No Tom Foolery....Preparing for a Gobbler

Deep winter snowfall always yields the visibility of the ghost-like movement and presence of the wildlife we pursue through tracks left behind. As I stumble across turkey tracks during my predator hunt, I am reminded that it is time to put in my spring turkey application for my preferred zone here in Michigan. While I come down emotionally from an unsuccessful deer season, I realize with anticipation that springtime is not far away.


The obsession with these birds only goes back a few years, but it has shown me immense frustration, letdown, extreme joy, complete addiction and unrestricted laughter. All of this may sound like it is in need of a psychological diagnosis, and perhaps so, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I have learned a great deal from these birds, and most having been in my own pursuit and failure. Nevertheless, it is time to shift my focus, and start my work towards putting another big tom on the ground.

Pattern and Prep

Two years ago, It was not the recoil that hurt, but the fact that I watched a hearty long beard pop back up after my shot, tuck his wings and take off like lightning through the woods. It bruised me. What the heck happened? I ran after him as if I thought I would catch him. I cannot make excuses to save myself. I missed. My only option was to press forward for a successful next season, and I did. I patterned to the point where my 12 gauge Winchester SX3 became an extension of myself, which is what a shotgun should be to every person. I decided to add a Burris Fast Fire 3 red dot system to my shotgun for the coming season, which surprisingly eliminated the fact that I was gun shy about missing again. I also fired off so many different shot shells, that I could have done a review on turkey ammo in and of itself. My spring turkey application tag draw was for my second choice, but it was still a good week. I would be ready.

Rise and Shine

The alarm goes off at 3:30am – I am not as inclined to hit the snooze button repeatedly, though. When it comes to the daily grind, I cannot so easily drag myself out from under the covers. I work evening shift as a nurse for a reason. However, hunting season shows up, and my internal clock changes.

This morning I feel refreshed as I make my cup of coffee, humming to myself and tracking day-old mud across the kitchen floor. The truck is packed, and warming up. I know I need to be in the woods before these birds come off of the roost. I know I need to be walking into those woods in the dark, with gobbles sounding off so close, I feel as though they are following me in.

Sweet Talkin’

I am by no means an expert at calling. My first call was a push button box call by A-way hunting products that makes me sound better than I am. I picked up at a Field & Stream Deer and Turkey Expo years back, and I still chalk and use it every spring. I do carry a slate and glass pot call as well as some mouth calls, which I still haven’t mastered. I personally think I sound ridiculous at times. However, when I have a tom talking back to me, I know that I’ve got it in my bag of tricks and I sound like a desirable lady. I know not to overcall, but I also know not to get discouraged if I stop hearing gobbling. I’ve realized that the morning hunt wasn’t my time this season, but the more silent and consistent activity at 9am-noon. So I sit tight behind my decoy spread and wait for my moment.

Spread it on Thick

If I have learned anything, it is that a turkey’s eyesight is much better than mine. While I know better than to settle on the bargain bin turkey decoys that have a hard time resembling a bird, I laughed at the cost of pricier models and those that use taxidermy birds. My tune quickly changed last year. I’ve consistently used a combo pack that included a jake, feeder and a breeding hen. While I hid behind my usual decoy spread, I couldn’t stop thinking about the success I was reading on forums related to using a full strut tom. I was a little hesitant, in case I had shy birds, but I knew I wanted to take the chance. I went and bought my first Avian X full strut tom, and I spent that night attaching real turkey feathers to the fan. I made my way out that next morning with my new decoy, and not long after he started making his way at me. That tom was locked on my decoy, and I had my bead locked on him.

The Aftermath

When you are in the moment, you don’t even feel the recoil. The smell of powder brought me back to reality, as I watched my shot take down my bird. I couldn’t believe it. I often forget how good hard work feels as successful seasons pass by. The laughs at my calling skills and stories over a charcoal grill covered in wild turkey poppers make me smile. Each season, especially this one, was fuel in this passion of mine – chasing these birds every spring for my selected week here in Michigan. As I stood there in awe over this mature tom on the forest floor, I couldn’t hold back my emotions. It was a silent moment of gratitude and appreciation for what God provided me with. A successful hunt, and a burning desire to do it all over again this coming spring. So as I contemplate what unit to apply for, I prepare myself once again for that one bird that’s out there waiting for me. I prepare and build on what I’ve learned from each year before. I scout and work towards possible success or failure. But whatever comes, I know I will be ready and grateful for just the opportunity to be out in the woods, praying I steady my sight on a full strut coming my way.


Naomi Coates

ReelCamo Girl Brand Champion 


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