May 06, 2016
It was time to try my luck with a crossbow. Being an avid bowhunter for the past decade had finally caught up to me — not to mention an accident that had led to a broken arm a few years ago — and my shoulder was feeling the pain. It was time to throw in the towel. But my love for all things archery and the challenges it incorporated had me knowing I couldn't give it up just yet.
I was about to chase gobblers across South Dakota, and a crossbow was just the challenge I was looking for. I needed an accurate, hard-hitting bow, and I was confident the Horton Legend would seal the deal.
We arrived in South Dakota a little late and had just enough time to throw on our gear and hit the field for a few hours of hunting before the turkeys flew up to roost for the night. Before heading out, I grabbed my Legend and sent a bolt down lane to check its accuracy. Dead center. I hit the field with confidence.
With my good friend Toby Shaw at my side, I knew it would be a good night of hunting. He and Ken Byers, another buddy, knew this area. I was confident we would at least see turkeys and, hopefully, have a chance at a strutter. We set up in a perfect spot against a set of trees with a little bit of prairie in front of us. A small creek, too wide to cross, ran behind the trees — a perfect setup for an ambush.
As we nestled in and got comfortable, Toby peeled out the box call and gave a couple soft yelps. A gobble rang out almost immediately. We were in the right party house. I peeked in the direction of the gobble, and a nice longbeard appeared in full strut, heading in our direction. It was then we saw the problem: He was across the creek and had no intention of crossing. Our perfect ambush site had turned out to be not so perfect after all.
We watched and waited as the gobbler and his harem milled around, hoping they would either cross over to our side or leave so we could make another move. Minutes later, something startled the flock, and they made a quick exit. We soon understood what had spooked them. A lonely coyote trotted through, 40 yards in front of us. The coyote was on a mission, and I didn't like his attitude or the fact that he had just scared off my turkey dinner. I brought up my Horton Legend, unleashed the Easton FMJ arrow with NAP Spitfire, and watched as this deadly combination impacted the kill zone. Coyote down. I was ecstatic. Even if the rest of the hunt turned out to be a bust, I was going home a happy camper.
Close and Almost
The next day I woke to a coughing attack and hoped I would be able to keep quiet in the field. I loaded my pockets with cough drops, took the maximum dose of ibuprofen, lined my pockets with tissues, and headed out to put the hammer down on a turkey.
Toby and I met up with Ben Smith, a new hunting partner for the day, and we headed afield. Boy, did we put on the miles. We crossed creeks, meandered through riverbeds, and plunged into thick foliage, but it wasn't until we were walking the prairie that we spotted a couple of birds on a mountainside. Quickly ducking out of sight, we slithered on our bellies to gain a little ground on them.
Coming within a few hundred yards, Ben shouldered his shotgun and prepared for the onslaught as Toby pulled out his call and immediately got the attention of the birds. Several came running in our direction. They appeared suddenly, catching Ben off guard by how close they were. Firing in their direction, the pattern of his gun was just too tight for the close proximity. The turkeys fled, but they weren't out of sight.
"We have to pull the 'Michigan shuffle' on these boys," Toby whispered. A plan was quickly devised, and we sent Ben around the mountain to sneak up from the backside. Toby and I would stay put on top the mountain to watch the scene below play out.
Unbeknownst to Ben, two coyotes, spooked by his movement, emerged from his direction, and headed towards his turkeys. Luckily, they didn't spot the fresh meat strutting around the other side of the mountain and continued on their way. We watched as Ben slowly crawled towards the turkeys, keeping out of sight until he was within gun range. BANG! Turkey down.
Day three, the final day of the hunt, was upon us, and my turkey tag was un-notched. Sickness was taking over my body. I couldn't get out of bed at the crack of dawn, but turkey hunting requires a certain level of dedication and perseverance and I knew I wasn't going to kill a tom staying in bed!
At 7 a.m., Ken Buyers, my coworker Jacob Eaton, and I were in the truck, heading out to what we hoped would be a successful hunt. Driving down the road, we saw a flock of birds a solid 500 yards away. This was it. I armed myself with the Legend, and we all jumped out of the truck and started after them.
Using every technique possible to gain yardage on these toms became futile. Before we could get close, they spooked and were long gone. We decided to go in the direction they were headed, and after a few more miles, we spotted them in the distance. With gear over our shoulders, we took off down the hillside so they couldn't spot us. We kept up the fast pace for a half-mile as we cut the distance between predator and prey. The turkeys didn't know we were on their track and were happily munching on crickets in the field.
Belly crawling over 200 yards with Ken holding a fan in front of us and working his mouth calls, we grabbed the attention of three toms. We army-crawled closer and closer with Ken softly purring and clucking at the toms. Those sweet sounds sent the biggest gobbler running straight for us.
I quickly loaded my arrow, found the gobbler in my scope, and pushed off the safety. With the turkey still running in, I squeezed the trigger and the bolt met its mark. My South Dakota turkey tag had just been notched!
The second tom, not hearing the shot, continued to run in after his buddy — right for the barrel of Jacob's shotgun. BOOM! Our three days of chasing gobblers across South Dakota had just ended in a double.