I recently had the opportunity to hunt turkeys in South Dakota. The Black Hills is a gorgeous area, and having the opportunity to hunt there was a true blessing. However, much like most turkey hunts, this hunt had some serious highs and lows to it.
I'll start from the beginning. I have some really good buddies that I've gotten close with lately. One of them is Justin Coleman, who lives in Colorado. The other is Travis Moore from Tennessee. I recently did a spring turkey post where I interviewed Travis. If you want some great ideas for hunting turkeys, go check out that post. Anyways, the three of us had put a plan together to go turkey hunting this spring. I still remember the day we bought our tags; it was definitely one of the happy days of this whole experience. Once we had those tags, we knew we were going hunting together. The plan was to leave on a Tuesday and hunt the rest of the week. In the days and weeks prior to the hunt, everything was falling in line, and we were getting set up for a great hunt. Like most turkey hunts, it didn't go as planned.
The day before we were supposed to leave on the hunt, I had a major event happen at work, and I wasn't going to be able to leave. I was completely deflated. I had been looking forward to this for months! I messaged the guys and told them they would be going without me. Again, completely deflated. However, being the great guys they are, they moved their schedules around so that we could wait and leave on the weekend. Again, that high moment of knowing I was going hunting this spring had returned.
Everything had worked out great now, and after Travis had spent an extra $80 to move his flight, we were back in the game. We picked Travis up at the airport in Denver, and we headed to South Dakota. While in route, Lusk Wyoming happened. I had never heard of Lusk Wyoming, but it's a place I'll never forget for the rest of my life. About 40 miles south of Lusk, Justin hit a plank of wood with his Jeep. I saw it, but I didn't think much of it. When we got on the other side of Lusk, about 15 miles or so, the low tire pressure light came on, and I knew exactly what it was; we had a flat tire from that piece of wood. No problem though, we'd put the spare on in a hurry and get back on the road. Just as that thought ran through my head, the tire on the rear began to go flat as well. Again, completely deflated. We limped the Jeep back into Lusk, found a shop, and had the tires fixed. It was a small bump in our trip, but we were back on the road. We made it about another 15 miles outside of Lusk, and the lights came on again. They hadn't completely fixed the leaks. Like a broken record, we did it all over again. We went back to the same shop, repeated the same steps, and they got us back on the road. The trip was back on track, and we had four good tires.
That first evening, and the next morning were absolutely amazing. We saw so many turkeys as we entered the Black Hills National Forest. We even made it in time to roost a good tom that night, and we made a game plan for in the morning. We met up with a new friend in Rapid City at the Cabela's, told him our plan, and grabbed some food. My hopes and excitement were back in peak form. I just knew we'd get that tom in the morning. There was no way we wouldn't. When we woke up, I was like a kid on Christmas, which is pretty normal for me on any hunt. We grabbed our gear and headed out. On the way to our spot, we were smacked in the face with some of the thickest fog I've ever seen. Did it slow us down? No way! We did exactly what we had rehearsed. It was to no avail though. The tom ended up pitching out in a completely different direction, and had no interest in playing with us that morning.
We accepted our defeat and took back to the roads looking for more toms. Not too far up the road, we found two toms right off the road. Travis and I jumped out and worked ahead of the toms to see if we could call them in. Travis played it perfectly, and the whole flock of birds were coming in our direction. He and I split on both sides of a huge boulder, just in case they came up one side or the other. As I was sitting there, gun ready, the calling stopped. And then like a thunder clap on a calm day, BOOM, Travis had pulled the trigger. My heart began to race, and I knew we had a tom down. I went around the boulder just as Travis took two more shots. All I could see was a huge group of birds running like crazy, but none dead on the ground. He had missed. For the first time in his life, he had missed a turkey. I honestly didn't feel all that deflated this time, but I could tell he did. It had cut deep.
That evening, Justin began to do some research on the weather. He found that a nasty snow storm was headed our way. Hunting turkeys in the snow is not only difficult, it's near impossible. We made a plan that we would hunt that next morning, and if we were unsuccessful, we would head back south.
That morning went similar to the first one. We had a good tom roosted, and we were sure he'd pitch out towards us. However, even Travis' amazing calling skills couldn't get him to come play. We never saw hide nor hair of him. Even on our way out we didn't see him. We accepted our defeat, and we headed for home.
The trip home went about as smooth as the trip to South Dakota. We were making good time, and we were ahead of the pending storms that were set to hit Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota. We made it to about Loveland Colorado when Justin's low pressure light decided to bare its ugly teeth. The right rear tire was losing air, and it was losing it quick.
After a battle at the Walmart tire center in Longmont Colorado, we ended up putting the donut on the Jeep, and we took off for the airport. Travis was able to change his flight, and we had about an hour to get him there. We literally limped that Jeep to the Denver airport, and got him dropped off. I have never seen a man so happy to finally be at an airport. I think he was just happy he was alive!
We all made it back to our homes and our families safely that trip, but we did so with our tails between our legs, and our game bags empty. We were not able to bag us a single turkey. I wouldn't call it an unsuccessful trip though. I learned so much from these two men. Whether it was about hunting, or whether it was about showing true grit in life, I learned a lot. I also made memories with two new friends that I'll remember forever! And that is worth a whole lot more than a turkey.
I still want to shoot a turkey though.