Pursuing Prairie Gobblers: Part 3

Part 3 of 3

The dawning of our third day in the plains of South Dakota found me eager to enjoy even more of the peace and quiet of the surrounding countryside. Peg had decided that she and Lulu were going to spend a peaceful day lounging around camp, so, with a lunch prepared, I jumped into my truck and headed out for a day of exploration. Heading north, there was a method to my madness — an area of high mesas, canyons and rolling foothills, lingering in the distance. Always intrigued by places unknown, today, this area was destined to become “old hat” to one certain Okie — so, off I went.

Arriving in the area mid-morning, I set out to cover as much ground as possible. Unloading my ATV, I headed out on a rough two-track that traversed the 20-plus mile length of this beautiful public-land area. Grabbing my shotgun, I determined to be “loaded for bear” — a guy never knows when he might run across a great hunting opportunity! Heading out through the pine-covered mesa country, I soon found myself feeling extremely “birdsy.” Parking the ATV, I began to hike toward a distant hilltop, in hopes of possibly hearing a gobble, or two. 

When I got to the top, before I could even extricate my turkey call from my fanny pack, the sound of distant gobbles reached my ear. Instantly excited, I quickly began a stealthy march toward the focus of my attention — a turkey convention! The closer I got to the melee, the more heated the action became — it was clear that I’d fallen into a very unique hunting opportunity. Though a bowhunter at heart, I jacked a shell into the chamber of my trusty 12-gauge and headed forward. Knowing that finding such heated action was rare, and that such a setup would be short-lived, and I figured that I’d better “make hay, while there’s day.”

Two Gobblers Strut Their Stuff
Using a shallow ravine as cover, in short order I’d made my way near the frenzied action. Peering over the lip of the ravine, I immediately spotted the nearby “going’s-on.” A couple of mature Merriam gobblers were competing for the attention of a group of four hens. Strutting, drumming and gobbling their heads off, the two beautiful males were in full splendor. At such a moment, I longed for a camera with a telephoto lens — incredible pictures would certainly be the result. Delegated to a shotgun in hand, however, I knew my lot — something was gonna die, soon!

Retreating to the bottom of the ravine, I made my way cautiously closer to the group of birds. Excitement gripped me as I realized that this was a stalk that was destined to succeed. Resigning myself to the fact that it was now or never on these birds, I moved to within range, and slowly peered from my hide. Spying the top of a fan at 30 yards, I slipped the safety off my gun and elevated my position — as all the birds came into sight, I went into “the zone.”

The author (right), his wife Peg and his two South Dakota Merriam’s.

When the shooting was over, the two mature gobblers lay in plain sight. Approaching the fallen trophies, I immediately noticed large spurs on the birds — these two old-timers had certainly been roaming this area for a few years. As I knelt by the birds, a tinge of regret filtered through my heart. Glad that I’d accomplished the task of a hunter/gatherer, I also felt a tinge of remorse in knowing that this beautiful country was now a little emptier.

A spur from the South Dakota birds — certainly mature birds.

Inside, I also regretted the fact that I’d not at least tried to bowhunt these gorgeous birds. Coming to grips with the moment, I began to realize that no matter the means, I’d been blessed with a bounty from nature — turkey breast would be grilling this evening!

Returning to camp late in the evening, as I recounted the story of my day to Peg (as Lulu gave me a dirty look), I knew that the remainder of this trip would be spent simply camping and exploring. I’d taken enough from nature for this turkey season — I’d leave some for the next fellow. Life was good!

For a fine selection of Turkey Hunting gear, click here.

Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Claypool has harvested 63 Pope & Young-class recordbook animals including 35 whitetails (Coues included), 16 elk and eight mule deer. All the animals were taken on do-it-yourself hunts.

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