Thanks! Finally at a PC and not on my phone. Man I'm worn out. Approx 2000 miles in 4 days. No idea how many I walked. Here's the play by play:
I left the office around 1:30 on Friday. Picked up my stuff at the house since I can't have a gun on Federal property at work and left around 2:30. I picked up my buddy in OKC. I drove all night. We got to the public spot we wanted to check out in NE around 5 or 5:30 in the AM. I got up at 4 or 4:30 on Friday AM and drove the entire night on Friday. We stepped out of the truck at the 1st spot we wanted to check in street clothes and short sleeves to a BRISK 26F. Mother it was cold, but hit a locator call and immediately heard a gobble. Bird was across the river on private. Drove on into the public ground and got 5 more answers but we weren't sure if they were on the public ground or across the river. Drove around the river that bordered the public ground looking for another piece of public ground and saw all kinds of turkeys on private cattle pastures bordering the river. Could have shot a stutter out the window, but we didn't drive 1000 miles to jap a turkey from the truck.
After looking around the public ground on the river we decided to check out some National Forrest land and check some public ground around a lake near by. National Forrest ground didn't look like something that would hold turkeys, but the property around the lake seemed to be full. We saw a big tom with hens during the middle of the day. Most of the hunting was around the campsites on the lake, and there was quite a bit of traffic at the lake fishing for the weekend. We decided to hunt the lake property on Monday if we hadn't got our birds yet where hopefully it was a little more quiet with the weekend traffic gone. With most of our drive around scouting done familiarizing our self with the property lines, we decided to drive the 30 miles into town; get a hotel room; take a nap; get our gear on; and hunt/walking scout that afternoon.
After our naps we drove back out to the public ground, but decided to see if we could make contact with any of the farmers where we saw birds on private ground to get permission. The 1st guy said yes, but in talking with him he mentioned several groups of hunters that had been hunting on him. We walked the top rim of the property trying to strike one with no luck. We felt like the birds on that property had been pressured and left to find greener pastures. The 2nd farmer was more than welcoming. He had a wood working shop where he was building furniture out of cedar and drinking a cold beer. My kind of guy. He even had some turkey calls he'd tried to make out of cedar. He drew us a map of his property lines in the dirt and even offered to let us use his cabin. Said if we couldn't kill our birds on his property that we just weren't putting enough time in. We left to drive around to top rim of his property to get a fell for the property lines and do some scouting. Didn't see nor hear any birds, but saw lots of sign. It was getting to be about 3 hours from dark, so we decided to go to a spot where we saw a big strutter with hens and several more long beards feeding in a hay pile where a farmer feed his cattle about 100-200 yards off the corner of public ground and see if we could call one in or if they were roosting on the public ground.
On the way to our public spot, we saw two big toms with 4 hens on another property we couldn't hunt but walking in the direction of the property we had just got permission on. We felt like they were headed to roost on the property we could hunt. Made a mental note and continued on to the public ground. Driving in we saw turkeys out in the hay close to where we wanted to hunt. Slipped in, got some decoys out, sat down, and started calling. Almost immediately we got a response gobble and heard the hens. It wasn't long before I heard twigs snap and saw a red head slipping in silent. I never got a good look at the bird before he got close and almost shot him. He had the whitest feathers of any bird we ended up seeing this weekend, but was a jake. I think he got within 10 yards of me. He ended up feeding off with the other tom gobbling and hens cutting up answering us. We saw the strutter, but he nor the hens would ever get close enough. They roosted on the private ground. On the drive out, we decided to stop at several spots we felt like birds would be on private ground to see if we could get one to answer with the 1st stop being where we saw the two toms with hens. 1st stop and multiple gobbles later we had birds roosted on private ground we had access to hunt.
We decided that would be our starting point the next morning.
The birds were roosted on top of the first mountain next to the road beside the river. The farmer had showed me a road leading up into the canyon on the backside of this mountain, so after looking at google earth I hatched a plan of where we'd park and try to walk in coming from behind the direction the birds had walked up the mountain and roosted from the river. Sunrise was at 6:15, so we wanted to be there by 5AM to try and walk halfway in before it got light enough for the birds to be gobbling and possibly see us. We go to get out of the truck and my buddy sets off my truck alarm. GREAT!
