By Brandon Reed
Where to begin? It’s going to be hard to put to words the excitement of the 2015 youth turkey weekend hunts for the ReedRanch but here goes.
I had spent the better part of the week prior to the opener of youth weekend doing as many do - getting out scouting for turkeys that we might try and hunt come opening morning. My goal was to find several birds in close proximity to each other to target right away. The reason being is I was fortunate enough to have two good friends, Bryan and Rob, offer to help me by taking out any of my kids. I was hoping to keep us all close so after the first hunt of the morning we could get together and share the stories and then brainstorm on our next move.
Well, with my scouting on morning and evening trips I had found a location where all 3 of us could set up and be on the same road within a couple miles of each other. We all took an evening trip to the location so that the guys could get the lay of the land and figure out where they wanted to set up based on the information I had given them with regards to the birds roosting locations and such. With that all figured out we had a plan in motion and were ready to meet at a designated location at 4:15 to transfer kids.
The morning came early waking at 3:15, but everyone was up and ready to go. We made it to the meeting location on time and off we all went. My daughter Erin with Bryan, my oldest daughter Jessie with Rob, and I had my daughter Andie.
Jessie and Rob had birds all around them gobbling right away from the roost while Bryan and Erin just had a couple birds talking. The birds for Rob and Jessie pitched down into their area but stayed just out of sight. They had hens with them which were making it difficult. Meanwhile, Bryan and Erin’s birds dropped down and worked to the calling and came right into their setup where my daughter Erin took the first bird of the morning. At about 30 yards she took a 13lb jake. Rob and Jessie were still toying with the birds they had on the ground, but they were not wanting to come close enough. They were sticking tight to the hens they had and not leaving. It wasn’t long and one of the gobblers ventured off with the majority of the hens while the other hung around a bit. Shortly after that they heard the distinct sound of some gobbling jakes in the distance. The jakes closed the distance and came within shooting range, but my oldest opted to pass on the shot knowing the tom was still close. Well, apparently that tom has been beaten up before by these jakes because once they got in the field and headed his way he left the area in a hurry.
Meanwhile, Andie and I were set up where she had shot her bird last year. The only thing we had going all morning was a porcupine that wanted to come into the blind with us. That was not fun. I had to get after him to get lost. I knew, though, that when I had seen the birds in the area it wasn’t until around 7 am. So I figured we would sit tight until then. I was just about to get out of the blind and walk down over a hillside to see if I could get a gobble when I looked to my right and saw a tom coming down the skid rd. Then there were 2 toms and a few hens. The birds did a circle right behind the blind at 10 yards and saw my decoy. Moments later the thunder rolled as they both started in gobbling. It felt like the blind was shaking. We both began shaking with excitement and anticipation, not to mention from being COLD.
The two birds and 3 hens finally made their way out in front of us but were behind a stone wall. We were setup watching a break in the stone wall that they typically used. They worked slowly closer to our decoy but the hens were not liking it much when they decided it was time to leave and the toms were slowly following them. Fortunately for us they followed close enough to our decoy to get one more look when one was at about 30 yards and I gave a soft cluck and his head went up and Andie gave him some #6 shot and dropped him.
After the high fives, hugs and fist bumps we got out and got her bird. Meanwhile Bryan and my daughter Erin joined us with her bird and we took some pictures. It wasn’t long and Rob and Jessie came along after the jakes pushed the tom they were working out of the area and they jakes left as well. After sharing the stories with each other we were off to a big breakfast.
We went back out after breakfast to try and located the toms that Rob and Jessie had been working as Jessie saw where they had gone across the dirt road. There was a logging road in that direction and we decided to take a walk on that and do some calling. After about 2-3 hundred yards I hit the box in good shape and we got a gobble. We quickly set up and got ready. Keep in mind that we now had everyone in the woods together so we had 6 bodies to hide.
Jessie and I got to a spot where we thought we might get the bird to come and Rob sat back 15-20 yards to call. Bryan had the others further back with him. The bird worked perfectly but decided to take the high ground on us and appeared above us to our left at like 40 yards but too thick to shoot. He gobbled and strutted close enough for Bryan, Erin and Andie to get a great show. I then took over calling with my box call as he seemed to only want to respond to that. We finally got him to go back around the way he came and then he appeared out in front of us at about 50-60 yards. Jessie was getting her gun up when the sling caught on her leg. She pulled it off slowly but when she did it swung just enough that the tom spotted it and was about to exit when I had her try a shot as he had inched a little closer. The bird jumped and off he flew. After reviewing and looking for the bird we realized it was a bit far of a shot even for the 12 gauge. We tried a few other spots but didn’t get anything to respond and by the end noon was just minutes away so we called it a day. It was a good opener all around.
