Brodie Swisher: Textbook Toms

It was by far the most incredible turkey hunt I’d experienced and I can only dream that such a hunt will ever come my way again this side of heaven.

By Brodie Swisher

As Spring Turkey season progresses, I can’t help but think back on a past season and grin. It’s usually one of those devilish grins, much like what my mother accused me of when I got into trouble as a child. As a child this grin usually came after I’d done something mischievous and got away with it. This particular past season hunt was no different. I’d slipped in underneath four roosted toms – acted a little mischievous – and got away with it.

The hunt was indeed textbook – if there is such a thing in the turkey-hunting world. It was by far the most incredible turkey hunt I’d experienced and I can only dream that such a hunt will ever come my way again this side of heaven. It was a hunt I wish every turkey hunter could experience – just once.

Some would credit this hunt to mere luck. I however like to think there was more involved than just luck. I think what some call luck, is actually God blessing our hard work and efforts. With a little planning and preparation and tad bit of legwork, you too can make things happen when it comes to success on turkeys this spring.

The success of my hunt began long before the belch of my 870 at sunrise. In fact, the hunt started as early as the beginning of February. With duck season over, I quickly turned my efforts to the killing of the local coyotes. On one such outing, I stumbled across a flock of turkeys that made me forget about the pursuit of all other critters.

I quickly switched into turkey hunting mode and the scouting forays began. Throughout the month of February I watched and filmed the flock of turkeys as they flew down from the roost. Each day afield proved to be a valuable lesson in my turkey research. My excitement began to build as I quickly patterned where the gobblers liked to eat, drink, and be merry. My field notes showed an incredible consistency in the exact spot in which the birds flew down, the limbs on which they’d roost, their first stops of the morning, where they went for water, and where they like to blow up for the ladies.

In the weeks of March, prior to opening day, I began to back off a little and make my observations from a distance. A quality pair of binoculars can save a lot of walking and enable the hunter to do a “quick-scout” in the mornings and late evenings. The idea is to know what the turkeys on your property are going to do and when they are going to do it. These two elements alone can mean the difference in a turkey slung over your shoulder and going home empty handed.

Another key to my success on this hunt was the preparation of a trail to the tree in which I planned to kill a turkey. I knew where the birds were going to roost. I knew where they were going to hit the ground when they flew down, and I knew the route they were going to take once they hit the ground. With that wealth of information, I found and marked a tree in which I’d kill one of these unsuspecting toms. With the tree marked, I began to clear/rake a small foot trail into my ambush point. With the leaves and sticks raked out of the way and only bare dirt exposed, I could slip quietly into my hunting spot before the birds would wake from their slumber. The hike down this trail would be done without the aid of a flashlight, so a clean and clear trail would be a must.

In order to slip under a roosted tom, you must go early. With trees often still bare from the long winter, an approach on an attentive turkey is out of the question. You must make your sneak well before ol’ longbeard wakes from a night of rest on the limb. By slipping into the woods extra early, I was able to tiptoe right in the middle of four longbeards. Two birds out in front of me and two right behind me. The closest bird was roosted in a tree 15-20 yards away. The furthest was 30.

The experience of being underneath a group of mature toms as they wake up and stand to salute the morning is unlike anything I’ve yet to be a part of. The majestic beauty of watching these birds spit, drum, strut, and stretch their necks as they bellowed their first gobbles of the morning is a scene I replay in mind again and again. I can only hope that my hard work and preseason scouting will once again pay off with a textbook tom this season.