Utah hunt

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hawglips
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Utah hunt

Post by hawglips » May 28th, 2012, 10:07 am

Here’s where we camped for the three nights. By the third night, I had acclimated to the altitude and slept like a log.
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The scenery out there just isn’t done justice by the pictures. But here are a few to give you an idea what it’s like.
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Day One

My son picked me up at the SLC airport shortly before midnight, and we made the 2 hr and 45 min drive up to the camp where we’d be staying and hunting. We arrived there at 2:30 and the alarm went off at 4:00. I wasn’t able to nap any but if felt good to stretch out for a while after being in the plane and car and airports for the previous 14 hours.

We got to the pre-selected parking spot where we began our trek at 9000’. My brother and nephew had roosted a group of birds the night before about ½ mile down off the road. They thought they group consisted primarily of jakes but figured there was big boy or two in there with them. It’s often hard to tell with merriams.

We got to the spot and waited for gobbling time, but only heard two birds gobble one time on the roost. We were in good position but they never responded at all to our calls, and never gobbled again on the ground. That was the first indication of what we were going to encounter on this trip.

Here was our first setup.

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My son was mighty tired after getting only an hour of sleep.
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We heard our first post-roost gobble about 8:00 when a plane flew over. That’s one of the best shock gobbling inducers out there. Planes were the only sign of human civilization we encountered, other than the occasional dried up cow pattie and a cattle tank the Forest Service put in where a natural seep came out down in a beautiful meadow.

We started after the gobble we heard, and got an occasional response to our calls at a distance. But the group went away from us, and we never got close enough to set up on them at all. It was like there was gobbler repellent on our calls.

After chasing the group around for a couple hours, we split up to prospect in fresh areas. My nephew went with me, and my brother went with my son. My brother and nephew had already filled their tags a couple weeks before we got there, so they were guiding us.

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At about 11:00 I got a jake to half-way gobble at us, so we set up there to call, not knowing if he was by himself or in a group like the previous bunch was.

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We didn’t get a response and I wanted to ease a bit closer. As I got up to move, my nephew said, “don’t move, there’s a jake directly behind us.” I froze and out of the corner of my eye saw not one, but two jakes coming in from directly behind us. The first was much bigger than the second, and they both already had their adult wing speculum feathers almost fully in, meaning the moult was already well underway. The big one’s head looked just like a gobbler’s, and I was looking hard for spurs and a beard. I kept them close for a while with clucks and purrs, and he gobbled once at me. His gobble was entirely indistinguishable from a mature bird’s and I wondered if I was going to regret letting him go. I watched them walk off with a heavy dose of second guessing myself. But he never strutted and seemed like they just wanted some company rather than any interest in breeding.

In the meantime, my son and brother got back on the gobbling group we had chased earlier, with the same result – they were repelled by hen calls.

At about 2:00pm, after a very painful trek back up the mountain in the high altitude and thin air that was killing me but not bothering anyone else, we met back up at the truck, and went to camp to eat some sandwiches and plan what to do in the afternoon.

Two things we noticed after the first day. First, there were no hens around. Didn’t hear any, didn’t see any. Second, the gobblers/jakes were bunched up together, and didn’t want to come to hen calls.

We decided to completely leave the area and go try to roost some birds elsewhere. But the end result was hearing nothing. Merriams gobble so well on the roost in the evening, that if you don’t hear anything, there’s a very good likelihood that nothing is around.

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Last edited by hawglips on May 28th, 2012, 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Utah hunt

Post by hawglips » May 28th, 2012, 10:08 am

Day Two

For the second day, I decided to go back down into the same area as day one, while my brother took my son about an hour south to try a bird he’d roosted a couple days earlier.

My brother and son got the bird to answer, and after exerting a tremendous amount of energy, got him to come close enough for my son to get a shot at him while my brother walked away calling. Unfortunately, he rushed the shot at a walking bird, and missed.

