How can a mess of unfilled turkey tags lead to a great hunt?
When you reflect on your favorite hunts, your mind likely wanders to the people you shared camp with rather than animals that filled your freezer. Contrary to the idea that punched tags signify a successful hunt, the camaraderie and laughs shared during our time turkey hunting alongside our closest friends in Wisconsin’s driftless area more than made up for difficult hunting conditions.
We shared camp with The Hunting Public, HUSH, and Sam Soholt for three days. Late season turkey hunting is notoriously tough – birds have been hunted for nearly six weeks and have heard virtually every call in a hunter’s arsenal. Pair that with the dense foliage that begins leaf-out in May and plenty of insects to challenge your sanity, and it’s easy to understand why most turkey hunters have already stowed their shotgun for the season. Regardless, our hopes were high to find a few more birds to close out The Hunting Public’s turkey tour – a public land hunting road trip that encompassed 15 states over three months.
High winds made it tough to pinpoint turkeys gobbling on the roost, and the birds rarely made a sound after pitching down. We covered lots of ground and scoured multiple properties where a lonely gobbler might be hanging out, but no such luck. Despite the birds being tight-lipped, Casey Lavere from HUSH tagged the only tom of the trip. After locating the bird in a field on private land the group had access to, Casey and Aaron Warbritton from The Hunting Public belly crawled through tall grass until they were within shotgun range. A well-placed shot anchored the tom, and led to lots of high-fives and meat in the freezer.
While the end of turkey season was quickly approaching, wet, cool conditions meant morel mushrooms were plentiful in Southwest Wisconsin. Inevitably, by spending nearly all daylight hours afield, we were able to gather enough for a tasty dinner appetizer. Since the abnormally cool conditions prolonged the mushroom’s growing season, some morels grew to the size of a soda can, making them an easy target when turkeys weren’t cooperating.
There’s no better way to bond with a group of friends than spending time outside and in camp together. Hunting gets a bad reputation for being a solitary activity, reserved for those who can tolerate hours of isolation. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In three days, we collaborated to ambush an oversized bird, exchanged countless stories and laughs, shared meals together, and simply had fun.
When it finally came time to go our separate ways, we left with deep-rooted friendships and memories that’ll fuel us until the next adventure. So, despite many tags left unfilled, the first of hopefully many more hunts with our friends proved to be a booming success.
Have a rough end to your turkey season? Keep an eye out next week for some late season turkey tips.
Erik Barber has been hunting for 16 years, and tagging along with his dad on hunts for 20. His favorite game is whitetail deer, with turkey a close second. Here's why he loves turkey hunting: "I love communicating with an animal and the back-and-forth chess match that ensues when you strike up a gobbler."