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So there we were. Off to my nephew’s property in The Dalles to bag some spring turkeys. He has 80 acres of rural property with wild game everywhere. He told us, “Yeah, come on over. Kill those sumbitches. They’re always waking me up and crapping all over my porch. Kill all of them if you want to.” Excellent. Wild turkey for the holiday in 6 months.  We arrive late and set up camp. OK, not you’re everyday kind of camp. We are in his man cave, complete with woodstove, pool table, couch, cots, cable TV. My God, it was rough. No shower. I guess we’ll only stay one day . . .

At first light, we camo up and commence the stalk. I’m anticipating deep fried bird, with all the trimmings. After bagging some birds, we’re going to gather some wild morel mushrooms to add to the bounty.

As the morning progresses, it’s clear that they leave the roosting tree well before the greying of dawn. We spend the day exploring trails, checking game camera footage and running some fresh gas through the quad.

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As the afternoon wanes, we head back to the “roosting tree.” It’s a very curious fir tree, about 70 feet tall and all the top branches have no needles or bark on them. Seems the turkeys have rubbed them bare. I’m excited as the sun starts to set and my nephew says to get ready.
I have my Benelli M1 Super 90 stoked with high base #4 shot, 3-inch magnums. Perfect turkey slaying ammo. It says so right on the box. Heck, there is even a person holding a dead turkey on the cover! And at five dollars a round, quite the bargain. Sean agreed and bought a box too. This is gonna be great!
We position ourselves near “the tree” and hunker down. The plan is to count to three when a bird lands and double drill him. The first bird comes out of nowhere and lands on a barren branch. I look at Sean and he shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head. He can’t see it due to the branches. I put the front sight just under the turkey’s ass and give the trigger a steady pull. Fifteen pounds of pull on a 4-pound trigger and I realize the safety is on. Haha. “Buck fever?” What’s that?
OK, re-center the sight and squelch the giggles. BOOM! Feathers blow off.
The turkey walks down the branch and looks down at me trying to figure out where the noise is coming from. As he unfurls his massive wings, Sean now has a shot. BOOM! More feathers blow away. The big tom looks at him and flies away.
I’m watching, waiting for it to drop out of the sky when another BOOM interrupts my stupefied trance. I look up and there is something that looks like a Valkyrie jet bomber puffing chaff at some mysterious radar lock. It’s a turkey 20 yards away from the roosting tree, in flight, leaving behind what has to be half of its feathers. It jukes around the tree and follows the first bird. I feel an odd sensation under my chin. It’s the tips of my boots, as I stare slack-jawed at what simply can’t be. WTF?
Sean is looking at me, I’m looking at him. We shrug our shoulders and look back up. Another bomber is inbound. I tell him to wait. The bird lands and is looking around for his buddies. He is clearly nervous as he paces the branch.
Sean gives me a shrug as I shake my head at him. So we walk around the base of the tree until we are shoulder to shoulder looking at the sphincter of something that should not be able to fly. Good grief those birds are huge!
We pull up the boomsticks and I give the count of three. At three, both Benellis go BABOOM!!
Feathers are everywhere, the bird looks down towards us, clearly annoyed. I turn to look at Sean and he’s gone. I look down to my left and he’s cussing a blue streak as he tries to extricate himself from a tangle of blackberry vines, raspberry vines and the fact that his feet are higher than his head. I must say he did maintain good muzzle discipline as his shotgun is lying behind him, pointing away from both of us. Seems he may have been a bit off balance when he pulled the trigger pointing almost straight up.
To hell with him. Where did that bird fall? Oh wait, he’s flying away too.
As no other birds grace us with their presence, we walk back to the man cave, both of us muttering about leaving the .50 BMG behind. When my nephew sees us, he asks us how many turkey we bagged. I tell him that we probably killed three, but I have no idea where they are. We figure that the coyotes will eat well during the night.
We leave early the next morning to hunt for mushrooms on the drive home. Somewhere on the east flank of Mt. Hood on a dirt road, I’ve got my eyes peeled out the driver window looking for likely mushroom spots. Sean yells “Birds!” As I skid to a stop, he’s out the door, Benelli in hand running off. I get mine and take off after him. We have two gigantic things waddling/running ahead of us. The hen breaks left as the tom stays straight. Sean stops and throws another ounce of screaming pellets of death at the bird.
I watch as a ring of dust puffs around the behemoth from the shot. As my brain goes into velocity, pattern, shot size, and a mini compliment on a well-placed shot, the illogical part of my brain watches as the bird, while still running, looks over his shoulder at us, unfurls his wings and disappears down the hill. We stop the run at the top of a slight rise and look down a valley at the bird soaring away to another small hill a few hundred yards away. We watch as he lands.
I think that bird, just gave us the bird.
As we make the drive home, Sean whips out the game regulations and looks up the rules. Seems we are S.O.L. with using rifles on the shot proof Meleagris gallopavo. So at the next gun show, I was on a mission. And I think I have found what will be the cure for layers of dragon skin and bulletproof feathers…
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While there may not be a picture of a dead turkey on the box, I’m semi-almost confident of a firm maybe, that these might work. We will see.

