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Tag Archives: turkey hunting

A Day in the Life … of a College Hunter

By Jake Ray
Contributing Writer

I traded my Nike frees for camo boots.

Jake Ray in his normal college attire

Jake Ray in his normal college attire

I traded my flat-billed Cleveland Indians ball cap for a fitted camo Team Realtree hat.

I traded my backpack and books for a backpack chair and a turkey decoy.

I traded my Under Armour hoodie and Nike shorts for a camouflage coat and pants.

I traded my pencil and pen for a slate and box call.

I traded in my beats by Dre headphones for my shotgun.

And I traded going to work and class to go hunting.

Jake Ray transformed into hunter!

Jake Ray transformed into hunter!


Going to school in Ashland, Ohio, the home of Ashland University (an Amish community), I am not far from fields, woods and animals.

Hunting is a part of people’s lives here. On campus, it is not unusual to see a camo hat, camo backpack, or even a horse and buggy riding up Claremont. Ashland is also home to Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters. This is great for me because it’s a place where I can go and get away from everything – be in an atmosphere that I am comfortable in.

Being here makes me feel at home. Hunting and being in the outdoors has been a part of my family for a long time. This made coming to college easier. Sharing hunting stories, getting permission to hunt on friends’ land, all of this made the transition easier.

The view from the field

The view from the field


Being in school from August to May, I am in Ashland for both major hunting seasons. Even though I go home on the weekends to hunt with family, I have been hunting in Ashland a couple of times. In Ashland, I do not hunt on a lot of land, only six acres, but it’s hunting. Any land is better than none and hunting is, well … hunting!

Hunting has been a way for me to release stress and just get away from the hustle and bustle of the college atmosphere.

I am not a typical college student. I don’t party. I don’t drink. I am in bed before midnight almost every night. I get my work done on time, I study, and I don’t procrastinate.

A lot of other students would dread getting up before the sun rises to go sit in the woods and be quiet for 3 or 4 hours. No Instagram. No Facebook. No Twitter. I don’t care about any of that. I love it.

Ready for business.

Ready for business.


Hearing the woods wake up and seeing what our wonderful God has created is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Because of circumstances, I was not able to hunt in Ashland the opening week of Ohio turkey season. But I did go back home and hunt on land I am very familiar with.

My dad and I had built a turkey blind the week before, using the knowledge of what the turkeys did last year. This is the spot I sat – my hunch was right. It wasn’t the big double bearded Tom I was looking for, but seeing turkeys made the day worth it. The first one I saw was a hen that I called back and forth in. It came and went with no problem.

About an hour and a half later, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a Jake with a hen behind it. They came up the same way the first hen did. I called to them, hoping to lure the Jake to my decoy. It didn’t work, but it did pull the second Jake that I did not seen right to my decoy.

My heart was racing.

Yes, it was only a Jake, but this happens to me every time I get a chance to bag an animal. The Jake was 15 yards in front of me. My safety was off . . . but I went home empty handed. Right after I decided to take this turkey, there was a hen about 30 yards past the gobbler in front of me that made three short “clucks.”

I froze.

I let the Jake walk away hoping for this hen to bring a Tom into shooting range. She didn’t. I didn’t see a turkey the rest of the morning. I had the opportunity to take a bird, but I passed – the wrong decision. It is okay. That’s why it is called “hunting” and not “killing.”

No turkey or a tagged bird in the truck, but it was a day I got to spend in one of my favorite places – the woods. A day in the woods is never a day wasted.

Yes, I could have slept in. Yes, I could have eaten a good breakfast and worked on homework. Yes, I could have gone to class.

But I didn’t. I went hunting.

___

Jake Ray is a rising junior at Ashland University in Ohio

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Jazzed For the Turkey Chase

There may have been similar posts on here in recent years, but I just don’t recall a spring that I have been more excited to hit the woods chasing turkeys.

The reasons why seem logical:

CST

– Deer season ended too long ago – and the 2012 season saw me hit the woods fewer days than any other season over the last 20 years.

– I’ve had a chance to see more turkeys already this spring than I recall over recent years – especially in my home state of NC.

– My hunting buddies keep posting pictures online of the turkeys they’re already killing in states that have already kicked off turkey season.

– I’ve not had a chance to kill a turkey since 2011.

– My local hunting buddies’ interest in turkey hunting is rising at the same rate as the NC population of thunder chickens.

– My preseason scouting trip reminded me of my love for opening a morning to the sounds of a gobble.

One other reason is worth mentioning. If you read this blog, you know I’m a big fan of Midwest Whitetail productions. And the same group of producers for that semi-live online hunting show have created a similarly themed turkey show, Cabela’s Spring Thunder.

