BY ROGER SABOTA
Special to the Star Journal
I was rudely awakened Friday, May 4 at 4:30 in the morning. The reason for this intrusion in sleep was opening day of my turkey season. We were in Osseo with my friend and hunting and fishing partner, Tom Twesme, the Osseo Jinx.
On Thursday afternoon we had set out decoys and fabricated small blinds so that we could walk into the area the next morning and wait for daylight. On Friday morning, about 5:15, on the way into our blinds we both got soaking wet from the knees down from the water on the long grass. The field that we started hunting on is in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); therefore the grass is quite high.
It was our hope that we would have a chance to shoot a tom turkey on its way from its roosting tree to the field. Many turkey hunters have had the same heart-stopping experience that I have had of having a turkey suddenly fly out of its roosting spot overhead in a tree where they spend the night hoping to avoid any hungry predators that might be looking for a turkey dinner.
We should have been hunting deer instead of turkey; Tom saw four deer and I saw one. It was beautifully silhouetted on a ridge along the edge of the field.
Tom’s calling brought some hens into his view. He kept calling hoping that a tom would follow. As they came closer they spotted Tom and headed in a different direction. Turkeys have exceptionally keen daytime vision that is three times better than humans and can cover 270 degrees, which gives them the opportunity to multitask as they look for food and can keep an eye out for predators or hunters at the same time. Turkeys also have excellent hearing but a very poor sense of smell. Many turkey hunters have told me for years that if a turkey had a good sense of smell we would never get close enough to shoot.
On our return to the hunting site on Friday afternoon Tom had only hens come in. Then the wind came up and there were no birds around. I saw no birds that afternoon.
I talked to some anglers who chose to fish opening day in northern Wisconsin who had ice forming in the eyes of their rods. At least it wasn’t that cold where we were.
On Saturday morning the temperature was cool with sunshine. We each saw a few birds but nothing that we could shoot at. We again saw deer. I saw more deer in the first two days of turkey hunting than I have seen lately around Rhinelander during deer season.
Saturday afternoon we elected not to return to our hunting area since the wind was really blowing and did not die down as it usually does in the afternoon.
On Sunday morning we again were up at 4:30 and headed out to the farm where we were hunting. From my blind I was able to watch sandhill cranes, geese and grouse and of course, deer. Having the chance to observe wildlife holds my interest in turkey hunting, especially when the tom turkeys are not around.
Last week Tom accompanied his twin fourteen year-old granddaughters on a turkey hunt. They did not have a chance to shoot any turkeys, either. During the youth hunt for deer earlier this year each of the girls had shot a doe. They really enjoy hunting especially with their Dad and Grandfather.
While attending the Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) convention in Oshkosh this past week I had numerous opportunities to talk with a variety of turkey hunters with, as one would expect, a variety of success stories and some who had the same outcome in their season as I did. The WCC delegates represent all 72 counties in Wisconsin, therefore the stories I heard were from every corner of the state.
Numerous hunters, although they hunted hard and had previously been very successful, saw no turkeys. A few that I talked with were successful.
Each year in May the WCC holds its annual convention. Each county has five delegates so it is a large group. The purpose of this meeting is to advise the Natural Resources Board in matters having to do with hunting, fishing, trapping and Wisconsin’s natural resources.
Discussion revolves around the advisory questions that were voted on at the annual meeting held in April in every county in Wisconsin. Those questions that the public had voted on are brought to the floor at the Convention and debated. Those items that are agreed upon are forwarded to the Natural Resources Board in the form of a recommendation. Since the citizens from many counties have varying opinions about the questions there is a lot of discussion before a recommendation is made.
Although some do not see the opportunity to vote on the topics at the April state-wide meeting as important it does provide us as citizens a voice in the decisions that are made for natural resources in the state of Wisconsin.
While in Oshkosh this past week we were able to observe a popular type of fishing there when the white bass were running. Anglers line up on the concrete walkway along the Fox River between Lake Butte Des Morts and Lake Winnebago in downtown Oshkosh. That reminded me of the type of fishing we had done this past year while in Port Aransas, Texas along the shipping channel. There were also many boats in the river last week seeking the white bass.
Longtime Northwoods outdoor enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.