Vanish and FireTiger's 2020 Journal

vanish

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Before COVID really kicked in, I was one of the lucky few to snag a reissue turkey tag for a limited unit. My tag didn't start until later in the season, so I couldn't hunt it right away. By the time it opened, Colorado had enacted a 10 mile travel restriction for recreation. I was being a good citizen and doing my best to follow this, which really put a hurting on my turkey hunting.

While the 10 mile restriction didn't lift, when the governor said it was OK to start camping at state parks as long as you were "packed for the moon", I just couldn't take it anymore. I'm as good as anyone at packing for the moon, so I put together 4 days worth of food, filled up the truck and extra fuel cans around the corner from my house, took a couple days off work and hit the road solo.

I have hunted this place before, but not for spring turkey. Regardless, I know there are lots of turkeys in the area, so I decided to dedicate the first two days to trying to get my first turkey with a bow. I don't own a real blind as most of the time I just use natural materials, but I knew turkeys have great eyesight, so I took the closest thing I had, a waterfowl blind someone had put out to the road. It wasn't great as its not real tall, but it might get the job done. I would probably have to shoot from a kneeling position, or sitting on something ... but the only something I had was a 5 gallon bucket. It would have to do.

Dawn of the first morning was a beauty.





I was set up near a roosting area I had identified in the past. On the other side of me was an open field where I have seen turkeys feeding before. My blind was tucked up under some russian olives, so I was pretty well hidden. I just needed birds to actually be roosted nearby, and then for them to fly down and walk past. Easy peasy!

Some coyotes helped me identify that yes indeed, turkeys were nearby.

 

vanish

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Well the first morning was a bit of a bust. It seemed as if the turks headed a different direction from the roost. I couldn't see them most of the time, but their sound made it seem as if some of them worked past the water source. Most of them disappeared and then I saw some out in the field feeding. It was all hens. Different groups had made their way into the field to feed, but none of them had any interest in the call.

I decided to reset my blind by the water. It was pretty warm out so I thought maybe something would come in to drink. After I finished moving my blind, I took a gander out into the hills and saw what was happening. The toms were out there strutting in the wide open with a lady or two. Absolutely no way to get in range, let alone with a bow. I stayed out awhile longer before heading back to the truck for a good nap.

------------------ ( appears I did not take any photos of the pond ) ------------------

Back in place, the pond was a really good spot for bird watching. I don't remember all the different species but it was around a dozen that we don't usually see at home.
What I didn't realize was the pond was actually a lot longer than I anticipated, meaning I could not shoot to anywhere on the whole thing. This would come in to play as the evening progressed. I got busted from behind somehow by two separate solo jakes. Small groups of turkeys were moving through on the other side of the pond, but further away, on the other side of the brush next to the pond.

Suddenly, two toms broke off from a group and ran straight toward the pond. It seemed like this would be it. As they hit about 60 yards, they slowed up and started feeding. They were still working my way when they took a 90 and started paralleling me at around 45 yards, too far for my tastes on this shot. After 15 minutes of milling around, they turn and went right back where they came from. Argh!

With the sun setting, another tom started coming to roost over my shoulder. He was gobbling consistently as he cut the distance. It sounded as if he was going to walk into my lap, but he stayed along the "ridge" until he hit the same trail the other groups of turkeys had taken.

As darkness set, I could see them roosting not too far away. I moved my blind once again, to the other side of the pond, seemingly in range of the "trail" the majority of turkeys had followed that evening. The plan being they would fly down and walk that trail right past me for a 20 yard shot in the morning.
 

vanish

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Did I mention how pretty the morning are in E. CO?



Looking at my new blind location, my thought process was they would fly down from the roost ( not exact ), strut in the field and then come over to water, putting them right in front of me.



Before that, I got a little bonus.


Well of course, as they say, roosted ain't roasted. They did fly down in the general area I expected, but most of them moved off in other directions. One flock came through my ambush, but they moved so fast I never even had a chance. They did not go to the water though, and continued on. Two toms were up next, and I thought that would be my chance, but they seemed to circle me at 50 yards.

