Attempted Turkey Hunting in Michigan

 In Hunting Stories
New chapter member Larry Holcomb outlines his 2024 attempt to harvest a Michigan record turkey using archery equipment. Larry has a Ph.D in Zoology from Michigan State University and was a Biology professor at several universities during his career.  From 1974 through 1977 Larry accepted a position with the United Nations and moved his family to Somalia Africa to research crop conflicts with wildlife.
Larry is the author of a 31-chapter book:  For the Love of Outdoors.
It is April 20, nearly full dawn and I am ready to hunt.  With a truck parked 200 yards away, I had a dark shirt and cap to blend in with the inside of Lucky’s five-sided blind, pants tucked into knee-high boots, and a light spray of deet repellent for ticks.
Walking in there were at least two roosting hens in large oaks silhouetted against the sky 60 yards from the blind.  I was betting with myself as to whether or not they would stand for my approach.  They did not!
Placement of decoys 9-12 yards in front of the blind there was Pretty Boy and Pretty Girl, with gobbler with a real fan from the previous hunt; hen partially under gobbler in breeding position.
One more hen decoy decoy three yards from the others. One major difference in my gobbler decoy.  Where the natural red color on the gobbler occurs; very bright red fingernail polish has been added.  This appears to keep younger gobblers from approaching the set-up and increase the attack possibility of mature gobblers. Jakes and two-year gobblers generally come no closer than 10 yards.  Three-years may come up with decoys but not attack gobbler decoy, even in groups of three.  Four years and older will approach and sometimes attack the decoy.  Hens may approach and sometimes attack the lone hen decoy.
Because I am wanting only to kill a large gobbler this setup is useful.  The Michigan Commemorative Bucks senior bow record is 14 5/16.
I am trying to break that record so I am doing my best to estimate beard and spur length.  In 2023 there was plenty of action but no record breaker (one about 14 inches).
My Prime bow is set in a ground bow holder about 18 inches from my folding chair so I can easily shoot two windows and have two other windows partially open for spotting approaching turkeys.  That is important because they often come in silence.  The prime bow is set at 50 lbs., using 2413 aluminum Easton Superslam arrows with 3-blade Wasp broadheads.  At age 86 I am trying to protect my body joints so choose lower poundage.  This bow/arrow set-up and poundage kills everything I try, including moose. Usually, I hunted every other day so my old bones could recover from long sits.
I typically hunt for 2-3 hours and vary this, sometimes early then later as the season progresses and the movement changes.  I use clothing layers (black) to react to temperature changes and use an arm guard and tuck in clothing around the front and neck to prevent string hang-up.  Use dark gloves on bow hand.
The Lucky blind I use can be left set up (I have used it for up to 5 years) all year if properly staked down and use of heavy string staked to the sides to protect from wind. Windows can be left open all the time or closed when not in use.  Insect control is best if closed when not used.  Turkeys will not notice open windows but deer may. Remember, there are all kinds of wildlife that may approach, including deer that react and impact turkeys.
Now I am ready to hunt;
Day one of 22 hunts: 6;30-12:00.Blind 1 on the edge of the 5-acre field. About 8:30, 3 or 4-year gobbler, maybe 13 inches at 20 yards.  Later, two 3-year and 2 jakes at 25 yards with 5 hens
Second day: 6:30-11:30, same blind.  Two 3-year gobblers at 30 yards,3 hens.
Third day: 7:00-11:30  same blind. five different hens, 3 jakes..two 3-year at different times at 30 yards.
Fifth day: changed to blind 2 on the corner of woods 600 yards from blind 1. 4-year gobbler 13,5 inches. At 15 yards;  Another 4-year at 25 yards then two 3-4 year gobblers came in gobbling and scared off another gobbler at 20-30 yards. Then one 3year gobbler at 30-40 yards with a hen for an hour.
7th day: 7:00-11:30..Back to blind I saw 5 different hens and 4 jakes.  One 3-year gobbler at 30 yards.
10th day: Blind 1. 7:00-1100. Now a really new observation.  Up to now, including last year, up to three  3-year gobblers have not come up real close to the decoy or attracting the decoy.  At about 8:30 a group of six 3-year gobblers gobbling in response to my calls – all running in a group, first two knocking over decoy and then staying 20-30 yards for several minutes. After this, five different hens.
12th day: 4:30-8:45 p.m. blind 3; 600 yards north of blind 1. In woods.  No action.
14th day: 8:45-12:15. blind 1. Some rain at  9:00. four Jakes at 100 yards- two came into 10 yards then backed off to 25.  Over the next two hours six jakes and 3 hens at 30-60 yards.  At 10:30-12:00 adult and gosling geese within 40 yards.  Yellowthroat Warbler and Brown Thrasher within 4 yards.
16th day: 4:30-8:30 p.m.- blind 1. I saw 5 different hens. One 3-year gobbler at 40 yards.  Later, two 3-year.
18th day:  9:00-12:00, blind 2. Hen at 10:oo.  At 11:30 another hen into decoys.  Then a 4-year gobbler came in silently to four yards on the left side. He stopped when he saw a gobbler decoy and backed off.  That gobbler appeared in 15 minutes at 60 yards with 3 hens for 40 minutes.  I believe he was the best gobbler observed this year.
20th day: 9:00-1:00. blind 2.  I saw a gobbler and hen near blind when I arrived. One hen at 11:30; attacked the hen decoy.
23rd day: 9:00-12:30. New blind 4 in fence row facing 3-acre field 150 yards northeast of blind 1.  I saw one 3-4 year gobbler followed by a Jake at 50 yards at noon.
24th day: 4:30-9:00 p.m..blind 4.  One hen at 6:00.
26th day: 9:45-12:45. Blind 5 new sites on the edge of woods on one acre clearing 3 miles north of previous sites.  No responses.
28th day:  May 16. 7:30-11:45. New blind 6 on edge of woods facing 8-acre field 150 yards north of blind 2.  One hen at 11:45.  Four deer, one doe, and three bucks, close.  Antlers started, probably two 2-year and one 3-year.
31st to the 39th day: Hunted five more times, including three more new blinds.with no responses.
So, altogether there were 22 hunts that were about 3 hours at different times of day, from 9 different blinds. Most days turkeys were seen.  The last few days there were few to none  I believe the breeding season started earlier than 2023  and was really ending before my last five hunts.
As I observed in 2023′ jakes and most 2-year-old gobblers may come to 10-15 yards of the large bright-headed decoy gobbler.  Three-year gobblers in numbers of 1-3 do not attack decoy but may come within a few yards.  More mature gobblers may come closer and few may attack decoy. One new behavior was when a group of six 3-year gobblers rushed in and attacked the decoy then stood at 20-30 yards for several minutes.
Did I draw an arrow or have a mature gobbler that would set a new Michigan record for a senior with a bow? No. But it was an interesting time outdoors. Maybe next year.


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