Sunday morning came and I decided to take my son Cole and oldest Jessie back to the location where Jessie and Rob had the two toms. We got in early but setup a little different then they had the previous day. Around 5:15 an owl decided to sound off and got the woods to come alive. Before long we had what we thought were 3 birds gobbling. It wasn’t long and we were watching and hearing birds drop into the field we were in. Hens and toms dropped into the lower side of the field where we couldn’t see. Once on the ground the toms only gobbled once and then things went quiet. After about 10-15 minutes the hens began to appear one by one. Soo,n we had 7 hens in front of us at about 60 or more yards. It wasn’t long and we began seeing the fans of the toms cresting the hill of the field. Sure enough we had 3 toms in front of us but too far out. At this point we just sat silent with no calling hoping the birds would come closer. Well, the hens began to leave and I decided it was time to talk to them. I did some soft clucks and purrs and sure enough they turned and hung around. They didn’t come closer but they stayed. This kept the toms content to stay as well. One tom was off to the right and slowly inching closer. I kept purring and scratching leaves in the blind when they broke away from the hens and moved to our right. I think they were headed to go behind us to check out what it was they were hearing. Unfortunately I had the screening over the right window and there was no way to open it without spooking the birds. So I decided to get out my hunting knife and cut the screening enough to allow a gun barrel to fit through. Jessie was able to reposition and get her gun barrel through just enough to get a shot opportunity. A gave one cluck and the closet toms head went up and she sent some Winchester double X his way and dropped him at 37 yards. Again high fives and fist bumps went out between the 3 of us. The other tom hung around for just a bit and we were going to try for a double but I am pretty sure he saw me trying to move Cole and his gun into position to shoot and he took flight.
We gathered up Jessie’s bird and took some pictures then decided since it was 6 am we had time to get to the spot where Andie shot hers and try for the birds that were typically there around 7 to see if Cole could get his bird. I told them we would go and give it a try for at least an hour. We got setup and began calling. Nothing would respond. Around 7:30 my wife called to tell us there was a nice tom close to home strutting with some other birds. The whole family was now in on the scouting action. Of course Jessie and Cole were ready to go get after him. I told them I would do the walk down back over the hill again and just see if I could get a response before leaving. Sure enough I got to my last spot where I would call from before taking off and I got a response way down in the valley. I made quick work of getting back to the blind only to hear a gobble again.
I made it to the blind and let them know we had a bird coming. I hit the call and he gobbled again. He was committed and coming. We got ourselves ready and waited. About 10 minutes went by and I heard nothing. I hit the call and nothing. I thought sure they were gone and changed their plan when all of a sudden we had 2-3 birds behind us gobbling like crazy. I thought sure they were toms the way the gobbled. Behind us offered no shot as it was the door to the blind so we had to wait. The birds, which turned out to be 4 jakes, circled around us just as they did with Andies bird and went over the stone wall into the field. Unfortunately, I could see them but Cole could not as he was too short. We waited and watched as the birds gobbled repeatedly but wouldn’t come any closer to the decoy. I saw one of the jakes headed away and thought sure the hunt was over but two of them decided to hang around. I kept up with some soft purrs, clucks and leaf scratching and was able to get the birds to head back over the stone wall. Sure enough this was on the left side of the blind and the screening was up again. I pulled out my hunting knife again and cut another opening. My oldest daughter Jessie was able to get Cole on her lap and help him get into position. One jake went by and was behind a tree offering no shot when the other stepped over the wall Jessie and I both were saying shoot to Cole. He didn’t have the red dot on him and had to adjust. Just before the bird got behind the tree he let the 20 gauge bark and down went his bird. It was a group effort all around and a very exciting hunt.
After pictures and reliving the hunt together we decided we had time to go pick up the last Reed hunter with a tag at the house and see if we could find her a bird. I had about 2 hours to see if I could find a bird for my daughter Brynn who has never shot a bird. We picked up Brynn at Church before Sunday school started and went home so she could change. It was around 9:30-9:45 and Brynn and I were off to try and find a bird. We tried close to the house first to see if we could locate the tom that was strutting earlier but realized soon there was another hunter in the woods with their kid so we backed out and went to another spot.
Off we went to the location where Brynn’s brother Cole had gotten his last year. I went in to the piece from a different location to see if we could get anything to respond. We walked and called and got nothing. I knew there was a bird in the area as I had scouted this location one morning as well this year and had some birds gobbling. We got to the height of the land and nothing. So we began our walk back to try down low in an old grown over cornfield area along the river. On our walk there I tried the box call again and got a bird to respond and he was hot. Knowing the land, I knew there were not many good places to setup and I didn’t want to have to rush with Brynn getting setup if we tried closing the distance. So I decided to see if we could get the bird to come to us and we setup right where we were.
