Off to Nebraska to bowhunt a Rio and Merriam with Calamus Outfitters. It is the Middle of May and the birds had been pretty vocal and responsive to calls based on feedback from guys from the ranch. As luck would have it some weather came in and shut the birds down. Also, every long beard we saw that first day was “henned up”. We had our work cut out for us to get a bird into bow range and on film. We did find an awesome Merriam the first day we were going to target the second morning. Tip – “There is fine line between being aggressive and pushing the envelope to far. If you can make a move on bird, go for it. If you can be patient and have a better set up for bow kill the next day consider that. I rolled the dice but decided to wait to hunt him next morning.“ We got set up early early on this Merriam the second morning in a ground blind. As the day started to come to life we heard him gobble his head off, so all was looking good. Well, we thought so until we had a mature hen start “putting” at us from no where. She finally calmed down and we continued to hear him gobble. Over the next 30 minutes he finally began to work his way into our set up. We softly called with a few yelps and purrs to let him know we were here. He finally came in our area but never to the decoy. The hens he was with skirted about 50 yards from the decoys and he was taking the same path. He began to put on a show about 40 yards from blind and slowly worked his way towards the hens in front of the blind. My camera man Dillon and I were waiting to see if he would commit or if he was going to continue to get farther away. Finally, he got about 35 yards away but hung up, so I decided to take a shot. He was in full strut facing me and let the arrow go…Well, I missed! I shot right under him! He jumped up and ran in a circle but went right back into full strut. I quickly nocked another arrow and made sure Dillon was on camera. He said yes and I shot again this time hitting him. The shot was a little forward at about 40 yards. It was a hard hit but not in my preferred area of the bird for an instant kill. We knew he was hurting because he was slowly walking and then laid down. I gave him some time and he was done a few minutes later. He was one of the most beautiful birds I had ever seen or shot. When I got to him the whole that he had in him from the Swhacker was MASSIVE! He was about 20lbs. with 9 inch beard and inch spurs. Just solid Merriam! Again, the PSE Revenge did not let me down……
That night we did some scouting and located a Rio and made plan for him the next morning. We had a bird roosted in a lone tree about 200 yards in front of us thinking he would go to the birds roosted to the south of us. We anticipated he would pitch down and come to us before going under a gate to get to the other birds. That is exactly what he did except my guide had us set up more for a shot gun than bow. We set up in pitch dark and before I could do anything to adjust this bird would have seen us . He was already on the ground running toward us. I drew my bow but had to shoot through the gaps on a steel gate that had barbed wire strung in between the gaps or openings. The bird got to 10 yards and I was at full draw. I did my best to shoot through a very narrow opening of steel and wire. Well, you can imagine the arrow hit the gate and hunt was over and slam was in jeopardy. Needless to say I was highly frustrated at the outcome. When you are that close and come up short in that way it is tough. I literally had to go back to ranch pack my bags and head to the airport to catch my flight. It was a long 5 hour drive back to airport.
The ranch owner knew how close we came and invited me to come back if I could squeeze out two more days. Well you know I was going to do anything I could to make this happen. Due to understanding wife and family I was able to literally SQUEEZE two more days out. After watching my nephew graduate from West Point Military Academy over the weekend in New York, the next day I jumped on flight back to Nebraska. Dillon who is the guide and was filming me, targeted another Rio in the same area were we missed one a few weeks earlier. We made a plan and moved our ground blind in an area that would not spook the birds. For some reason the turkeys in this area DO NOT like ground blinds. We tucked in away in area that was not in plain sight, set out (4) hen decoys and a jake. After an hour or soo and some soft purrs and clucks I got a nice Gobbler to come in. He was nice bird that gave us a great show. The challenge was he only had 2-3 inch beard and we could not see his spurs. The alfalfa was too tall. This bird did not have the other characteristics or body language of jake. He had big body and full fan. Knowing there was better bird in the area I passed on him. Well, the show then started when we had (3) hens come in and get beyond mad at our decoys. The were fighting them, fanned out and strutting around decoys. That instantly brought in (4) jakes, then more hens and then more jakes. We had 20 plus birds right on us for 45 minutes. It was awesome.. Well a few minutes later the big tom shows up on the edge of the fence from the woods and works his way into the pasture. He stayed out about 45 yards with few hens. This was the Rio I had been waiting on! As hard as it was not try to shoot him at that range I decided to see if he would commit in towards the other birds on decoys. It boiled down to what a few hens were going to do as he was on them for most of the time. They decided to come in and fight the decoys and he came with him. He got to 25 yards at the decoys and was strutting around a few times. I drew my bow and told Dillon I am going to shoot him. Once he turned broadside I smoked him at 25 or so yards and he dropped in his tracks. This Rio was huge at 23-24 lbs. 10 inch beard and 1 1/4 spurs. The Turkey Grand Slam with Bow was complete!
