When the Thunder Rolls

Who doesn’t love bluebird days in the turkey woods? They’re special but rare in the Midwest. Often, I face rain, wind, snow, storms, cold temperatures or a combination thereof. To punch multiple tags annually, I hunt every day I can. Lightning and gale-force winds are the only things that keep me inside.

Toms are Killable Regardless of Weather

Regardless of weather, turkeys are daytime movers. You have a chance at killing one every time you hunt. I’ve tagged a pile of toms in nasty spring conditions.

Following are stories of three toms I took in foul conditions and how I did it.

South Dakota Thunder

Thunder helped me kill a public-land South Dakota Merriam’s last spring. I spotted the bird and several others roosted in a giant cottonwood the evening before, and I knew I just needed to get within range of their touch-down location.

The next morning, the weather forecast showed thunderstorms. However, no lightning would strike within a few miles. Plan A it was.

As I approached the roost, I could see dark ornaments in the cottonwood against the dark-blue backdrop. I was approaching in the wide open with no cover whatsoever. Thankfully, the wind and distant thunder masked my approach. I set up undetected.

Two toms gobbled for the next 20 minutes. At dawn’s arrival, I clutched my Benelli 12-gauge a bit tighter. Soon, the turkeys landed in front of me just beyond range. I slowly raised my Montana tom decoy. The toms came on a string, and I claimed the larger bird.

Kansas Tornadoes     

The most prolific weather I’ve ever faced was during my 2016 Kansas hunt in late May. Several others and I fit in quick hunts between tornadoes. Wind was constant and rain sporadic, but we hunted from Primos Double Bull Blinds and stayed mostly comfortable.

I bow-bagged a hefty Rio to complete my archery Grand Slam. The others took some jakes, a bearded hen and a tom. With only four days to hunt, we got our birds because we didn’t let the weather prevail.

Wisconsin Freezing Rain

Toms had skirted my setup for three days, but I recognized a tendency. Birds were coming from and going to their roost on a logging road where field meets hardwoods. Once they’d roosted one evening, I moved my blind inside the timber 10 yards from that logging road.

That night brought freezing rain that lasted long into the morning. I got into the blind before first light. Only two gobbles rang from the iced-over forest. I knew I wouldn’t call in a bird in the freezing rain, so I’d rely solely on their pattern. I watched vigilantly, huddling deeper into my parka to buck the chill.

I soon spotted a tom on the logging road. With shaking limbs and quivering fingers, I prepared my bow for action. When he reached my shooting window 10 yards away, I harpooned him with a well-placed arrow. He ran a short distance and folded.

Last Clucks

Believe me, the snooze button is tempting when conditions are poor. Unless it’s unsafe, hunting in miserable weather has perks. I’ve punched many tags in all sorts of weather, proving the persistent and perseverant hunter gets the birds. The question is, how persistent and perseverant are you?

— Darron McDougal

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