We finally get our gear on and start walking into the canyon. We get what I think is about half way between where we parked and the birds, decide to let it get quite, and hit a locator call to see if the birds will respond so we don't get on top of them. We get an immediate response, but it's a bird across the canyon on top of another mountain to the North of the birds we had roosted. He'd answer every time a locator call was blown or another bird gobbled. We decided to go to him. Not knowing the lay of the land yet we came into a clearing or meadow if you will half way up the mountain and about 150-200 yards from the roosted bird at the top of the mountain. By this time it's pretty light out, and I felt like the bird would see us if we didn't get set up. To say this bird was HOT is an understatement. I've heard Rios gobble as many times, but I've never heard a Rio answer me 7-8 gobbles in a row when calling. I seriously though this bird was going to die of exhaustion before he flew off the roost. I couldn't even make a yelp on a box call without him double or triple gobbling. I fully expected him to pitch off the roost and glide into the meadow where we were set up. He stayed on the roost much longer than I figured he would I guess trying to look and see if he could see the hens doing all the calling in the meadow below. I finally heard him fly down, but he stayed up top and didn't come down the mountain. He finally walks away from us gobbling, and we decide it's time to make a move. To say getting to the top was tough is an understatement. I seriously thought I was going to pass a big horn sheep on the way to the top. Felt like I was elk hunting again. We finally get to the top and catch our breathe. We walk to about where we think the bird was roosted, and hit a call. Immediate response and the bird is 200-250 yards from us. I can see an opening in the pines in front of us, and tell my buddy I think we should make it to there and set up. The bird gobbles another time as we are walking towards him, and I can tell he's closer. By the time we get to the opening, he gobbles and is within 100 yards. I tell my buddy we better get set down that's he's close. My butt no sooner hits the ground than I can see the top of his fan working his way thru the pines. I don't even have time to put a face mask on. Good thing it was cold and I have on a camo hoodie. I just throw the hoodie over my head and hope for the best. I make a call on my mouth call, and he immediately gobbles and turns our way. My buddy can't see the bird, but can tell I do and soft calls him all the way to his death. I was between him and bird. I got to watch him spit, drum, strut, and gobble all the way in from about 100 yards. Just like I had always dreamed it when thinking about my Merriam hunt. Been a long time since I've been that shook turkey hunting. I almost couldn't hold the red dot on him. He wasn't near as white as I'd liked, but I'm not going to complain. Gives me an excuse to go back. The bird gobbled from 5:30 until I killed him at 7:30. I'd guess he gobbled over 400 times. When we got to the bird, he was missing almost all the feathers off his breast like he'd been plucked. My buddy thought I shot him low and knocked them off. I told him there wasn't enough feathers on the ground for that to be possible. I confirmed I didn't hit him low when I cleaned him. I guess he'd been in on heck of a fight this spring. He had a couple broken tail feathers as well.
After all the high fives, trying not kill ourselves descending to the truck, and pictures we headed across the river to the other property the owner had where he told us was tons of birds to try and complete my buddy's slam. As soon as we got out of the truck we saw fresh sign. We started working the top rim of the canyons to see if we could get a response. We were about to call it a morning to go grab some lunch when I spotted a strutter about 150 yards from us. He ended up having a hen with him. We played cat and mouse with those two for about an hour and a half to two hours. They finally made a mistake and my buddy shot him in full strut at 11:30. Not bad for 1/2 day of hunting after going in blind and doing some scouting.
After taking pictures of his bird and eating some lunch on the top of the mountain, we went back into town to get the farmer a 30-pack of his favorite frosty beverage before we went over to show him the birds and say thanks. You should have seen the look on his face when I grabbed the beer out of back of the truck. You'd thought I gave him gold. We asked if he'd rent us the cabin next year since we wanted to come back. He said no, but we were welcome to use it any time we wanted. Guess I have an excuse to go back and get my solid white bird now. Rain was forecast for the Monday and Tuesday. We had taken a week off to give us enough time to get our Merriam, but decided to drive back yesterday and not burn an entire week of vacation.
He and I killed 3 out of the 4 birds in our Grand Slam on the same hunt each day. All have been either on public ground or private from seeing birds and knocking on doors to get permission. Our Osceola and Merriam cost us fuel to drive there and back as well as food, one night in a hotel, and a 30 pack of beer and $100 gift card to the land owners as thanks yous. We've been invited back to hunt both properties anytime we want.