Typical Turkey - Archery Record

1. Joe Dampier 51-10/16 2007

The big tom was clearly the boss in this area. Every time he strutted, the redheads accompanying him seemed to veer away in reverence; or perhaps it was the memory of the thrashing he had just given a cocky young jake who had over stepped his place in the pecking order! Whatever it was, the sweet sounds my partner was producing with his slate were bringing this bird into my lap, and as he turned and spread his magnificent fan I drew back and anchored like I had a thousand times before. "Relax," I told myself, "pick a spot, squeeze the trigger, follow-through." The sound of tires on pavement jerked me awake. "Where am I?" "More importantly, where did all my birds go?" The sudden realization that I was napping in the shadows of the WAWA goose and had only been dreaming had me torn as to whether I should try to get back to sleep and pinwheel the big tom, or continue on my drive to the turkey lands of Southern Ontario. In the end the choice was easy; the nap had served it’s purpose and the thoughts of gobbling toms would help melt away the miles.

This trip was a long time in the making. I still remember when I first heard that an effort was underway to re-introduce wild turkey to Ontario. At the time I took great pride in knowing that this endeavor was possible because of the hard work, dedication and funding of hunters and outdoorsmen. I would like to be able to say that I got involved in turkey restoration, however the reality is that I live in the Boreal forests of the Canadian Shield on the OTHER side of the map of Ontario. The land of big trout – including Dr Cooks World Record brookie from the Nipigon River- Monster Bull Moose and the Dryden buck. Turkeys? Yeah, we have lots of them, but most are chasing the aforementioned wildlife and not usually considered fair game themselves! All joking aside, I took my Wild Turkey seminar in the spring of 2004. I believe it was the 2nd one ever offered West of Sault Ste. Marie, and it was now 2007, that’s right 2007!!

As much as I had wanted to hunt wild turkey I could never justify a $500 flight or a 14 hour car ride to go and hunt a bird which I had no clue how to hunt and had no solid contacts for acquiring private land to chase them around on. Did I mention I’m a bowhunter? No? Sure I did, obviously you weren’t paying attention to my dream. In fact, I only bowhunt, even if that means tag soup. So you see, my turkey hunting career was going nowhere fast, that is, until the Central Canada Outdoors Show in Thunder Bay in February of this year.

I was at the show organizing an archery shooting booth for Lakehead Archers Inc. to help promote the sports of Archery and Bowhunting (In the first 2 yrs over 2000 people had given archery a try at our booth). I am also a member of Team Bowtech’s Shooting Staff, so I was making the rounds speaking with people and answering questions about the new line-up of Bowtech bows as well as helping out at my sponsor shops booth - Tao’s Archery Services. It wasn’t long before my travels brought me to the FROW/Ontario Monster Whitetails booth and a meeting with a fellow by the name of Keith Beasley. He was busy measuring racks and answering questions, but we did manage to talk a bit with a promise that I would stop by the next day with some moose and deer photos.

The next day during a rare lull in the action at our shooting booth I ventured back over to speak with Mr. Beasley and show him the pictures I had brought. This led to introductions to Paul and the rest of the measurers, and it soon became clear that Keith and I were on the same page when it came to hunting. I don’t get to say that very often; most of the time I’m a tad more hard-core when it comes to big-game pursuits and the desire to eat, sleep and breath it – Did I say that last part out loud? But it’s true, usually after a few stories are exchanged and photos looked at most people are ready to move onto the next subject, while I’m ready to move onto the next species!! Does that make me bad? Well Keith didn’t think so, and to make a long story short by the end of the weekend he had invited me to come down for a turkey hunt. When he made the offer I told him, "OK, you understand that you can’t just make an offer like that to me as a friendly gesture, deep down knowing that I won’t take you up on it. Because, if you make the offer I AM going to come!" Keith assured me that he hadn’t just made the offer tongue in cheek. So I proceeded to do what any self-respecting man would do and went to tell my wife – who had been manning the archery booth the whole time I was talking about hunting, I mean promoting archery- that I WAS GOING ON A TURKEY HUNT!! ….if she didn’t mind, because I had always wanted to go turkey hunting, and I had been working real hard, please, I really love you, please? Laugh if you want but I am writing a story about a turkey hunt! Ok, fine, I also bought her a new patio set for Mothers Day, but I’m sure that didn’t influence her decision much.

As the date of our turkey hunt rapidly approached it was looking more and more like work demands were going to foil our plans, but Keith came to the rescue and we pushed the hunt back one week so that I could still do it. I knew that my equipment was ready as my Bowtech Guardian had new custom strings, cables and Pro Limb-driver arrow rest from Vaportrail and Tao’s Archery Services had tuned it to the most exacting specs possible. A few shots on the range confirmed what I had already known as my Easton ACC arrows tipped with G5 broadheads were hitting 3 inch circles out to 50 yards.

Now, fast forward to Wawa and my drive to Turkey land. I managed to arrive at my destination around noon after a 13-hour drive through the night. We then did what anyone would have done and proceeded to find somewhere to buy my turkey license, changed into our hunting clothes and went hunting.