In the meantime, my nephew and I got on a group of gobbling birds on the roost. We think it was the same ones we chased all morning the previous day. We got set up nicely on them, and I counted 8 different birds gobbling within 150 yds of where we sat. I kid you not. But most of them were obviously jakes, with what sounded like a couple of big boys in the mix. I got to experience that rolling gobbling that they do when you have a bunch roosted together. The mature sounding bird on the far left would start it off, and then the gobbles would roll left to right down the line. I really enjoyed hearing that. They responded eagerly to my soft yelps, and I thought that today would be a lot different than the day before.

I heard one leave the limb, and then one by one they were all gone. And they went away from us.

Knowing which direction the birds went the day before, we made a big swing down the aspen bottom to get in front of them, and sat up and called. And we waited. And waited, and called. And that was the last we heard from any of those birds.

That was very disappointing. I figured we were in the game for sure, but they flew down the other way and never gobbled again, and once again, were repelled by our hen calls.

At that point, I had a second twinge of regret. I wished we’d have busted them off the roost when they were all together like that within 150 yds of us, and fall hunted them. But we didn’t.

So, we prospected the rest of the morning, and got one shock gobble out of a bird at close range, maybe 85 yds. We sat up right there and could see the clump of scrub oaks he was in. And there was no way he could leave that clump of trees without us seeing him – unless he made a bee-line directly away from us.

To make a long story short, he never answered our hen calls, and we never saw him, so he obviously didn’t want us to see him or have anything to do with him. He made a bee-line directly away from us.

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So, we trekked back up to the truck, and I was able to breathe much better than the day before. It was nice to see some improvement in that regard.

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Re: Utah hunt

Post by hawglips » May 28th, 2012, 10:08 am

Day Three

We did a lot of talking and discussion into what we were going to do for the last day. I was convinced we had to fall hunt them if we wanted a chance at a gobbler in the 9000’ hole I’d hunted the last two days. There were plenty of turkeys in there, but only gobblers and jakes. And they were bunched up. And they were running away from hen calls.

So, we went back out to roost them the night before, and got them pin pointed about ½ mile down from the road. And we devised a plan to bust them off the roost in the morning, scatter them and call them in.

Well, we got into good position, but noticed they were farther apart on the roost than the morning before, and it wasn’t optimal. They were in a big bowl, in very tall aspens. It was very open in there, and we knew scattering them was going to be tough. But since we had no confidence in them coming in to hen calls, we went in after them, and busted them off the roost. It was exhausting, and futile. Those birds don’t bust like easterns. No matter which direction we came at them from, they all flew a mile down the mountain in the same direction. Very disappointing.

Well, now we were worse off than we were before we started. And we were all sweating and huffing from the exertion.

So, off we went in their direction anyway. We got down to the bottom and got one to gobble at us. We got sat up good, but the result was the same. They never answered us when we were close and went the other way.

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After eating some snacks and resting, we went off prospecting.
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But we were determined to stick with gobbler yelps and fall tactics should we encounter a gobbling bird.

About 10:00 we struck one. And he began to enthusiastically answer our gobbler yelps as we approached. This was the most excitement I’d had yet in three days. We finally had some positive response.

We got set up in front of the bird but were across a steep ravine and creek from him. He came about 80 yds out, but hidden, and wouldn’t come closer. I got my brother to walk away calling, and he gobbled a lot at him, but wouldn’t come any closer and eventually drifted back to the top of the opposite hill.

So, I got back up with my brother and son, and we devised a plan that I would swing back across the ravine, clime to the top, and get as close to the bird as I dared, while my brother kept him occupied and gobbling for easy location.

That’s what we did. And as I huffed and puffed my way to the top, I saw 5 or 6 male birds chasing each other around like they do in fall flocks when a new one shows up. I couldn’t make out if they were jakes or gobblers or both, but could tell they were male birds.

Being in great position, I called my brother on the radio and told them to cross to my side and call from there behind me. And they did.

