116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Camo-clad with a travel cup of hot coffee in hand, I went out the door at 5:30 a.m. Monday, the first day of Iowa’s first spring turkey hunting season.
At my destination two gulps and eight minutes later, I shouldered my shotgun and filled my hands with decoys and a bucketful of miscellany, regretting that I could not take with me the unfinished coffee to ward off the boredom likely to come.
At 5:45, with the sky lightening in the east, I arrived at my ambush site beneath the drooping boughs of a pine tree where a makeshift blind, a 3-foot-high weathered wooden panel, hid me from wary wildlife eyes.
I planted my decoys, a hen and a jake, in the loose soil at the edge of a recently tilled food plot and returned the 25 yards to my hideout to await the day’s action or lack thereof.
Last year, on the fourth and final day of a cold and windy first season, when I had almost given up hope of filling my tag, three gobblers sprinted into the same ambush site, the first to arrive later leaving in the back of my pickup with a transportation tag around his ankle.
At 6:04, as I recalled that fond memory, a distant gobble reached my ears, followed soon by hen sounds, then silence. Turkeys on the roost, I thought. I’ll respond with my slate call after the next gobble, which never came.
From my vantage on a rise I had an unobstructed 240-degree view of ideal turkey habitat: the food plot, flanked by native grass on two sides with a backdrop of mature white pine and hardwood timber.
Soon five deer — some combination of does and fawns — approached in the grass but stopped abruptly when they caught my scent. They moved furtively away from the danger zone, slowly circling the food plot until they were on my right, intermittently visible as they inched in and out of shrubbery between the foot plot and the timber.
At 6:25, five minutes before the day’s official sunrise, as I watched the deer, hoping they would go away, two low-slung dark shapes emerged from the timber. The gathering daylight showed them to be turkeys with beards.
I slipped off my perch on the bucket to the ground, where, through a crack between the boards of the makeshift blind, I watched their slow, quiet, cautious advance. They did not puff themselves up or fan their tail feathers. But their heads lit up with the red, white and blue of an aroused tom, and the lead turkey gobbled.
Rather than answer, I put aside my unused call and got a comfortable grip on my shotgun. I rose to my knees with the 12 gauge at my shoulder, and there they were, eyes fixed on the decoys, unaware of my presence.
At 6:30, with the sunrise in full splendor, I admired my bird before tagging it.
Back with the pickup 10 minutes later, I loaded my gear and the turkey, elated I had experienced all the drama, anticipation and excitement of a spring turkey hunt with none of the boredom and discomfort.
On my way back to town, I finished my still-warm morning coffee.