble or bird song, as I listened to his enthusiasm and excitement for everything going on in his young life, I realized those were the best sounds I heard all day.

Jacob Friede may be reached at or

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