Oregon Mountain Turkey Morning

My breath hung in the air like slowly drifting smoke. Spring was slowly arriving, but not this morning.

The cold mountain air bit at my face. Peering into the deep, timber-filled draws with box call in hand, my good friend, hunting partner and fellow Cabela’s Pro Staffer, Jim Brennan, let out a series of hen yelps with the hopes of enticing a tom turkey to gobble.

Carl, a fellow Central Oregon local, had been so gracious to share the morning hunt with us. These public land mountains had been hunted by him in pursuit of turkeys for many years and he knew just were to check for birds coming off the roost.

The first hen we saw was literally standing in the road, calling out, pleading for the attention of a tom turkey without a response. If the real deal can’t muster up a gobble, it’s time to move on. And shortly after day broke, we got our first answer.

The gobble from the fervent tom echoed across the mountainside. Our setup was perfectly executed—Carl was behind us calling, Jim set up as the first shooter with his bow and I set up with my shotgun in hand should we be so blessed to have an opportunity at more than one tom.

To our right, the seven birds emerged, gobbling and strutting and at less than 20 yards. They were putting on quite the display. The dominate bird, a young jake, hovered around the decoy at full strut. The sun light up his beautiful feathers, and I noticed he was a rare type for the area, a Merriam’s turkey.

As the white tips on his feathers shone bright in the morning sun, it was everything I could do not to press the trigger and take the stunning bird. Instead, I took delight in simply watching him strut around, displaying his beautiful bouquet of glorious feathers. Give him one more year on the mountain to grow and he will be first on my list to hunt come next spring.

Our morning was off to a great start … we just needed to find more birds. This was true Western run-and-gun mountain turkey hunting.

From the creek bottom we heard the gobbles respond to our hen chalk. Seeking shade, we quickly we had to setup because the timber sparsely decorated the mountainside.

One, two, three, four—and a tom! The drum of his feathers was music to my ears. This was a blessed morning; this was the first time in Carl’s life, thanks to new hearing aids, that he could hear the unforgettable drum. Jim could not see the approaching flock from his position, so I quietly whispered to him that there was a tom. I told him to be ready.

The tom drummed and fanned his beautiful feathers, putting on a show for us. Jim was at full draw waiting for him to offer the perfect opportunity to release his arrow. When bow hunting, shot placement is everything—and with a turkey, the terminal margin is quite small. The arrow flew true, but failed to terminally connect on the tom.

When the tom turned and started heading back up the mountain, Jim gave me the signal to take him with my shotgun. With careful aim, I pressed off and the bird was down.

As with most hunts, it takes a team to be successful, and the harvest of this beautiful tom was a victory for us all.

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