Beast from the east

by Andrew Rochon | May 4, 2020
Andrew poses with turkey fan

Two hens crossed the field and stopped about 15 yards ahead and a little right of our decoys. Just then, the rain began to pour, and the hens puffed up their feathers and turned into statues, shedding the heavy precipitation.

That’s when we spotted the huge tom about 100 yards away, unaffected by the rain, coming right at us in half strut.

This second day of our hunt was shaping up well. My first morning with Rob Argue, owner and operator of Eastern Canadian Outfitters (ECO), was spent along a treeline in a field in Lanark County. Argue is a seasoned multi-species guide in Eastern Ontario and Quebec. He specializes in black bear, deer, and moose, but in the spring his focus is on the healthy population of wild turkeys in eastern Ontario.

Marco polo

On day one, we’d arrived at the field around 6 a.m., early enough since Argue had scouted these birds and knew that they roosted one field over. He predicted they would make their way towards us later in the morning. About 30 minutes after setting up, we spotted a tom peeking into the field from the far left treeline. Argue softly yelped with his slate call, but to no avail. The tom headed back into the woods.

Not long after that, a lone hen poked her way across the entire length of the field, opposite from where we were set up, but no toms followed. After playing a long game of Marco Polo with a couple of noisy gobblers in the woods behind us, we reluctantly accepted that we’d been out-smarted, and headed back to Argue’s camp in nearby Montague Township.

Tucked away from civilization, the cozy, rustic cabin was a great place to formulate our plan for the next morning’s hunt.

Chorus of gobblers

At 4:45 a.m., we arrived at the target field of cutgrass. We knew multiple toms and jakes had roosted near here the night before, so the odds were good. It was still dark when the gobbles started.

At first it sounded like they were echoing between the trees on each side of the field, but we soon realized gobblers had roosted in both treelines. The eruption of several gobbles sounding off in harmony was enough to give even a non-turkey hunter goosebumps. The morning light began to creep up, and we knew it was time to start calling to try and draw a bird towards our decoys: a half-strut jake, a lay-down hen, and a feeding hen.

Argue started with a soft yelp and before he could finish striking the slate, the gobblers responded. A flurry of turkeys hit the ground, with hens landing first, and a half-dozen toms and jakes following. To our dismay, they headed away from us, following two hens. It seemed as though our decoys and calling had no effect on them.

Rain-soaked fowl

After watching the distant group of birds poke around for about an hour, something miraculous happened. The same two hens started working their way towards us, and it didn’t take long before they were within 20 yards of our hiding spot. Then, the onset of heavy rain caused them to hold tight, which caught the attention of one of the big toms from the group the hens had just left.

Oblivious to the rain, that tom began a fast pace right towards us, covering a football field distance in what seemed to be seconds. As the big, beard-dragging gobbler got closer, he noticed our jake decoy and began to strut towards it. His head turned bright white and his tail fanned as wide as it could go as he waddled towards our spread.

At this point, my heart was pounding as I lined up the bead on my 12-gauge. He came out of strut and stretched his head high. That’s when Argue said, “Take him!”

The shot rang out and he hit the ground. Later, I’d learn that my trophy was pushing 24-lbs, had a 10 1⁄2-inch beard, and 1 1⁄4-inch spurs. But for now, I quickly tagged the bird and began my the victory walk back to the truck.

Getting there: Perth is an hour southwest of Ottawa along Hwy. 7, 17 minutes west of Smith Falls down County Road 43.

Andrew Rochon is OOD’s food editor. You can follow more of his culinary adventures on Instagram: @wilderness_chef

Cost: A minimum two-day booking is $350 per person, per day. Includes accommodation and breakfast, fully guided hunt, cleaning and packaging of birds. (Please contact for up-to-date costs)

Accommodations: The camp sleeps six, with electricity and a kitchen. It’s about 25 minutes from most of the hunting properties.

Contact: Eastern Canadian Outfitters, Renfrew
Rob Argue, 613-285-7555
Email by clicking here, or visit their website here

Originally published in the April 2019 edition of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine.

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