County Outfitters offers 10,000 acres in eastern Ontario.
Frank Dunlop of County Outfitters has five turkeys in the OFAH Wild Turkey Registry. I hope to tap into his expertise and harvest a real limb hanger, so I arrive in Prince Edward County the night before the hunt and we meet at the Fields on West Lake, where his hunters stay.
He tells me that he had his eye on a big bird, but it disappeared two days ago. The season opened four days ago, so it’s possible the gobbler has already been shot, or changed its pattern.
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There’s always Plan B
Dunlop explains the alternate plan is to hunt a spot his wife Tanya, also a guide, and another of his guides have hunted this week. They weren’t successful in harvesting a bird, but he assures me there are several toms in the area. To most outdoors people, Prince Edward County’s claim to fame is the large walleye on the Bay of Quinte, but it also gives up several impressive turkeys every year, one of which I hope to tag.
In the blackness of the next morning en route to our hunt, Dunlop tells me he has access to more than 10,000 acres throughout the county. His family are descendants of United Empire Loyalists and have lived in the area since the early 1700s, so he knows most of the farmers.
Arriving at the field, Dunlop tells me the plan is to set up in an area between several roosting spots. We settle in at the edge of the woods. Frank tells me his guides have seen birds in the woodlot to the right that runs perpendicular to this one. It seems like a great location and I have a good feeling about it. We’re behind a short berm that breaks up our outline, but doesn’t hamper our line of sight.
Dunlop stakes out a decoy in front, with fishing line attached so he can add some motion to it.
In the dark, we sit and wait for the birds to start their morning serenade. The first gobble comes from the left and is distant, likely about 400 yards away, in the woodlot at the far end of the field. Gradually more birds wake up and we can tell there are at least four turkeys surrounding us. Apart from the one in the woodlot, there is one behind, and gobbles are coming from the woodlot to the right.
Gradually more birds wake up and we can tell there are at least four turkeys surrounding us.
Dunlop scratches out some tree yelps on his pot call. He doesn’t get an answer initially, but after a few more, he’s rewarded with a reply. He doesn’t call frequently, knowing these birds have been hunted. Raising his binoculars, he spots birds still roosting in the trees in the woodlot on the right.
“There’s one on the ground,” he points out 15 minutes later, seeing fly-down start about 300 yards away. Frank is a little behind me and higher, and with his binoculars can keep an eye on these birds. I see the fly-down, but lose them on the ground.
Dunlop glasses the birds in front of us, calling out that there is more than one gobbler. The birds are behind a slight rise and all he can see are heads. Then, the birds take those extra few steps and I spot them.
“They’re coming,” Dunlop says.
Dropping the hammer
Time stands still as the birds move slowly toward us. It’s likely only five minutes, but it seems like a half-hour as I watch them draw closer a little at a time, my excitement increasing at their approach. Dunlop pulls on the fishing line, adding a little movement to the decoy.
First on the scene are several hens. In tow, I can make out the darker bodies and brightly-coloured heads of three gobblers.
The hens stop 40 yards out and move off to our right, but the gobblers take their time moving in, still feeding. They are directly in front of us when Frank whispers, “Take him,” just as I come to the same conclusion. They are in a single line, spaced out.
I give a cluck on my call and red and white heads go up in the air. I put my crosshairs on the closest one and squeeze the trigger. It drops on the spot. We don’t move. The other birds jump a bit, but don’t run off. Instead, one tom walks towards the downed bird.
“You should take one for a double,” I whisper to Dunlop. He raises his gun, but the bird doesn’t come close enough for a good shot.
Dunlop doesn’t want to spook the birds, as it’s early in the season, so we stay behind cover as they wander off. My bird went down hard so we aren’t concerned about the need for a second shot. Once the birds have left the field, we take a look and mentally calculate it was a better than 35-yard shot.
The bird is 52 paces out and weighs in at just under 20 pounds. It may not be the big bird that Dunlop had initially scoped out for me, but I’m more than satisfied with this mature gobbler, a perfect size for the deep fryer.
This article originally appeared in Ontario OUT of DOORS April 2016 issue, available in both print and digital formats. Subscribe today.