Five Birds, Three States, Five days
Hunting all over the country has always been a passion of mine. As has helping my friends complete their goals as well. During college I took up a career in guiding, everything from big game to turkeys. In the spring of 2016 I was guiding near Broadus Montana and my first guys of the year came all the way from South Carolina, Oliver and Brett. The hunt went rather smooth with them both tagging out before 8 am, 4 dead birds in 3 hours of hunting. They had just completed their N.A. slams with our true white tipped strutters.
Excited with joy and several more days left in their hunt, they decided to leave early but not before inviting me on an Arkansas duck hunt that winter. As viewed in an earlier blog “Welcome To Arkansas.” We absolutely rolled the ducks and not only did the southern way of life catch my eye but Oliver and I decided we would hunt more turkeys in other states come spring. After I left, the way of life took place and a month later I received a call from Oliver. He had looked into what it would take for us to hunt birds together in North Dakota.
The way North Dakota works for non-resident is we needed to hunt the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. So we contacted a guide to show us the properties we could and could not hunt. As the research unfolded turns out we could each purchase 4 tags, and hunt the reservation in both North AND South Dakota. So we set some dates starting the 5th of May with our man “Shooter” and locked it in.
As we arrived to Prairie Nights where we would lodge we caught up on what was new in the world for us and devised our game plan. Hunt 3 days with Shooter and head back to Montana where I was tagged out, but Oliver could purchase 2 tags. Neither one of us had an issue falling asleep that night knowing it would be an early morning learning new ground and attacking these birds. Four AM rolled around and we were up with high hopes of what the Standing Rock had to offer, not only in birds but scenery for neither of us had stepped foot here prior.
First morning, Shooter was right on where the birds would be as we located a few gobblers on the roost as the morning sun broke through the clouds over the Missouri river. Oliver and I snuck in and got set up south bound of the hammering gobblers. Unfortunately, the birds got down from the roost and followed the hens north. We knew where we would be the following morning, so we eased out and left to learn more country. It was a long hot day watching many miles go by in beautiful country but that’s about all we would see. Well, other than a flock of jakes that came into about twenty yards. We got back to the motel where we were staying, grabbed a bite to eat and were in bed for it was already eleven at night and that four AM was nearby.
As devised we snuck in on the northern edge of the roost in the dark to a transition area and waited for dawn to break. The birds were going nuts on the roost and right at sun up, one lone gobbler abandon the other ten birds and came strutting right in. Oliver was on the gun first and connected at about twenty paces. Day two and we were on the board. That spot was spent for the morning so we worked our way toward another potential gobbler that was grouped with six jakes.
We first had Shooter help us obtain permission, for the birds were headed right for an Indian Ritual ground, where they do their rain dances and fasting. Shooter got us on and burned some sweet grass a top the plateau before the stock, for good luck. As we got in position we could see the gobbler in the group of jakes as well as three hens off in the distance, which seemed rather strange. Crawling behind my fan decoy the jakes came charging in from a solid two hundred yard out. The tom slipped away and went to tend the hens, while the jakes finished at ten feet before I dropped the decoy. The jakes took off stopping at forty yards only to start gobbling at me while the tom was now henned up about five hundred yards out. I kept the decoy up for they were heading towards a draw and I was going to pull an old maneuver once out of sight and bust down there to try calling as a lost hen to draw them back out in the hot sun. We needed one more hen to duck into the draw out of sight and that’s when the shock happened. The four birds came back out of the draw to only start working back towards us.
As they closed the distance… 500… 400… 300… 200… The hens started to split as Oliver and I lay motionless behind the decoy I started to move towards the gobbler at an angle because we were in a tough spot. Hundred yards out, right as I’m about to be busted the hens start working towards each other and right at me! Gobbler in the back full strut eyeing the decoy down, I was shaking like a leaf. Twenty yards was the distance the hens were at now, all three together, one pegged me, she was confused and started to work away, the others to follow. The tom about to follow suit at about 45 yards I dropped the decoy and followed with a headshot flop on a beautiful Rio/Merriam hybrid.
Two birds down and 2 to go, as we were heading back to town to grab a bite, here’s a big beautiful Eastern strutting on the edge of a field. As we waited to get permission we stayed still and game planned, crawl the edge of the woods in the field call him down and whack him. Now, we had two plans come together perfect we can’t have a third could we? Well sure enough! Permission was given and we slipped in, 80 yards down and we called him right down the line to 35 yards where Oliver gave him a taste of the Winchester Supreme 6 shot. Number three down and unfortunately that’s when the weather took a turn for the worse and our hunt was over.
We arrived back to my house on May 7th in Miles City Montana late in the evening but early enough to go roost a few birds. On a ranch I watch over for a gal I knew where the birds would head and the way they would act and sure enough, right by the stock tank there they were. Three gobblers, a jake and two hens. The following morning on the 8th we slipped in, in the dark and set up between the water tank and where we thought the gobblers were roosting. Turns out later that night they all split. A tom and the jake on the main roost, a tom and a hen about a half mile off. The tom we wanted was about seventy yards from our set up. We watched the tom and hen up in the tree as the sun started to peek through the burned off pine trees in the beautiful badlands of Eastern Montana. As we waited for them to come down, two coyotes came to check us out. I called them into twenty yards, being I was tagged out I was unarmed and Oliver was waiting on his first Montana gobbler of the year. About fifteen minutes went by and the hen flew down first, shortly after the gobbler followed. Fanned out and strutting for a good ten minute he finally worked his way right to us as Oliver delivered another one shot kill on this beauty of a white tip limb hanger, with inch long hooks another mature bird was down.
Oliver’s next bird had to come off of a river somewhere. For he has taken a nice hill country tom we figured we would switch it up. My Yellowstone spots were flooded out so that one was done, so we decided to hear Eastbound and hit the mighty Powder River. It didn’t take long, for my honey hole happens to be out there and I took Oliver right to the birds. We roosted the Gobblers and came back in the morning. Again setting up in a transitioning area between the feed and the roost and here they come, four gobblers and two hens. Oliver had one tag so he picked the best bird out of the group and whacked him about fifteen yards. We had just completed five birds spanning three states in five days.
What a journey it was, this reminded me of why we are who we are. Truly Montana Outdoors isn’t just a saying; it’s not for a select few, it’s for everyone who loves the process as much as we do. A buddy I met in my career field is now a buddy who hunts with me during my personal times. No money exchanged, just laughs and future plans for more.