The decoy was set up and we found a good tree to lean against. While doing so the bird was gobbling on his own and was closing the distance. As he got closer I could tell he was coming to the high hill to our left. He wasn’t alone though. It wasn’t long and we had 2 hens fighting with me on the calls. I decided to give it back to them and brought the hens to within 10 yards of us in the woods. Right about then I could see the fan of the tom coming down the dirt road in front of us. I had all I could do to keep both Brynn and I from shaking too much with the hen so close and the tom in sight. The hens gave up the fight with me and decided to exit the woods and cross the wood road in front of us at like 15 yards. They eventually went into the clear cut where it was thick and the gobbler decided he would come down and follow them. Well we had our opening picked out and when he got into it I gave a couple of soft clucks so he would lift his head. When he did I gave Brynn the green light and she squeezed the trigger on the 20 gauge filled with Federal premiums and dropped her first turkey. She was in tears as was I and we hugged and high fived and just enjoyed the moment. This was a very exciting moment for her and me as last year she had missed and decided she didn’t want to go anymore. It wasn’t until her younger brother shot his that she thought she might try again this year. It was touch and go for a while though whether she would go again or not. I am so very proud of her for going again and I think she will now not hesitate to take to the woods with me. In fact she will now be in on the dinner table discussions as to who gets to go first and where.
I am very thankful for having kids that love to get out and hunt with me and friends that are more than willing to help me get them out. It was great to see my daughter Brynn get her first bird and it was nice to share a great hunt with my oldest daughter getting her last bird as a youth hunter. My oldest daughter also requested that I teach her how to dress out her own turkey which I happily did and she went on to do Brynn’s bird as well. That was nice to have her desire to do that.
What a blessing of a weekend.
But wait! There's more!
Not to be outdone, Brandon Reed was able to sneak out one morning and shoot his own turkey!
But Wait, there is even more!
Quite possibly the most exciting ending to this story is the last minute story I received of Brandon's wife, Jenn, closing the deal on a turkey of her own!
This was certainly a first for the ReedRanch Family. It sort of stems from last years season. My daughter, Brynn, was out hunting with me and we had some Toms come into our setup. There was a little confusion or poor direction on my part and she shot at the wrong bird (which happened to be further than the other) and missed. Dad was a little frustrated and Brynn was upset she missed. All in all the situation made Brynn not want to go again. I didn't push the situation and told her it was ok that all turkey hunters miss at some point trying to reassure her. But in the end she didn't go again. Although after her younger brother got his bird she thought maybe she would try again someday.
Fast forward to this year and the talk around the dinner table before the season opened about who would go first and where etc. All Brynn's siblings were really trying hard to encourage her to go again. She was very hesitant and was saying no at first. We let it go and then it got closer to youth weekend and another talk at the dinner table about the who is first and where. Again we all encouraged Brynn to try again and she was giving it some thought. What happened next shocked us all.
My wife said out loud for all of us to hear, "Brynn, if you give it another try and get a turkey I will go". There were jaw drops across the table. Everyone really began encouraging Brynn even more and she had a big smile on her face about the idea that if she got one then Mom would give it a try. She took the deal.
Well, as you know Brynn shot herself a real nice Tom. So the pressure was on Mom and she came through on her end of the bargain. We went yesterday morning and got her an apprentice license and off we went. We hunted yesterday from about 8:45 -11:30 with no luck. Had one bird gobbling but he wouldn't play with us.
So last night I asked if she would go early. That is her biggest reason for not getting into the turkey action. She is not one who wants to get up at 3:30 am. So I said we could get up at 4:30 and get into our spot at first light and I think we could be ok. So we went with that plan.
We got to our parking spot and walked in until the intersection of the wood roads. Sure enough we heard gobbles. Trouble was they were closer than they had been on previous days. I thought we would be busted as it was light out. I had us cut right into the woods for some cover and snuck down to our spot. Once the birds were on the ground I snuck out to the woods road and placed a decoy. The birds gobbled here and there and one way off in the distance but nothing seemed to be moving closer. We decided to sit tight. I called every 5-10 minutes or so on and off. Nothing. Well on one of my last calls before thinking about moving I gave some soft yelps before going into a stronger louder call and we got gobbles 40-50 yards from us in the brush coming from a direction we were not ready for.
I had my wife get spun around slowly, got her red dot turned on and she clicked off the safety. All this while we were beginning to see the birds. She did good as we didn't get busted.
One quick confirmation that she was ok shooting a jake and it was game on. The birds came into the woods road and were coming right into the decoy when one stopped and considered turning back. A few soft purrs and the other decided it was coming. When he committed the other followed. Once they got into her view and separated just enough for a shot I gave her the green light to shoot and she dropped her very first turkey.
Just so happens she shot it in the very same place that my daughter Brynn (The deal maker) shot her first ever bird this year.
It was a great morning. After taking her out for breakfast, my wife and I headed home to share the hunt with the kiddos. They were all pretty excited for her. This one will surely be shared around the campfire at camp this summer several times.
It wasn't big on the scales but it was BIG for the family.
Wow! What a great time in the woods (and around the dinner table) the Reed family has had this year! Thank you, Brandon, for taking the time to share your exciting hunts with The 4 Pointer. As always, you can subscribe to The 4 Pointer by clicking here: Subscribe And, you can submit a story of your own here: Submit