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44 Responses to Bagging That Holiday Bird Can Be Harder Than it Looks

  1. Invited to a buddies house for a thanksgiving meal the day after thanksgiving. He had a turkey he killed with a crossbow. Apparently driving a wood shaft thru their hearts will kill them.

    • So there’s your explanation for their invulnerability to firearms: they’re actually turkey-shaped vampires. (Hey @TomInOregon, did they sparkle in the sun? I hear that’s a dead giveaway.)

      • That explains why, after thanksgiving, I never see all the weight I’m supposed to have gained in the mirror. After all, I know it’s not denial.

  2. Yes turkeys can fly, yes it looks ridiculous. Aim for the head for better luck is about all the advice I can give. Putting a group into the body tends to result in shot bouncing off and a bemused turkey flying away.

    Rifle rounds large enough to put them down quickly also tend to destroy what meat you’d want, unsure of the legality as I haven’t been hunting outside of IN and even then it was a few years ago now.

    Don’t think it would hurt the trophy as everyone I’ve met only mounts the beard and tail if that.

    • My dog treed a couple wild turkeys in my back yard. Watching a turkey fly is hilarious. It’s like watching a fat kid run a 100 yard dash.

      • You should be so lucky as to see a turkey fly across all lanes of traffic on I80 near Auburn in CA. I near wet myself I was laughing so hard.

  3. had a similar experience here in Idaho with bulletproof fall turkeys.
    <30' away-turkey loads-18" Mossberg scattergun-line of 3 birds.
    my friends, "hey, there's your Tom! go get it!" i move off the road. level the bead on the bastard. pull trigger. bird looks at me in disgust/annoyance. continues walking. rack another round. BOOM. nothing. now the Tom is making a line for thick trees. BOOM. nothing. now I'm running through the trees as if the bird had insulted my Grandmother. i see the bird through some light cover. BOOM. nothing. somewhere out there, the Great Northwestern Matrix turkey is hobbling round the woods laughing, probably wearing the sunglasses i lost out there.

  4. “like a Valkyrie jet bomber puffing chaff at some mysterious radar lock”

    This quote had me rolling lol. Better luck next time buddy. At least there was no crashing of ATVs or anything crazy horrible like the TTAG’s staffs hunting disaster-, I mean adventure.

  5. Maybe time for a crossbow?

    I’m curious what load and shot size you were using. I would think #4 to #6 with 3 or 3 1/2″ mags. You mentioned 1 oz of lead, which seems light to me. I used 2 oz. of #5 in a 3″ before I got my 3 1/2″ 12 gauge shotguns. A 10 gauge isn’t too much gun. Not trying to be a jerk, just musing here. An extra full / turkey choke and head shots seems to be the best way to go for me. I haven’t gone turkey hunting in a while, though. YMMV.