I gave it awhile but it was apparent that the turkeys had moved up into the hills. I decided to try a little spot and stalk. I glassed up a tom strutting on a little hump where it seemed I could use a ditch to close the distance. As I moved into range of that hump, I found he moved to be with some hens, but still seemingly within range of the ditch. I snuck down the ditch and managed to get ahead of them without being spotted. They were about as close as they were going to get so I drew and eased up the edge. Just as I was gaining my sight picture, as unseen jake within 15 yards of me busted me and alerted the group. Damn!

I spent the rest of the morning scouting, finding several more toms but not being able to get within 100 yards. The birds had almost zero interest in calls, I believe because it was just too open. They'd sometimes gobble in response but would never move closer.
 

dirtclod Az.

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Did I mention how pretty the morning are in E. CO?



Looking at my new blind location, my thought process was they would fly down from the roost ( not exact ), strut in the field and then come over to water, putting them right in front of me.



Before that, I got a little bonus.


Well of course, as they say, roosted ain't roasted. They did fly down in the general area I expected, but most of them moved off in other directions. One flock came through my ambush, but they moved so fast I never even had a chance. They did not go to the water though, and continued on. Two toms were up next, and I thought that would be my chance, but they seemed to circle me at 50 yards.

I gave it awhile but it was apparent that the turkeys had moved up into the hills. I decided to try a little spot and stalk. I glassed up a tom strutting on a little hump where it seemed I could use a ditch to close the distance. As I moved into range of that hump, I found he moved to be with some hens, but still seemingly within range of the ditch. I snuck down the ditch and managed to get ahead of them without being spotted. They were about as close as they were going to get so I drew and eased up the edge. Just as I was gaining my sight picture, as unseen jake within 15 yards of me busted me and alerted the group. Damn!

I spent the rest of the morning scouting, finding several more toms but not being able to get within 100 yards. The birds had almost zero interest in calls, I believe because it was just too open. They'd sometimes gobble in response but would never move closer.
Shotguns are our friends... 💥
 

vanish

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Before I went for my routine nap ( :D ) I decided to move my blind again. It seemed there was a culvert creating a little land bridge over a ditch and the turkeys liked to walk over that. There was one bush clump where I could nestle my blind, giving me a 10-15 yard shot if they crossed that bridge. I gathered a bunch of tumbleweeds to give additional cover. I also built a couple clumps with the idea I could draw when a turkey walked behind them.



It was very hot that day, in the 90s I believe. Returning in late afternoon, the winds had kicked up significantly, and undid much of my tumbleweed work as well as nearly flattening my blind. I got it reconstructed as best as I could and settled in.

Slow ... that was the only way to categorize it. Luckily, I had a piece of burlap to put out so I could lie down and a smartphone to keep me occupied, plus some deer came out to provide some entertainment. During the last half hour, I think I saw 30 different whitetails, all but one being does.

In Colorado, you can hunt until sunset in the evening. With about 30 minutes remaining, the small flock I had busted during my spot and stalk adventure in the morning came in from the opposite direction. They feed in the field in front of me, wavering between 80 and 140 yards. What a tease.

With 15 minutes to go, a group of hens came across the culvert. My ambush worked, as they didn't know I was there. As they made it over to the other flock, I gave up hope there would be a tom following them. Naturally, the moment I lowered my bow a jake came through. He was missing the ladies though, and I never would have had a shot as he was moving fast.

Down to 3 minutes before sunset. The flock in front of me has mostly roosted. Peep, peep, peep. This is it! Due to the wind, my blind had kind of reshapen a bit, and I couldn't sit on my bucket nor even really make a kneeling position work. This meant my only option was this goofy butt sit with legs behind me position. It wasn't ideal. I drew before seeing anything, as I was certain they'd be visible any moment.

Sure enough though, a hen popped out right in front of me, with 3 toms immediately following. They were all inside 20 yards, so I just picked a random tom and drilled it right into the ground in front of him. Yeah that's right, I missed a sub-20 turkey, and by good margin. How? Well, it was part shooting position and part panic. My legs were kind of leveraging me forward, so as soon as I released I dropped my bow arm straight down. Boy, did I feel dumb. I set it up almost perfectly and I blew it.

The turkeys didn't spook, but they had moved out just enough for me to not feel comfortable, especially after the easy miss. I watched them for 10 minutes or so before they made their way to the roost. While the score was turkeys 2 - vanish 0, I felt confident I could make it count the next day.