As they were calling, I lost sight of the birds over a rise. And I eased up closer to the rise to improve my position a bit more.

I could hear my brother calling now on my side, and I warned them to keep an eye out cause they birds had last been seen heading their general direction.

It was starting to rain and I eased a bit closer. I got to a good spot, and started imitating turkey steps in the leaves with my feet.

Then within a minute or so, there he was. What looked like a mature bird came to my steps, to whip up on the new guy who just showed up, and we saw each other at about the same time. As I raised my gun, he knew he’d made a mistake and wheeled to leave, but it was too late.

And then, about 30 seconds later, I heard my son shoot. I radioed to my brother to see what happened, and I was very dejected to hear that he missed, again. He took another hurried shot at a bird that was getting out of dodge after I shot.

And all at the same time, I was relieved, ecstatic, sad for my son, and exhausted.

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He was heavy for a mountain bird, 17 lbs, and a 3 year old. 11/16” spurs and a 8-7/8” beard.

It took me about an hour and a half to climb up the mile (as the crow flies) to the truck. While I was doing that, my son and brother took off to try to get on what was left of that group, since one of them gobbled a couple times while we were taking pictures, trying to gather up the bunch.

But alas, it was not to be, and they met me back at the truck a couple hours later.

It was an adventure for sure.
Last edited by hawglips on May 28th, 2012, 10:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Utah hunt

Post by TRKYHTR » May 28th, 2012, 10:31 am

Great read Hal. Love the looks of that country. Is it still difficult to draw a Utah turkey tag? As I was reading I was waiting for you to start gobbling at them. I killed a Merriam in AZ using the method you did. I had a buddy calling to a gobbler that would not come in, as I snuck in closer. It worked great but I had to move about 1 1/2 miles to do it. Congrats on a nice Merriam.

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Re: Utah hunt

Post by hawglips » May 28th, 2012, 10:36 am

Joe, we actually gobbled at the last bunch, and that shut them up completely, and we lost contact for a while. So, we didn't gobble at them any more after that. They've got an over the counter tag for May only.

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Re: Utah hunt

Post by Stinky J Picklestein » May 28th, 2012, 11:13 am

NICE...but that don't look like enough oxygen. :lol:

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Re: Utah hunt

Post by guesswho » May 28th, 2012, 11:32 am

Good looking country. Congrats on the turkey!
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Re: Utah hunt

Post by redarrow » May 28th, 2012, 1:18 pm

WOW. I think I could be very happy living in Utah. Didn't realize it was that beautiful. Great pics and story. :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:
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Re: Utah hunt

Post by toasty » May 29th, 2012, 12:22 pm

Great story and pictures. Thanks for posting up the details. Love the area down there. It has always been a goal to take one of the Merriams on that mountain range.

It is good to know I'm not the only one who has to work to get one of these Utah birds. I love all of the public land in the state, but they get pushed around for almost 2 months making it tough to get them to come to calls. Way to stick with it and hold out for a nice bird.

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Re: Utah hunt

Post by GOLD HUNTER » May 30th, 2012, 9:35 am

:thumbup:
LET'S GO TROUT FISHING

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Re: Utah hunt

Post by Turkey Talker » May 30th, 2012, 10:04 am

Nice! Thanks for a great story!
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TS
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Re: Utah hunt

Post by TS » May 30th, 2012, 10:23 am

That was a great hunt in some beautiful country.
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Re: Utah hunt

Post by mossy835 » May 30th, 2012, 11:16 am

Nice story and pictures of your hunt. My father many years ago moved to Beaver Utah where he lived until he passed away. I used to go over and hunt mule tail deer on his farm and the surrounding area while he was alive. Never saw a turkey in that area. Beaver is on the way from Salt Lake to Saint George and then Vegas.
You are right it is beautiful country and the people are great (at least the ones I met) and friendly.

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Re: Utah hunt

Post by joshua » May 31st, 2012, 7:04 pm

Awesome story and pics Hal. Congrats on a great season.

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