Four days into the 2017 Missouri turkey season and I am already finding out this year will not be as productive as in years past. Poor weather, bad luck and stubborn gobblers have made it frustrating to say the least.
This morning my 82 year old grandfather shot a monster gobbler on our family farm. A hunt that was self-guided. When we posted the pic of him and his bird to social media, you might have guessed what many of the comments read:
I hope I’m still hunting at his age.
This got me thinking about the mission of Fit To Hunt and about my hunt on day two of the Missouri Spring season. First off, our mission as degreed and certified fitness professionals, personal trainers and coaches is to either prepare you for the hunt of a lifetime or help you hunt for a lifetime. With some effort on your part and a little luck, there is no reason you cannot be hunting turkeys in your 80’s and beyond….if you do the work.
Personally, I got the pleasure of proving the naysayers wrong on Tuesday regarding the need to be Fit To Hunt to bag a long beard; An experience that will go down as one of my favorite experiences even though I was unable to connect on a turkey.
When we talk about our Strutter training programs we often hear things like:
🍗 Turkeys don’t weigh that much? Why do I need to lift?
🍗 All you do is sit under a tree
🍗 Why would I need to eat healthy and stay hydrated to kill a turkey?
Now stop right here. It is true that you don’t have to do any of these things to kill a turkey. There are some very unfit individuals who wrap a tag on a bird every year but how many birds could they have killed and how long could they extend their hunting lifestyle if they consciously made some healthier choices?
Tuesday morning started out slow. There was zero gobbling at daybreak and you know how deflating that can be. I sat in the blind until I couldn’t sit any longer and decided to slip down the hill to glass a wheat field. As I slipped down the log road I crept around a cedar and spotted a hen just 80 yards from my hiding place. I decided to back out and make a small loop around to see if anything else was in the field.
It took me ten minutes to creep through the woods and a tremendous amount of balance to side step twigs to keep the noise down; a plan that paid off. A jake was wandering around 100 yards from where I stood. There were turkeys in this field.
I knew I was going to have to get ahead of them so I again backed out, climbed the hill I had sat all morning and quickly walked up the log road to the top of the field. I glassed a gobbler in the middle of the field and decided to put on a stalk. Improbable but he had the look of a bird who had been whipped a few times and I was certain he would not come to a call.
I dropped some gear on the ground and crawled on my hands and knees 20-30 yards to get in line with where he had been standing all the while keeping a wall of honeysuckle in front of me. And as luck would have it, when I got to my destination, he was gone. At this point I had either belly crawled or ran up and down the same hill three times.
The only other play was to bag it and try another field or slip back up the hill to the top of the field and see if any of those birds had fed up to the top edge. Stealth mode can be exhausting. Trying to control every muscle and plan out every step weighs on you both physically and mentally. I snuck through some more honey suckle and spotted two more birds 60 yards from my hiding spot. One looked to be a jake and if you know me at all, no legal bird will ever go untouched; mainly because I really like to eat turkeys.
The birds were just sunning themselves and I had plans to stay frozen until they made a few steps my way and then I heard it…..GOBBLE! Then I hear it again and again and again. An adult male was on the other side of the woods gobbling his head off and I had to make a choice. Go after him or stay put with two jakes who may or may not feed my way. For once, I chose the riskier of the two, turned and took off on a dead sprint toward the hot longbeard.
I blew through the woods, across a hay field and set my decoys in a small clearing. Then I sat back in the brush and played a few notes on my slate. Immediately two gobblers sounded off; one to my right and one to my left. Within seconds, a long beard came busting out of the woods and ran directly to the gobbler on my right. The he gobbled again and I realized this bird was now in the exact same place I was standing 10 minutes earlier watching those two jakes!
Exhausted and in slight disbelief, I grabbed my decoys, picked up my gear and began sprinting up the hill. Again, the thought crossed my mind that without being Fit To Hunt, I would have no chance at this turkey. To get him I had to move quickly through the hay field, back through the woods and get there to find a hiding spot before he walked out. I was so focused I didn’t even mind the 6 foot black snake I missed stepping on by mere inches (I hate snakes).
I hit the call just before I entered the field and sure enough, he was within 50-75 yards. I quickly put up a hen and jake spread and hopped in behind a wall of honeysuckle. There was no back rest so I had to keep my core muscles fired so I didn’t fall backwards but it didn’t matter because he would be here in seconds.
I called one more time and a gobble rang out that almost knocked me backwards. He was right inside the wood line less than 20 yards from where I sat. I couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see me but I could easily see the decoys and had my 20 gauge on my knee ready to let loose.
He would gobble I would answer. He’d gobble again and I would stay quiet. He’d gobble again and I would gobble back. I threw every trick I knew his way but Mr. Loudmouth would not step into the clearing.
At this point, I could feel my core fatiguing but continued to focus on holding steady. After a few minutes went by, I decided to make a move and see if I could get a shot off around the right side of the honeysuckle; that’s when he gobbled again…..about 50 yards from where he was standing.
My heart sank to the realization that he had gotten fed up and moon walked out the way he had come in. I tried calling again and again and he would answer again and again but he was done with me. He continued to answer until he was well over 100 yards from where I sat.
I truly got to use the conditioning in the field that I had been working on in the gym for months. For some people this would have fatigued them to the point they may not hunt the next day. Me? I was up and at em’ at 2:45am so I could leave in time to get to the woods before the sun came up.
Do you need to be Fit To Hunt to kill a turkey, deer, duck or other critter? No, but if you want to improve your outdoor experiences, create lasting memories and extend your hunting longevity, being Fit To Hunt is a pretty good idea.
How can we help you prepare for your next hunt or outdoor adventure? Comment below and let us know what we can do for you to help you get and stay Fit To Hunt!
Contributions made by Fit2Hunt Staff!