 

vanish

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With day 3 on the horizon, it was time to take a trick from @dirtclod Az. 's book. I knew the spot I wanted to be, and there wouldn't be any way to get cover for a bow setup, so the Ithaca would be joining me.

I'd be fairly close to the birds, since I knew exactly where they were roosted, and I had very good idea where they would fly down, so I headed out an extra 15 minutes early this morning. This put me prone under a bush with the birds in sight. Things got exciting when the first bird flew down while I was slightly out of position, followed by all the rest of the birds, but as they had landed within 30 yards of me in the wide open, all I had to do was lift the gun and squeeze. I ended up getting the same tom I had flubbed the shot on the night before.

 

dirtclod Az.

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With day 3 on the horizon, it was time to take a trick from @dirtclod Az. 's book. I knew the spot I wanted to be, and there wouldn't be any way to get cover for a bow setup, so the Ithaca would be joining me.

I'd be fairly close to the birds, since I knew exactly where they were roosted, and I had very good idea where they would fly down, so I headed out an extra 15 minutes early this morning. This put me prone under a bush with the birds in sight. Things got exciting when the first bird flew down while I was slightly out of position, followed by all the rest of the birds, but as they had landed within 30 yards of me in the wide open, all I had to do was lift the gun and squeeze. I ended up getting the same tom I had flubbed the shot on the night before.

Funny thing...I own an Ithica Featherlight 12ga. my Dad bought me 35-40yrs ago!
Nice Tom!! 💥
 

vanish

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We followed that with a trip to the west slope to try our luck on 9 of the 100+ lakes with trout. Bound to be a highlight trip of the year, as the catching was just soooo good and we managed to catch 8 different types of coldwater fish. No giant fish, but personal best tiger trout for both of us, and one chonk of a brookie. We got skunked at two lakes, but had 50+ fish days at two of them. I also caught quite a few fish on my DIY minnow lures.





 

vanish

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This week I made it to a couple local lakes I hadn't ever fished because the trailhead is always ridiculously busy. I arrived at 5:30am to 6 cars and left at 3:00pm to 53 cars ... on a weekday. It was a nice hike but the fishing was lackluster. I had to resort to metal at the upper lake due to wind, fishing my way 2/3 of the way around with no sign of fish. Hit the creek on the way down, as it was very high but clear and fish were stacked in the beaver ponds.







 

bts09

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Awesome pictures, man. Every time I read these entries I wonder what I'm doing with my life. (But, you know, keep 'em coming.)
 

vanish

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Finally visited one of the closest trailheads to my home a few days ago. Still, I slept in the truck at the TH so I could comfortably start the 7.5 mile hike to this lake near dawn.

The fishing was a blast... However, I did not have a blast making it the last mile to the lake itself, nor navigating around the damn thing. It took me 2 hours to do the first 6.5 miles, 90 minutes to do the last mile, and another 30 minutes to get to the inlet side of the lake, meaning it was darn near 10am by the time I even started fishing.

The fish were almost all pre-spawn and hungry though, so once I found the fish ( on the far side of the lake, naturally ), it was game on, hooking over 50 solid, beautiful, pre-spawn fish in like 3 hours. I used both fly and spin effectively, though the best seemed to be a simple nymph under an indicator. I was able to sight fish quite a bit as well, which is always fun.



 

vanish

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I'm sure some of you are like ... Ryan, you said you had a great tag, where's the scouting trip?!

Well, there's some medical stuff going on preventing me from leaving town for more than one night at a time at the moment. That ends next week, so I'll be headed to SW Colorado for my first scouting trip next Wednesday. ✊

In the meantime, these alpine fishing hikes are a great way to get in shape.
 

vanish

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We managed to get out for a day on a river with my Dad to celebrate a belated Father's Day. The trip was a bit of a disaster as we were supposed to be out for a few days, but something important was left at home and we had to drive home that night.

The fishing was fair, but nothing like the last time we were there 17 years ago. We landed far fewer fish, but on average the fish we hooked were much larger. Curiously, we had caught mostly cutthroats on that trip years ago, and this time we caught rainbows and brookies. I managed to long-distance-release all my nice sized rainbows. :D



 
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