Overall, one of the most rewarding experiences in my hunting career. Six states in three months. To have friends and family cheering me on along the way and to not give up when things did to work out, I feel very blessed and grateful! Again, this trip took some planning and the help of Scoutlook Weather.com was essential for me to determine the best days to get in the field to make the most of my time. I now love to use Scoutlook for Turkey Hunting like I have used it for deer hunting. I like the hourly weather, scent cones based on wind direction, solunar tables, moon up/moon down information and barrometric pressure data it provides. It is a great all around resources for hunting, fishing and even golf. I trust Scoutlook Weather more than any other weather website on the internet!
I turned 40 this year and one of my items “to do’s” was kill Turkey Grand Slam with a bow & archery equipmentall on film. I started planning this quest in January with the help of a lot of friends. As a passionate bowhunter and turkey hunter I thought this would be a good test to see if I could combine both of these passions. I hope to share with you some highlights from this journey as well as some learning’s along the way. Finally, I will discuss a tool that I used to help me plan my hunts called Scoutlook Weather.com.
I would start the slam down in Central Florida on Co-Founder, Bill Lawson’s leased ranch. I have bowhunted with Bill down there for several years with nothing but frustration to show. This year was going to be different based on leason’s learned and a new strategy. Going back to Kissimmee is going home for me as I grew up with Bill hunting anything that had four legs in Central Florida since we were kids. This trip we also had friends David Welch and Thomas Sutherland from Spook Nation TV. Bill had scouted a number of locations for us to bowhunt. The first morning Thomas and I hunted together with the hope of doubling up with our bows. Thomas let me hunt first and he had the camera. This morning started with hens yelping and gobbles a ways off. Thomas is champion turkey caller, so I let him work his magic right out of the gate. It was not long before we had young gobbler come in to see what was going on. We had a few HS Strut decoys out (Woody “Jake” and Jezebel “Hen”). About thirty minutes later and a few sequence calls between Thomas and I, we heard two toms coming in. We got ready and around the palmettos came two mature long beards straight to the decoys. These two birds came in on a string and I got ready to shoot. These birds came in straight to the jake decoy and postured very aggressively letting him know he was low man on totem pole. I told Thomas which bird I was going to shoot and I smoked him at 22 yards. He went less than 10 yards and was done! The bird that was killed was awesome Osceola with an 11 inch beard that was like paint brush, inch and quarter spurs and weighed 20 lbs.
Next, hunt was with good friend David Welch from Tennessee. We hunted on his families farm opening weekend with high hopes of a great bow hunt. David is a outstanding turkey hunter and camera man. He graciously filmed for me knowing of my quest to get the slam. We started out the morning on the edge of the field in a ground blind that was set up the day before. As the day started to come to life we heard birds off in the distance. David felt the birds had roosted deeper in the hard woods than he expected they would. We had a hen and super jake come into our set up but no long beards. We decided to get out of the blind and go to the birds. We quickly located a group of gobblers with hens on edge of pasture next to a creek. We put a plan together to go set up on these birds by following the creek to give us cover until we go to within 80 or so yards. We got set up as best we could next to a fallen tree. David set out the “Spin & Strut Decoy” and we got set up. It did not take many calls to know the birds were on their way. A few minutes later we had two long beards come into our set up and the show began. I anticipated they would go to the decoy and give me a shot to my right with David behind me filming the action. Instead they decided to stay in front where I had a limited shot over this large fallen tree. I decided that it was now or never and took my first shot. Instead of hitting a bird the arrow ricocheted off of a branch and off to “now where land”. David quickly started to mouth call to keep the birds focused on our set up. I instantly nocked another arrow, drew my Revenge and located the gobbler. David was right there with the camera and as the bird was walking away at about 35 yards. I shot and hit him in the back of the neck and he dropped in his tracks! It was awesome…The other gobbler immediately started to peck the dead bird and stood on top of him and gobbled and gobbled. It was an awesome hunt to call the birds in from the ground, miss first shot and get another shot off to drop him in his tracks. He was 2o lb. bird, 9 inch beard 1 inch spurs. Overall, a great bowhunt and the footage is awesome!
