A public land bird

bowhuntmontana

Active member
Joined
Feb 17, 2011
Messages
821
Location
Utah, after 30+yrs in MT
Quick story from my Utah bird. A few buddies and I have spent the past few years learning some public land that holds some birds. It is big country and the birds only seem to like certain pockets of habitat. Over the years we have learned those places. We spent the Saturday morning before the opener high on a ridge glassing for birds and listening for gobbles. From what we saw, we put together a plan to split up and sit in three different locations for the Monday morning opener.

This area is heavily hunted, and in the past I have been beaten to the particular spot I wanted to sit. So, I decided to get up around 3:00 and hopefully make it to the trail head parking lot by 4:00. I figured the one advantage I could create for myself was being early and working harder than I figured most would be willing to do. Everything was packed and ready and I got to bed early on Sunday night. Even still, 3:00 comes early no matter what. I pulled my last few things together, threw some bananas and granola bars in car and headed out. I was pretty happy to be the first rig in the lot. I chose to bike in the first three miles and headed into the darkness. I took it slow on the ride, trying not to get sweated up, as I figured I would be sitting in the 35 degree darkness for an hour once I got to my spot. I got to the drop off point and ditched the bike and started hiking.

I wanted to get out on the point of a ridge. The birds tend to roost in the main creek bottom and sometimes right in the bottom of the draw I was watching. They often pitch down onto the open face of the front of that ridge and then work up the ridge along the draw. I worked out onto the point of the ridge, then moved back and around a large patch of oak brush. I got everything in order, then crept to the front of the brush where I could look down the open side of the ridge and see one potential roost tree about 110 yards below me. Then, I sat in the darkness and listened to the woods wake up.

As it started to get a little lighter, I glassed the roost below me and thought I could make out a turkey-like shape; too dark to tell. Around 5:45 birds started gobbling in different points far off down the canyon, but nothing below me. More time passed, and it gradually got lighter. I was finally able to confirm three hens in the tree below me. "Nice. Live decoys," I thought. I was still worried about other hunters working in on my setup. Sure enough, just a few minutes past legal shooting light, as I was dropping my glass from checking out those hens, I picked up movement to my left. I turned to see a hunter about 40 feet away, standing in the wide open on the point of the ridge. I slowly stood up and whistled and waved my arms. He turned, saw me, nodded, and backed out. I really appreciated him doing that. However, I was concerned that we had just blown the setup, as I was sure the hens had seen him and me. But, I just sat back down to see how the morning would play out. The hens were putting and getting fidgety. About five minutes later they pitched down onto my side of the draw, but over a roll where I couldn't see them. I was thinking they would probably just move off another direction rather than come up the draw, having seen us.

More birds were gobbling here and there, but none of them seemed to be close to my spot. I sat tight. About twenty minutes after the hens flew down, I caught a red head moving along just over that same roll. He was coming my way. When the head disappeared, I shifted my gun into position. The turkey came into view between two smaller clumps of oak brush about thirty yards down slope from me. It was a jake, and I have no qualms about taking a jake. I put the bead on his neck and squeezed off the shot. He rolled down the hill and three other birds flew off. I unloaded my gun and sat, soaking in the beauty of the morning and the sweet feeling of when a plan actually works. Setting my gun down, I moved down the slope. Halfway to the bird, I found an old chalky spike elk shed. I gathered up my bird and the shed and moved back to my setup, notching my tag and putting things away. I moved around the large brush patch and set up for a few pictures. After the pictures, I hung the shed in the brush for good luck, packed the bird back to my bike, and rode out.

On the ride out, I met up with one of my other buddies, who had also taken a jake. Interestingly, he had also had two other hunters walk through his setup just minutes before the birds showed up. Kind of a crazy morning on public land, but this time it worked out for us. I love those mornings in the hills. Getting a public land turkey is just icing on the cake.


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bowhuntmontana

Active member
Joined
Feb 17, 2011
Messages
821
Location
Utah, after 30+yrs in MT
Thanks for the positive comments. I am pretty happy with how the pictures turned out. A few years ago I picked up a simple adapter that allows me to mount my phone to my tripod to take pictures. The timer or a simple remote have helped me vastly improve the images I capture to go along with the memories. It is always worth the weight of packing the tripod along.
 
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