But in spring, the bucks have lost their antlers and a new king reigns supreme in the forests of southeastern Minnesota -- the Eastern Wild Turkey!
The colors in this photo haven't been edited--his head really was that blue!
We went on an early morning turkey scouting adventure today and arrived as this big tom was just waking up and gobbling his turkey head off before flying down from roost. After he landed on the ground, we spent close to 30 minutes watching him parade around in full strut, trying to attract a hen. I was wishing for one of those nice long lenses for my camera as this is the best I could photograph from about 200 yards away.
In Minnesota, the turkey hunting licenses are chosen on a lottery system. For shotgun hunting, there are 8 different 5-day seasons that you choose in December for the zone you want to hunt in. If you're lucky, you will get chosen for the season you pick, or if you don't get chosen, shotgun hunters then have the option to choose any leftover zones or seasons. We didn't get chosen for the shotgun season we applied for, but fortunately there is also a bowhunting option that doesn't depend on the lottery system. So this year, for the first time, we will be trying to get our turkeys in the bowhunting season which starts May 15th and lasts 10 days. There are several advantages of bowhunting the last 2 seasons: by the middle of May the weather should be pretty decent, we can hunt in any zone (so hopefully we'll be able to find a hunting spot closer to home), and that late in the season a lot of the hens are already sitting on eggs, so we might have a better chance of calling in a big tom to one of our hen decoys. Neither of us have ever shot a turkey with a bow and arrow before, so we're really looking forward to this. Mr. Johnson has been shooting at the turkey target since January and I pulled out my bow this morning to practice shooting for the first time since last November. It felt good to shoot that bow again and I did pretty good hitting the targets even after 4 months.
The picture below shows a flying turkey Mr. Johnson shot a few years ago. (He had it "stuffed" and it now hangs on one of our living room walls.) This should give you somewhat of an idea of what a turkey would look like when it's flying. I think the tail is probably flared out a little bit more than usual (for display purposes). The wingspan on this huge tom is about 5 feet and if I remember correctly, this guy weighed around 22 lbs (27 lbs! Mr. Johnson set me straight on this!).....a pretty huge bird!