First Successful Turkey Harvest. A blessing and a curse...


April 23, 2012, 08:42 AM
I started learning how to hunt gobblers about 2 years ago on my own, sometimes with a friend. I had several close encounters and numerous no-sightings time and time again sitting outdoors for hours on end by myself. I love just being outdoors most of the time as peaceful as it is, but sometimes would get very frustrated at my lack of success, especially when i hear gunshots a few fields down and see the success of others. But I knew not to give up and to be patient.

Well that patience paid off nicely yesterday morning. I was out in the field at 5:30 in the morning with my spot picked out. I had spotted a tom or two the afternoon before but they wouldn't come to me then. I laid out two hen decoys and a fake jake approaching them, just off the tree line. I laid back against my tree with nice foliage to hide me and let the beautiful morning unfold. It was silent so i got things going with a very short series of kee-ocks (yelps?) from my slate. The gobbler 200 yards away I'd seen the day before made his presence known immediately. I shut up, and he just kept bellowing. Then others chimed in all around too. I had read that you don't want to over call once you have a tom's attention so i stayed patient and quiet.

Hours went by as the sun came up. My butt was numb and my legs were tingling in pain. The gobbles quieted down a little bit, so I gave another small series of yelps from the slate. A thunderous gobble sounded off about a hundred yards or so behind me, around the cut in the treeline. I forgot my phone at home so didn't know how long i'd been out, but guessed it must have been 7 to 7 30. I hadn't seen or heard a single flydown. Just more gobbles.

Finally I spot a bird clear across the field from me moving in my general direction, slightly off to the side. Once it closed in another 150 yards or so, i realized it was a hen. While watching her, I failed to take note of the monstrous gobbler who had been working his way up the middle of the field to my left. That's where she was heading and I cursed, as i figured she would meet the tom's needs more than my decoys.

Alas, a second good sized tom who was the first to respond to me that morning is making his way towards the couple. He runs, stops, struts, walks further, struts, and so on approaching the twosome. They are all well out of range from me, but my heartrate is up, my saftey is off, my gun is on my knee and I'm prepared incase they start making their way in to me. The two toms have a "strut off" and the hen seems to lose interest. Either way, the toms start making their way side by side towards my decoys, cutting each other off, bumping, strutting. That experience alone would have made my hunt complete, as this is by far the closest I had ever got to a tom strutting within range, let alone two. It was no time at all before they both were within range. Now my problem was getting them to separate, as KY has a one bird a day limit.

After all my reading on turkey hunting, I learned that the best shot on a tom is when they come out of a strut, so you have a better shot at the neck and head. These two kept strutting and cutting each other off trying to outdo one another. Finally, they separated at about 40 yards out. I liked the bigger one on the right. He had a very nice beard and fan. I'll be the first to admit that my rookie hands were practically shaking and my heart was pounding as I beaded the neck of the one on the right. I let him separate a little farther. They looked to have (my rookie estimate) about 5 to 6 feet separating them and the one on the left looked like he was about to move back in. I pulled the trigger.

Both birds dropped. There was a little wing fluttering but they both passed fairly quickly, and I felt sick. I knew my friends and family wouldn't care and they would be ecstatic that i finally got my first bird (in this case 2) all on my own after years of patience and nothing. But I knew I must have taken a bad shot, and i felt horrible immediately. I was happy to see them both passed fairly quickly b/c I'm an animal lover and hate to see suffering.

I gathered all my stuff, grabbed both birds, and made the grueling trek back to my inlaw's house which was probably 700 to 800 yards away, mostly uphill. I workout and am in decent shape but i was absolutely spent by the time i got there. They were so excited for me and called my wife's uncle down the road to help me come clean them. They said, just telecheck one in on one day and the other in on the next. I felt bad doing that, so i did them both on the same day and wrote an email to the KYFW department explaining what happened.

My wife's uncle said both toms had the biggest spurs on them he'd ever seen, almost if not over 2 inches. We processed the meet and had a huge family dinner that night with fried turkey.

Now I'm nervous waiting around to find out what my punishment is going to be... I looked online to see what others had to say about similar situations and all i saw were scathing remarks about poaching, bad gun handling decisions, pressing charges, huge fines, etc. After getting my first bird, I thought I would be on cloud nine. Instead, I feel like a criminal and everybody is puzzled as to why I was "stupid" to turn them both in on the same day. I feel good about doing the right thing but feel like I'm in for a complete a**-kicking from the wildlife department because I made an honest mistake. Sorry that I had to vent this but it really has had me down. My wife is proud of me for being honest but she hasn't read the comments of others who have asked about similar situations and the fines and charges brought against them.