Host Aaron Warbritton does a great job in the role and it’s easy to see that he and his turkey hunting cohorts know what they’re doing when it comes to chasing turkeys.

Here’s hoping we’re connecting on a few chases here over the next month. We’ll certainly keep you posted on when that happens!

Don’t forget to “Like” our page on Facebook. Just click here. And keep us all posted on how your turkey season is going!


Lady Luck Nets First Bird Memories

It’s a little ironic that it took Lady Luck to close out an otherwise picture-perfect turkey hunt, which netted my hunting buddy Jason Shell’s first gobbler. The irony stems from the fact it was a small group of ladies who nearly botched it too!

This hunt started with a scouting trip to the area a week prior, where a tom strutting in a field piqued the interest of these hunters. Limited time afield this Spring left the final day of the North Carolina turkey season as the last call to try and get Jason connected with turkey numero uno.

We stationed a ground blind in the back corner of a freshly cut alfalfa field, plunked a tom and hen decoy in front of us and waited cautiously for day to break before making the first yelp of the morning.

Our excitement grew long before the first stroke on my David Halloran Sugartown Sweetness pot call as a tom presented a familiar, hair-raising shock gobble less than a football field from where we sat.

“Here we go,” I muttered.

A few series of yelps were met not only by the early-rising gobbler, but also by no fewer than two other birds within shouting distance from our setup.

We were in the game!

The closest bird seemed lazy not wanting to leave his overnight perch in the tree. As such, we started to focus on another bird that had clearly set foot aground and made his way our direction.

He was getting closer.

After a game of flirting back and forth, we knew the interested tom was just in the woods to the left of our blind, although we were not-yet able to see him. He seemed to be strutting back and forth along the hedgerow before making his commitment to enter the field.

That’s when he caught a glimpse of our decoys.

The bird entered our field just 25 yards away. Because we had a small handheld video camera in tow, I told Jason to wait on my call before pulling the trigger. He was going to be to our decoys soon and our picture-perfect hunt would be in the books.

Like most successful hunts, a small audible needed called in our game plan.

Just when everything was going too well, the turkey started veering away from our setup on a slow walk. Little did I know until afterwards, but a group of ladies were making their morning walk on the old road some 400-500 yards away from our setup. The ol’ tom had seen them and seemed to be heading toward safer woods.

It was time for Jason to shoot.

He dropped the hammer on the bird to end a great hunt that nearly turned sour. And his first turkey was on the board. I think it’s safe to assume he’ll be chasing more birds in years to come after this successful hunt and a number of close calls over the last couple seasons.


AHT 8 Questions: Eddie Salter

Waking up Spring mornings with the return call of a tom turkey is among the greatest thrills an outdoorsman gets to experience. And who knows how many pre-sunrise mornings were welcomed by that unforgettable sound for Eddie Salter. He’s called The Turkey Man, and the Evergreen, Ala., native is among the sport’s most recognizable when it comes to tackling turkeys.

He’s done pretty well mimicking them in turkey-calling contests too. Salter has won more than 60 times during his decorated calling career and is a two-time World Champion. He knows his turkeys. Salter will be hosting a “Talkin Turkey” marathon this Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET on The Sportsman Channel.

We caught up with Eddie recently to talk a little gobble, deer hunting and to find out what he’s been working on recently. He was more than willing to share some of that with you, the AHT readers.

1) Where did the passion for hunting come from?
My passion came from my daddy and seeing and hearing turkeys in the pasture behind my house. I started hunting with small game squirrels and rabbits – then came turkeys around 9-years old.

2) Why did you start turkey calling competitions? And do you still compete at all?
I felt like all the practice for the competitions and just the being around other callers and picking up on different ways to call and tricks of the game would help me in the woods. I do not compete anymore and stopped around 10 years ago.

3) What has been one of the best things/products you’ve seen come to the market lately for turkey hunting?
One of best products lately has got to be the squealing hen call or The Haint Gobble Call from Down N Dirty Outdoors.

4) You’ve completed multiple Grand Slams – what’s your favorite bird to hunt? Why?
I’d have to say it’s the Eastern turkey, simply because it’s the hardest turkey to kill due to all the hunting pressure it gets.

5) What are some of the projects you’re working on right now? New shows?
Well, I’m working with a new job that I enjoy – designing and working on new products for Down N Dirty Outdoors. I’m also starting a new television show that will air soon on The Sportsman Channel called “The Turkey Man Series” which starts airing April 1 at 1:30 p.m. ET.

6) What’s your favorite hunt over the years, either hunting yourself or calling for someone else?