    • It was 3 inch mag, #4 shot.
      I had no idea how tough those birds were. Are.
      That’s where the flechettes are going to come in handy next spring!
      Maybe

      • Pray you can find every last flechette when cleaning ’em…

        Or your dentist will be humming ‘Jingle Bells’ as your check goes in his cash register…

      • What gunshow did you find those flechettes at Tom? If it is the Portland Expo based ones I will have to get some of those!

        As for shells, my friend hunts turkeys around where you were and he said 3.5 inch shells are helpful with turkeys. And geese.

        Great article too, chuckled at a lot of it.

  6. 1) Where do people hunt turkeys this way? I’ve always called them to me, or ambushed them in a field, usually on accidental sighting while not hunting at all.

    2) You seem surprised that his buddies flew in after all the commotion, but while wild turkey have great eyes, they are dumb in the sense that you could drop one in their midst, and all the others will just walk around him waiting to get shot as well, and they often do.

  7. Super-full choke, 38″ barrel, aim for the head. Forget #4, that’s for mere mortal birds, like grouse or ducks, not dinosaurs. Try BBB or T-shot.

  8. Turkeys are tough as hell. To overcome this, typical practice when using a shotgun is to aim for the middle of the neck and take out the head at 30 yards max. If you can’t get within 25-30 yards of a turkey then you simply don’t deserve to shoot him, IMO. I know that there are new magnum loads and choke combinations that are claimed to be deadly out 65 yards but I question their use mostly due to safety reasons. I have been using 3″ Remington Nitro Turkey for some time with a no name turkey choke out of the same old 11-87 and never had one walk away. I know how that gun patterns from 10-40 yards.

    A few years ago, I watched a friend get excited and lose patience shooting a big Tom (that I was calling in) broadside at 65 yards with 2 3/4″ #4 turkey shot. The few pellets that hit him bounced off, yes bounced off, and the Tom walked away unruffled. Last spring, I shot a Tom from 15 yards with a G5T3 out of my bow with a perfectly placed shot broadside and complete pass through. The Tom ran off and I looked for him for all day and several hours on successive days. My son and I walked a grid that was 300 yards square over and over again. I found him two weeks later about 500 yards away. All that was left was some feathers and a greasy stain. Yes, I was still looking as I had cut my tag in half to avoid the temptation of shooting another bird and just had to know what happened. Point is, turkeys are tough.

    • Yeah, I’ve moved to base of the neck shots with #1 or #0 buckshot. They tend to be less armored there and the base moves less than the gobbling/eating end. They are kinda like a feathered version of Smaug, aren’t they?

    • Dumb, stubborn, awkward, and (surprisingly) incredibly difficult to kill. I think wild turkeys are a better symbol for the U.S. than eagles.

  9. Even if it didnt end up with some tasty morsels, I enjoyed this hunting tale as much as all your others Tom. Turkey sphincters was pretty funny.

  10. Not very sporting, or fair to the birds, to shoot them with a rifle or beyond shotgun range, or out of a tree, in my opinion. If you can’t get them in range, on the ground, they win the day. But if your desperate, whatever floats your boat I guess.
    Lot of strange “sporty” hunting goes on in Texas, like hunting out of vehicles and even helo’s, high fences, and many would not even consider hunting without timed feeders full of corn (good way to spread disease in a deer herd).

  11. What really drives me crazy is that the domesticated version is notorious for dropping dead on their own at the slightest provocation.

  12. And people load #4 in their HD shotguns…
    I will never understand that. Maybe try some steel or copper buckshot if they make that.

    • How many 40+ yard shots you gonna make in your house? The turkey is a smaller target at a longer range and it’s covered in natures armor. Compare that to a tweaker in your house at point blank range wearing a wife beater.

      I use 00 in my house guns. But an ounce or more of #4 would do the job just as well.

    • #4 birdshot .130″ (3.30 mm) and #4 buckshot .240″ (6.10 mm) are totally different, but still, yeah. It’s too far to the minimum for my comfort. I use #1 Buck in mine.

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