I want to be an honest to God clean hunter who abides by local rules so that my kids and my kid's kids will be able to hunt if they want. I know the rules are there for a reason and I honestly didn't mean to break them. I sighted in my gun and had a good idea of what it patterned like at a closer distance but adrenaline and excitement overcame me and I thought my only shot might disappear. It was a bad shot ultimately. What do you guys think? Am I in hot water now?:confused:

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April 23, 2012, 08:53 AM
Is it too late to buy another tag and write it off? Turkey tags for either gender here are only $22 I believe. I can see how you made a mistake, and if anyone asks you about it, tell em the truth! In the meantime, I would go try and get another tag then write it off as soon as possible to cover my butt.

Everyone makes mistakes, and a lot of times people are more understanding than the few that view everyone as a criminal.

April 23, 2012, 08:57 AM
Thanks. I had a sportsman license that allows for 2 toms during the spring season, just not on the same day. So they are both tagged, I've bagged out. I hope the wildlife department appreciates honesty though.

April 23, 2012, 09:08 AM
I see whats your saying. Just be honest if someone asks you and write the second one off tomorrow. You'd be more in trouble if you shot 2 today, another 1 tomorrow, and so on.

April 23, 2012, 09:44 AM
Don't beat yourself up too much. If you turkey hunt long enough two with one shot can happen. You did the right thing by contacting the fish and wildlife so hopefully they will take it easy on you.

April 23, 2012, 09:46 AM
Thanks for the support guys. I'll update the thread if I find out anything new on my consequences.

April 24, 2012, 10:51 PM
First off congrats on the sucessful hunt.

Second the only thing I may have done differently than you. I probably would have tried to contact the local conservation officer. By doing this you give them the opportunity to come out and investigate what happened. Yes you are more than likely going to get a verbal lashing. I have done something similar but its legal in Kansas.

Don't beat yourself up things happen. Admitting your mistake and owning up to it speaks volumes about yourself as a hunter. I am sure that will be considered by the wildlife and parks department. However I would rather deal with a individual officer and there judgment than a department and a bunch of opinions. Now you have opened the door for desk jockies to be involved.

I was out Sunday morning a bagged a nice bird. I waited and waited for a clean shot. No problems with multiple birds. I had the tom directly between me and 5 whitetails 15-20 yards behind him. I was going nuts wanting to get a shot. Finally the deer moved on about 50 yards to the side before I let loose.

Keep us posted about what they have to say. Just for future refrence get to know your local conservation officer. If they see your a honest hunter and are trying to do the right thing. You will still get a verbal lashing and possibly even a fine. Yet I would rather deal with that individual directly.

April 25, 2012, 10:38 AM
Good news! I was told to contact our district LT about the matter but no one is currently holding that position for my district, so my email was forwarded on to another officer in charge. I finally heard back from him. He thanked me for the honesty and is going to move one of my telecheck confirmations to a different day, and is going to speak with me over the phone regarding ways to avoid this type of incident in the future.

So it looks like being honest has paid off, and I won't have to feel like a criminal when talking about my hunt with others and celebrating(which means the most to me).

I'll see if I can figure out who our local CO (is that the same as the warden?) is. When something like this happens, do you just call them up and they will come out and meet you in the field? I'm still relatively new to hunting in general and, although I've taken the hunter's ed course, there's still tons I have to learn. Thanks for the support guys!

April 25, 2012, 09:12 PM
Conservation officer is the same as the Game Warden. Some states call them by different names. sometimes they are called Natural Resource Officers.

While being the same thing I have seen officers that were somewhat put off by the term game warden. Seems like when they are refered to as the Warden people are usually speaking about them in poor terms.

I have a couple friends that are conservation officers and work with several others while teaching hunter education. All of them are pretty good dudes. They all cover huge areas and depend on honest hunters and folks that do the right thing. They no more farmers and land owners than you could ever hope to. They know more about deer and turkey, duck, pheasant, you name it habits and where to hunt than you could ever hope to.

Having a good relationship with your local CO is certainly not a get out jail free card. However these folks are a wealth of information and can help you to become a better hunter and possibly help you get access to other places to hunt. I have had conservation officers and wildlife biologist come to our property to give me ideas on better game management. What crops to plant where to leave a few rows uncut. tips of providing better cover and even which deer to cull out. All done for free or for a minimal fee. They can also guide you in getting food plot materials at a reduced price.

They are a resource for much more than busting your chops when you screw up.

congrats again on the bird(s) good luck in your future hunting.

April 25, 2012, 09:22 PM
As to your other question.

Yes they can come out and meet you in the field if needed. This gives you the chance to show the officer what happened and give your side of the story.

April 26, 2012, 08:57 PM
..dont tell anyone, including the game warden, that you know Ted Nugent....

April 28, 2012, 09:58 PM
Glad it worked out well. The only thing I would have done differently is, like others have said, contacted the game warden immediately. Also, if I read your post right, you cleaned and ate both birds????? If that is correct, I definitely would not have done that before the matter was taken care of. But it looks like your honesty paid off either way. Congrats on the turkeys.

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