This is an easy one for me. Without question, it’s taking my daughter when she killed her first turkey. She was around 14 at the time. Another one that is special is when she called me in a Rio in Texas last year. She is now 28.

7) Let’s set up the situation. You aren’t allowed to call the turkey, who would you want working the calls when you HAVE to talk a bird in?
If I couldn’t work the call and had to have somebody else calling … For me, it would have to be my brother, Dewan Salter.

8) We know you’re a successful deer hunter too. Ok, if the whitetail rut (and the deer season) happened during Spring turkey season, how would you be spending your days?
Another easy one. I would pick turkey hunting 10 to 1 over deer hunting any day!

Cat Tales: We got a chance to check out The Haint Gobble call in action when we met up with Eddie. What a neat call! Definitely worth learning more about.


Spot and Stalk Turkey Hunt Nets Bird, Memory

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Contributor

It wasn’t a promising start.

May 1, 2010 had come and gone without a single gobble on our 140 acres in Upstate New York.

Heading into the spring turkey season, my hopes were extremely high. I had seen multiple birds on a nightly basis during the fall archery season, and was even fortunate enough to harvest my first turkey with an arrow on our Livingston County property.

I didn’t have a good feeling about my dismal opening day, but if there was one encouraging fact, it was that I had only heard one shotgun blast echo down the valley during that calm Saturday morning.

Convinced that other hunters had experienced similar fates, I shrugged it off and headed home thinking that most toms had already found dancing partners for the spring prom.

When Sunday morning rolled around, I didn’t. I spent the morning with my wife and two young children, who I miss on most Sundays because of work obligations.

Monday brought a new week and new hope for me, but because of daddy duties, I wasn’t in the woods that morning either.

Nine o’clock came and that meant time to get my 5-year old off to school. We were two miles from the house and I happened to glance over, and there in a green field, was a strutting tom and at least one hen. I really didn’t think much about it, as my 2-year old was in the back seat and intent on spending the day with daddy.

That all changed though when I drove back by and saw Mr. Handsome still struttin’ his stuff. I couldn’t stand it anymore – I felt like a pot of cold water on a hot stove and I knew a pursuit would ensue.

Hard work and timely execution helped the author bag this Eastern turkey

Thinking quickly, I called our daycare provider to see if she could look after my little guy for a few hours.

By the time I dropped him off, I had roughly two hours of shooting time left, as high noon marks the end of shooting hours for turkey hunting in New York. Knowing the farmer whose field the bird was in, I stopped at the house to ask permission. He obliged and I was on my way.

My plan at this point was to get close enough to the bird and try to draw him away from his hen(s) by placing my decoy in a neighboring cut cornfield.

With a hedgerow separating me from him, I walked as far as I dared and set up on the edge of a woodlot. With my hen decoy bobbing in the west wind, I took a deep breath and then let out a yelp from my Primos diaphragm call. I waited, thinking the hot bird would for sure see the decoy and come in. But, that was far from what happened.

Thinking that the strong winds may be preventing the long beard from hearing me, I took out my slate call and gave a few strikes on it. Still nothing.

With time not on my side, I made a hasty decision to try and make something happen. Knowing that this would be my make-or-break move, I abandoned my decoy and slowly dropped back into the woods.

My hope was that I would somehow be able to gain ground on the bird while using the trees as cover.

As I crept towards the green field, the anticipation grew as I knew I was virtually on top of the bird. The question at this point though, was, “Where was he?”

I forced myself to move slowly as I feared a snapping twig would alert the bird and it would be game over.

When I reached the green field, I was astonished to see no turkeys. I thought,“You’ve got to be kidding me, right?”

I thought it was over, for sure. My thinking was that the birds had moved south prior to my arrival, however a glance through my Bushnell 10X42 binoculars proved my theory wrong.

There in the green field about 80 yards east of the hedgerow was a red head. I couldn’t believe it, not only had the bird not detected me, but he was still there.

Time to regroup.

With very little separating me from him, I needed to get behind a tree or something to ensure my presence wasn’t detected. I dropped to my knees and began to crawl down the west side of the hedgerow – using it as a buffer. I had a tree in mind that I hoped to make it to. From there I would set up and call – and for sure the bird would be able to hear me.

I made it. Tucking myself behind the mature walnut, I slowly reached for my favorite slate call. Little did I know, it had fallen during my approach.

I was forced to try and catch my breath for a minute and again using my mouth call, I let out a series of yelps, except this time I was watching his reaction through my Binos.

I couldn’t believe it; he turned his head and just sat there looking around. I let out another more aggressive call. Nothing. He wouldn’t budge. I knew he could hear me, because every time I called, he looked my direction. No gobble, no strut, no nothing.

