Mike Versland - Metro
In an attempt to introduce the sport of hunting to more Minnesotan’s, the MN DNR has recently adopted a new Apprentice Hunter Validation program. In many states this program may be called a Hunter Education Deferral Program. The program allows new hunters to hunt under the direct supervision of a licensed adult hunter for a period of two years prior to completing a Hunter Education Program and receiving a Firearms Safety Certificate.
This is the first year I have worked with this program, and to be honest I was a bit nervous about taking someone hunting that had not been trained to properly handle a firearm. Needless to say I was very cautious during target practice and during the hunt and made sure that I was the one handling the weapon immediately before and after all shots.
The young man that I took hunting this past weekend is a high school freshman and son of one of my colleagues, and lucky for me he is very mature for his age and handled the 12 gauge shotgun as if he had been doing it for years!
Andrew and his father, David, met me at 4:30 Saturday morning and we headed out to our blind. When the first tom gobbled we were all smiles as he was roosted within 40 yards of our position. We were set up on the top edge of an east facing slope that overlooked a prairie down below. The tom had two options, he could either fly 200 yards down to the prairie or he could pitch out of the tree and land in the clearing right in front of our blind. Of course we were hoping for the 2nd option! But as luck would have it the tom flew up and over the trees and glided toward the prairie. I think we were all a bit disappointed at that time, but we didn’t lose our focus since the tom and several more nearby continued to gobble for about an hour.
At 7 am the gobbles were few and far between. Knowing this area and the turkey habits well, I decided it was time to make a move. We grabbed our chairs and the gun and stealthily moved to another blind 150 yards away and overlooking the field above us. Once we got settled in I pulled out my favorite box call and hit 3 loud series of yelps. It was the first time I had used the box call that day, and as it turned out it was also the last. I don’t know what it is about that box call, but it has called in 4 of the 5 biggest toms that I have ever shot or guided for. I never use it before 8 am, but when I do use it I hit it hard and loud. For some reason that call mixed with that time of day is deadly, and of course Saturday was no exception!
About 5 minutes after I set the call down we were startled when the tom gobbled about 100 yards away. He was closing in and coming fast! I quickly grabbed the shotgun and helped Andrew point it in the right direction. Next I reached for my video camera, but then quickly decided I was too late. The tom had suddenly appeared at 50 yards. I thought it was best to help Andrew shoot the turkey rather than risk filming the hunt.
The tom continued to close the distance, but very slowly. He was switching back and forth between a half strut and walking a couple steps at a time. Finally he cleared the brush we were sitting behind and Andrew said he had a clear shot. I quietly whispered some quick pointers. “Remember the safety.” “Squeeze the trigger slowly.” When the gun went off the turkey flipped completely over backwards. The next thing you know we were out of the blind and walking up to admire the monster beautiful tom. And monster he was weighing 25 1/2 pounds, with a 10 3/8” beard, and 1 1/4” spurs! Congratulations Andrew!
Since we were done with our hunt so quickly on Saturday, I had the opportunity to get going on the jerky making process. Making jerky at home is rather easy and inexpensive, so I typically make jerky of all of the turkeys that I harvest each spring, including those that I guide for. Check out the Cabela’s website for an awesome selection of jerky making supplies.
Well it’s finally my turn to hunt! I will be heading to Wisconsin this weekend in an attempt to fill my two Wisconsin tags. Hopefully I will have as much luck as the kids I have been hunting with.
As I have been in past years I am again competing against my friends and family for the biggest turkey of the year. My cousins Dale and Travis each took another bird this week, so the competition has been quite strong. Travis is currently in the lead after shooting his first bird with a bow. Lucky for him the tom was sporting two beards!
One last final note for this week: If you have not already done so, now is the time to get your mineral stations set up. I put out two already last week. If you set them up now and then refresh them once or twice throughout the summer you will have a better chance of enticing some nice bucks to remain in your area. The bucks are already growing antlers so don’t wait any longer!
Until next week, Good luck and hunt safe!
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