By Adam Parr
I’m really not quite sure why I never caught the turkey hunting bug early on in life but it never became the level of passion as it was for hunting whitetail deer. Growing up in Michigan, turkeys were everywhere during Spring but they never fired me up like a whitetail. I never attempted turkey hunting until I was in college and I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t put in near the effort as compared to deer hunting.
During my college days, April and May were always busy times for me because the school semester was finishing up and I worked early morning weekends at the local golf course as a part time job. This left me with little time to hunt and to be honest, turkeys were more of an afterthought compared to my obsession with whitetails. Spring turkey hunting was a fun thing to do with friends and I enjoyed my time afield, but it slowly faded away after college.
A few months ago, my boss told me,“We have a road trip coming up at the beginning of April and in between meetings, you are going to spend a few days turkey hunting with us at our properties in Illinois. Your tags and licenses have already been purchased.” It’s not like I had much say in the matter but who could pass up the opportunity anyways? This was something I quickly became excited about and I looked forward to hunting Spring gobblers once again!
We arrived at the Performance Outdoors hunting lodge on Saturday afternoon, just in time to get things unpacked and headed out for an evening scouting mission. We loaded up the trailer with our electric UTV and headed down the road to the nearest property to see if we could locate a few gobblers in the immediate area.
We quietly navigated the mowed access trails to a field edge that was bordered by timbered draws surrounding the backside of the bean plot. Before too long we had gobblers sounding off in multiple directions, which confirmed that turkeys were roosting nearby. We then made our way to the opposite side of the 400-acre parcel and located a few more toms deep in the timber. Hearing the gobbles off in the distance got my heart racing and made me even more anxious for the Monday opener. A successful turkey scouting mission was in the books!
The following day (Sunday) was spent arranging my gear and prepping myself for the Monday opener. My friend Tyler arrived into camp on Sunday and planned to hunt with me in the morning so we hit the sheets early knowing that 4am would be an early morning for both of us.
Once at the farm, Tyler and I made our way to the back part of the property which was an elevated cow pasture with thick draws and woodlots surrounding the property boundaries. As we made our way into position after the 20-minute hike, we settled into the corner of the field and sat down to let out a few calls. Shortly after, we heard the unmistakable sound of a piercing gobble through the trees on the opposite side of the field; we quickly grabbed our gear and positioned ourselves closer to the roosting tom.
Tyler set up the decoy and I tucked into a thick patch of bushes with my back against an old fence. We were able to make him talk but as the morning continued on, his gobbles faded off in the other direction. A pair of hens moved through the field in front of us at 20 yards but without a gobbler in tow so our strategy for the remainder of the morning was to get aggressive.
As we moved in on the bird, which we thought to be 100 plus yards away, out of nowhere a gobble erupted not more than 40 yards away in the timber! Long story short, we were caught with our pants down and were busted by a different bird that came in silent. The rest of the morning was uneventful with no action and not much gobbling so we headed up to the truck around noon. In IL, you can only hunt until 1pm so considering we only had another hour left to hunt, we called it a day.
The second morning brought cooler temps, clearer skies, and a calm breeze; it felt like a “birdy” morning! I was flying solo for today’s hunt because Tyler had to head back to Iowa so my game plan was to sit stationary over a hen decoy for the majority of the day. As the woods started to wake up, the owls started talking and so did the gobblers. To my disbelief, I had multiple gobblers on both sides of my position and eagerly waited for the morning to unfold.
The gobblers to the East moved off as the morning continued but by 7am, the tom to the West was closing the distance. I let out a few soft yelps using my Quaker Boy Box Call with the intention of making my position known to the fired up tom. At approximately 7:30am, I catch a glimpse of a hen but she quickly drops into the draw in front of me and disappears. At that very moment, a big tom lets out a gobble to my left and I know he’s close!
30-seconds later a jake comes into view, quickly closing the distance on my hen decoy and without hesitation, I bring the shotgun to my knee in anticipation of the old tom making a grand entrance. Seconds later, he walks into view, full-strut, and is 100% committed to the hen decoy posing 15 yards in front of me. The gobbler pauses one last time, pushes his head forward and lets out his last gobble before “meeting” with the hen decoy. In a single motion, I put the bead on his head and pull the trigger of the trusty old Remington 12 gauge. At 7:30 in the morning, a mere hour after daybreak, the King of Spring lay dead!
My first gobbler weighed 22 pounds with a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. I think I found a new Springtime obsession and look forward to chasing birds again next year!