With my bag of tricks empty and my decoy left behind, I questioned my next move. He’s about 60 yards from me at this point.

I gave a few more calls, to no avail. With my watch now reading 11:15 a.m., I had few options but to force the issue.

Slowly rolling onto my side I began to belly crawl towards the green field and the bird. I had pulled this trick off before some 15 years ago, but that time on a wounded whitetail. This time, I was dealing with an animal whose main defense was his eyes, and here I was out in the middle of a wide open field. For sure he would see me. But I had little options.

By the time I reached the green field, my arms began to burn, but my confidence grew.

As I entered a little swale in the field, I picked out a yellow weed in the clover, knowing that if I could make it to that point, my Harrington and Richardson single shot could do the rest.

The author displays the fruits of his labor. The bird weighed 21 lbs and sports a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs

I had reached the yellow weed without being detected, and in one smooth motion, I cocked the hammer on the 3-inch mag, came to rest on my knees and steadied my truglo sight on the red head. A swift squeeze of the trigger and the bird went down flopping. I ran up on him not believing I had pulled off the best spot-and-stalk of my life.

The bird weighed 21 lbs. with a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. Not my biggest bird to date, but quite possibly my best trophy – or at least the most memorable one.

I hoisted the long beard over my back and headed home. It was about that time that I realized I had had crawled through a large patch of poison ivy along the way!


Close is good enough on this day

These hunters had been after it for the better part of six hours when Brody, the 10-year-old hunter of honor, revealed his game plan for trying to get his grandpa to get him a turkey gun for his 11th birthday in a few weeks. He said he couldn’t wait to go turkey hunting again.

This day’s hunt was a success!

Brody was the hunter. And I was his mentor, which is a nice way to say that all the pressure was on me to make sure he had fun during the Fort Bragg QDMA Annual Youth Turkey Hunt. The hunt, it its third year, is a great program that pairs the kids of military soldiers with turkey hunters to hunt Fort Bragg’s 251 square miles during North Carolina’s Youth Day.

Brody shows his shooting form!

Each hunter and mentor are teamed with a chaperone who is familiar with Fort Bragg’s terrain – a sort of human version of a GPS that proved quite useful.

The morning got started with all teams meeting for a safety / informational session at 4 a.m. This meant a 12:30 a.m. wake up call for my hunting buddy Chris and me to make sure we were on base in time. Upon talking with a couple mentors who had scouted the area Brody would be hunting, it sounded as though our chances of communicating with Tom Turkey were pretty high. So too was the pressure for me to give Brodie some good turkey-hunting memories.

We were able to hear a few gobbles off the roost shortly after first light. Sadly, they were all several hundred yards from our initial setup. We needed to move quickly.

Three setups and two hours later, we started a series of calls off the edge of a narrow LZ (that’s “landing zone” in Fort Bragg speak!). Two minutes into the set, a gobble some 100 yards away sets the woods to life. One problem, though. It was 180 degrees from where we were facing. We quickly swiveled around. Two more gobbles indicated the bird was coming our way, and coming in a hurry.

I caught a glimpse of the bird – check that, two birds – crossing an opening 50 yards or so away. The first of the two Toms crested the small ridge ahead of us – some 25 yards away – and was looking for a hen. Our decoy was roughly 20 yards behind is at this point and I was hoping his eyes would catch the decoy before they caught us.

Pictured here is the group of youth hunters who participated in Fort Bragg's Annual Youth Turkey Hunt

The lead bird moved to within 20 yards of our spread. The second bird was not quite as interested in spending a lot of time looking for this hen. He was starting to feel a little antsy and decided to walk the opposite direction. It was time for the shot. It didn’t happen, and that’s okay.

Amidst the excitement of the turkeys coming so close, Brody froze! He admitted later that he couldn’t have truly froze because he was “shaking really bad.” It was an adrenaline rush for all of us, but especially for Brody. His first turkey hunt and he had two long beards within range! I felt the pressure come off my back a little bit.

Following a fantastic lunch for the group of hunters, we headed back to the woods for a few hours of trying to get a turkey to answer us. We decided to call it a day after a few more hours.

With 13 hunters bagging three turkeys, the Youth Day at Fort Bragg was considered a success.

Brody said he wants to go turkey hunting again ... soon!

The bag total wasn’t the lone indicator for it being a good day. Also part of the measurement were the smiles and laughs presented by the young hunters throughout the day.

For the record: In addition to the Youth Hunt, Fort Bragg QDMA facilitates a Wounded Warrior turkey hunt the second Saturday of the general season. The organization also sets up deer hunts for youth and Wounded Warriors each fall. It’s able to do each of these with the support of a lot of donors and volunteers. While this was my first time participating, I look forward to helping again.