That first day as we were driving to some property we had permission to hunt we spotted a bunch of birds at the back of a field. Alas, we did not have permission on this land; so began my first experience with asking a stranger for permission to hunt. Whether it was beginner’s luck or divine intervention, we managed to obtain permission and off we went. We were able to see that the group contained quite a few red-heads so we quickly formulated a plan and set-up. Unfortunately the turkeys weren’t privy to our plan and had moved off in the other direction. We quickly decided that we should try and circle ahead of the birds utilizing some fence rows to stay out of sight. I would stay low in a section of fence that came to a T–intersection while Keith would call from approx 30 yards behind me. It wasn’t long until one of the hens decided to go and check out Keith’s calling. She walked across in front of me in a slightly quartering angle at a distance of 10 yards but no matter how hard I tried to will a beard onto her one wouldn’t appear; she milled around a bit and I soon saw a group of males making their way across the same field she had come from. Had the males followed the exact same route as the hen this story may have had a very different ending, instead they opted to walk up the fence row I was seated in until they were standing so close behind me that I could see their shadows on the ground in front of me. I expected the birds to bust out of there at any moment but my leafy camo was doing the trick and they soon detoured around me walking past single file only 3 yards to my left. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Seven jakes were now between 10 and 25 yards in front of me but with so many eyes looking around I felt that drawing my bow was not an option; to complicate matters even more two very mature toms had come from the opposite direction and were now strutting and gobbling only 40 yards in front of Keith. The birds were allowed to move off at their own time and we had just started thinking of a way to get another chance at the birds when a check of the watch told us there were only 5 minutes left to hunt. With thoughts of what could have been we left and thanked the farmer for allowing us an opportunity to hunt his property. My first afternoon of turkey hunting had produced a ton of action and enough memories to have already classified the whole hunt as a success; we had watched jakes and toms fighting, strutting and gobbling, we had walked up on an invisible nested hen and had her jump up and fly off only a few feet in front of us. I had seven jakes and 1 hen well within my bow range, what more could I ask for? How about watching and putting 2 very large toms to roost, well we did that too. While scouting that first evening we drove past some properties we had permission to hunt and what do you know there not 20 yards from the road are two very mature toms in the company of a couple of jakes and 3 hens. We put them to bed and returned early the next morning, we had moved into position close to where the birds had been the night before and just before day break an Owl hooted a couple of times from the woodlot across the road. Right away a Gobbler erupted from a the roost in a fence row much closer than the one we had seen the birds heading to at last light the night before. We hoped he hadn’t seen us walk in but reality told us otherwise. We had called for awhile when a number of birds ran into the neighbouring property, the group included at least one mature tom with a couple jakes and hens. Almost as quickly as they had run into the field they turned and ran out of the field; they almost appeared to be spooked, but why? After calling unsuccessfully for a little while we decided that we should try cutting the distance and moving toward the birds. These kinds of tactics remind me so much of bowhunting for moose during the rut that I cannot help but love it. Trust me, if you enjoy turkey hunting you would love bowhunting moose during the rut. As we moved up the fence row we came upon an intersecting fence and once again the tom popped out of nowhere. He strutted around for a moment or two then was gone as quickly as he had appeared. Carefully we advanced with all senses on full alert; then I saw him, FULL STRUT coming down the backside of the intersecting fencerow. Knowing that any wrong movement would end this encounter we slowly sat down on our field edge and watched the show as the tom strutted and drummed only 20 yards away.

Little did I know but Keith (who was a few yards behind me) had alertly placed a hen decoy in the field, apparently it did it’s job as all of a sudden the tom ran toward our fenceline. I was looking for him when a voice said "Joe, DRAW", the hushed, yet emphatic words came from behind me like a voice from one of those horror movies – you know the ones where the voice is telling the girl to "get out", the one they never listen to but should. Unlike my "B" movie counterparts, no sooner had the words hit my ears and my Bowtech Guardian was at full draw. But where was he? I had lost sight of him only moments before as he ran toward the fence row a mere 20 yards in front of me. Had he gone back? Was he leaving? WHERE WAS HE? Then I saw him; he was behind a little bush, alert and searching. Keith let out a single "cluck", the tom took a couple steps forward and as I was settling my pin on him I told myself "relax, pick a spot, follow-through." Suddenly the tom turned and started walking directly away from us. I followed him in my sight 20 yards, 25 yards, 30 yards he lowered his head as my 30 yard pin settled on his vitals. It’s now or never I thought and squeezed the trigger. As my Easton ACC arrow found it’s mark, a plume of feathers filled the air as the majestic bird thundered down the field. I ran after the bird whose actions seemed to defy the hit I had just witnessed. He flew 260 yards down the field where evidence of a rough landing and a subsequent blood trail led me to my first ever wild turkey. The obligatory hugs, back-slapping and high fives followed and I would like to preface the next couple of lines by saying that I would have been completely satisfied with a jake or bearded hen, nothing could have prepared me or even Keith I think for what we saw when we turned the bird over.

The first spur we saw elicited hoots and hollers of disbelief, amazement and wonder, I then saw the second spur which was obviously larger than the first and in fact said something to the effect of "You don’t even want to see the other one" before we looked at the beard Keith said "Joe, I don’t know if mounting a bird is something that you would be interested in or would ever consider, but if it is, you need to seriously consider mounting this bird because you may never get one bigger than this." We then looked at the beard and were blown away by the rope which awaited us, to make it even more satisfying (if that could be possible) was coming to the realization that my arrow had missed cutting off the beard as it passed through the turkey by little more than an inch.

Scored by an official FROW measurer, my bird was officially had an 11-7/16" beard with a left spur of 1-3/8" and a right spur of 1-4/8" for a total score of 51-10/16.

I would like to thank Keith and Stephanie for their great hospitality and a truly awesome hunt that I will never forget. My family, especially my wife Lisa for supporting me in all my archery and bowhunting adventures, and my sponsors Bowtech, Easton arrows, Vaportrail strings, cables and arrow rests, and Tao’s Archery Services for awesome equipment service and tuning.


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