Solitude Toms

Today’s blog post comes to us from Bob Lott, Producer of Intrepid Outdoors. Bob writes about a a handful of Turkey hunts hunt that will be featured during airings of Intrepid Outdoors.

Turkey hunting has been a passion for many Eastern hunters for decades, but it’s popularity in the West has been stunted, in my opinion, by a complete misunderstanding of how much fun it can actually be. Case in point: This weeks episode titled “Solitude Toms.” This show features all Wyoming residents who had never hunted a Turkey until they were introduced to it in the Black Hills of Northeast Wyoming.

Father and Son
Ed Chipperfield was invited out to hunt a Merriams Turkey on the Solitude Ranch by good friend Mike Schmid three years ago. Ed wanted to bring his son, Scott, so they could both give this crazy sounding Turkey hunting a try. Like a lot of folks from the West that I’ve run into during my travels across this country, Ed and Scott didn’t quite have a grasp of the whole Turkey craze? They, like so many, viewed these very visual birds all of the time driving down the road and think: what’s so hard about killing Turkey? Just pull over, get out, walk up to them and shoot right? “Well,” Mike replied, “… you can do that with just about any game animal in this country, but the idea of hunting as a sport is to simply make it harder by actually chasing the species your hunting in it’s own habitat, and on the animals terms.” “Make it a hunt” Mike concluded. Ed and Scott liked the sound of that, and looked forward their first Turkey hunt.

Experiencing is Believing
Ed and Scott chased gobblers that spring near Devils Tower, Wyoming for four days and by the end of the hunt, only Scott went home with a bird. Needless to say, Ed, being the typical competitive male human, was hooked! He was determined to come back the following year and get his Turkey.  He did just that. Ed managed to kill a mature Tom during one of the coldest, wettest and muddiest springs anyone of us has experienced at the Solitude Ranch. Like his Dad the year previous, Scott was the unlucky hunter that spring. So now the hooked turkey hunters decided to come back the following year and try it again.

Missed Opportunity
In 2012, the spring turkey season rolled around and the Chipperfield father and son team rolled into the town of Hulett once again to try to pull off their first two-bird year. Like years past, they connected with me in hopes to capture their hunts on film. I would, like I have so many times before, act as guide/Camera Guy. Our first morning hunt started out like many turkey hunts do, birds gobbling on roost and hunters set up as close as possible without getting busted by the keen eye sight of the Merriam Turkey. We called, waited, called some more and then got into some action: a turkey gobbling his head off to every sound I threw at him. He simply gathered up his hens and walked the other direction from my two hunters who were now fast asleep.

Just Like You See on TV
After waking up my hunters and explaining to them that it’s typical for Turkeys to do what they did, I decided that we should make one more move on them before going for a late

Scott Chipperfield (left) and his father Ed bagged a couple of Wyoming Toms last spring.

breakfast. Ed and Scott were all in, so we quietly re-adjusted our position to get ahead of where the Turkeys seemed to be heading. After a quick set up, I began the same yelps, cuts and purrs I had used all morning. But only this time the big toms were definitely more fired up to the sounds they were hearing. It didn’t take the two big gobblers 15 minutes to get to our decoys, and they were intent on letting the decoys know who was boss! I had told Ed and Scott, that in the case two birds would come in, I’d count to three and they’d both pull their triggers at the same time. I couldn’t believe how it was all coming
together as if these birds had never been hunted before? I slowly, but quietly, counted to three and BOOM, two birds hit the dirt. Ed jumped up, and immediately yelled, “That was awesome, it was just like you see on TV!” After many high fives, and comparing their prize birds, the two walked off reliving their hunt with a whole lot of smiles and conversation. One more of the many reasons I do what I do and love it!

If it Doesn’t Have Big Antlers
Steve Mack has hunted most of his life, and has helped many youth get involved with the shooting sports, as well as hunting through 4-H. While chaperoning one of his youth hunts, Steve ended up out at the Solitude Ranch to help lower the doe population. That fall, Steve was invited back the following Spring to try his luck at one of those pesky, Gobblin’ Toms. He hesitantly accepted the invite, but thought, “If it doesn’t have antlers, then why hunt them?” Steve manged to look past his doubts,and drove up with good friend Bob Sexton, who helped start the 4H shooting program in the state of Wyoming. Bob was also carrying his weapon of choice, a flintlock .32 caliber muzzleloader. The plan: get Bob in the best position since he was pushing the ripe young age of 83, and carrying a gun that could prove a little tougher to hit a turkey with. Steve had no problem with this, and was happy to be there to hopefully witness his good friend take one of these ugly birds they make all this fuss about.

Now That Was a Text Book Turkey Hunt
After driving around in the Polaris for an hour, Mike Schmid had located a pretty fired up Tom. We all quickly got our gear together, and headed for the best looking set up. We

Even at over 80 years old, Bob Sexton still enjoys a good fall turkey hunt.

decided on a Ponderosa pine covered hill that was close to the same level as our gobbling Tom. I was to film Bob while Mike and Steve headed about 15 yards South of us. The idea was to call the bird to mine and Bob’s location having Mike and Steve behind us. This plan was feeling pretty fail safe at first because the bird immediately responded to every sound Mike made. He was coming, and coming fast. Bob readied his six-foot long flintlock and waited for the big ugly head to pop over the hill. Like so many of these Turkey hunts, this bird did not just come straight over the hill and end his life with a .32 caliber pill. Instead, he walked around the hill to our left, popped over and strutted right to the barrel of Steve’s 12 gauge shotgun. Mike gave him the go ahead, and without hesitation, Steve leveled the old bird. His reaction was one that even he didn’t see coming! He was pumped, and a little shaky. He couldn’t believe how his brain, heart, and body was reacting to such a no count bird? Or so he thought …

More Western hunters need to experience what the eastern hunters have referred to as the poor man’s Elk for the last half century. My experience is solid video testimony that has documented many nonbelievers that, well, ended up Turkey junkies just like the rest of us!