Now, I am off to hunt in Missouri with good friend Mike Stogsdill from Tru-Tone Calls and Spin & Strut Decoys. Mike invited me to bowhunt an Eastern on a Missouri farm he manages. This place has not had a lot of turkey hunting in the recent years, so the birds do not have a lot of pressure. It had been raining the night before so the birds were slow to get off the roost. We heard an occasional gobble but they were way off. Mike and I tag teamed the calls on our Tru-Tone Wet Tech friction calls that finally got them fired up and coming into our location. We used a series of purrs/clucks and soft yelps to get them gobbling. With both of us doing this, it seemed to get them interested enough to come around the corner of woods so we could see them. We were set up on a point in the field that had old cut corn field to our left and open field of alfalfa to our right. Now that they can see the decoys that included an HS Strut Hen and Spin & Strut Decoy the game was on. We softly called to keep them focused on our set up and they started to come in. These were two beautiful long beards that were coming on a string. I would move the Spin & Strut but not over do it to be too aggressive. The movement of this decoy I am convenienced got them interested enough to come check it out. Unfortunately, they did not come straight into the decoys. Instead they skirted out around the decoys at 40 yards. It was now or never. Mike got on the birds with the camera and I picked out the bird I thought I could get a shot on. I let it go at 41 yards as he was walking at angle in some fairly tall grass. Again, the PSE Revenge and the Swhacker did not let me down. I smoked that bird and he did two flips in the air and it was over. The other gobbler jumped on top of him and gobbled his head off and then left the scene. When I got to this bird he was “eat up” by the Swhacker. It put a massive hole in him and broke his wing. This Eastern had 10 inch beard with little over inch spurs and weighed about 22 lbs. Nice bird.
Tip - “Don’t over call even when you don’t hear anything for while. Sometimes soft purrs and clucks will get them to come in even if they do not gobble. When they do call back, then you can be more vocal. If you can use two calls at the same time even if you are by yourself that can work well. For example; using mouth call and friction call to simulate two birds.”
A tool that I use on a regular basis is www.SoutlookWeather.com App on my iphone. Scoutlookweather.com is one of the most comprehensive weather resources I have ever come across. The data it provides is highly accurate and specific to my needs as hunter. I used the hourly weather data on the hunt in Missouri to help me know how to manage the hunt and travel. I had to carefully plan each hunt for this slam without many days to waste so knowing the weather was critical. The developers of Scoutlook Weather are hunters and they understand the importance of accurate quality information for hunting and fishing. The convenience of an iphone app for Scoutlook is so helpful due to my need to regularly keep up with the weather in the different parts of the country I was going to bowhunt for the slam.
The Rio was next on the hit list for the slam. I was invited to go out to the Rattle Snake Springs Ranch outside of San Antonio, Texas (hill country) to turkey hunt. They have not done much Turkey Hunting over the years on this ranch, so I was somewhat working blind on this hunt. The first day was a matter of trying to locate birds and figure out how they are going to respond to calling. It was a slow day but finally located a bird that late afternoon and roosted him for that next morning. The next morning could not come fast enough with me using whatever cover I could find to set up. I would be hunting on the ground and trying to film as well. Not the optimal scenario for bowhunting turkeys. Without a lot of cover to choose from, I set up next to a tree with decoys in front. As morning broke I started to hear the gobbles of the bird I had roosted the evening before. Not only did I hear that bird I heard a bird directly to my right on the hill side that became very vocal. This bird pitched down within 15 yards of me with two other jakes. He was a giant! I was stuck without the ability to move to adjust to him. You talk about frustrating! If he would have come into the decoy set up I would have had a shot but he decided to walk down the road. I quickly turned as he got out to 40 yards and stopped him. I took a shot at him but missed with the arrow just going under him. That was a tough pill to shallow because I had to fly out the evening. This was a short two day hunt that did not result in a Rio. You can imagine the pressure was mounting because there are only soo many days to hunt in a hand full of states to shoot a Rio. That next week I called Calamus Outfitters and talked to Adam the owner. I had already set up a hunt for the Merriam in mid May on his place. I asked him if he had any places to hunt a Rio on his ranches in Nebraska. He said he had a few locations with a handful of true Rios that he would get me on after we shoot the Merriam. We would have to travel to it but we could make it happen. Game on!