Three Weeks in the Turkey Woods

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1 | Beginning in Idaho

IDAHO

I photographed an Idaho hunt with Outdoor Life Hunting Editor Andrew McKean, as well as NWTF biologist Gabe McMasters and NWTF Marketing Director Brent Lawrence.

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2 | Clearwater River

We hunted the rolling hills and steep timbered ridges of the Clearwater River drainage.

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3 | Andrew McKean

Using the terrain to his advantage, as well as some soft talk to coax a reluctant longbeard into range, Andrew tagged his bird the first morning under gray, ominous clouds and a cold, persistent rain.

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4 | Open Country

Hunting western turkeys in open terrain often involves as much spotting, stalking and crawling as it does calling and waiting.

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5 | McMillan Outfitting

KANSAS

In Kansas, I hunted with McMillan Outfitting.

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6 | At the Lodge

Renowned for high quality whitetail hunting, McMillan also offers incredible turkey hunting.

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7 | Turkey Hunter's Paradise

Lots of prime turkey real estate + plenty of unpressured birds = a turkey hunter’s paradise. I hunted with Dave Radke, Tom’s right-hand man.

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8 | Evening Success

Even though the birds were still flocked up, it didn’t take long to find success. The first evening, as a big flock slowly pecked their way across a field on their way to roost, Dave and I convinced a curious two-year-old to leave the safety of the flock and venture our way. A few soft purrs and a little leaf scratching were all it took to dispatch the wayward gobbler.

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9 | On to South Dakota

SOUTH DAKOTA

Within a day or two of tagging out in Kansas, I hopped a plane to South Dakota to meet up with outdoor writer Mike Lambeth.

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10 | Notched Tag

We hunted near Belle Fourche, South Dakota, with Justin Raber, a local archery shop dealer and diehard turkey hunter. While Mike and I both filled two prairie tags, it wasn’t easy. Wide-open terrain and big flocks of field turkeys dominated by loudmouth hens were the norm.

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11 | Prairie Gobbler

In flat-as-a-pancake country like the South Dakota prairie, spotting birds before they spot you is no easy undertaking. We runned-and-gunned our way across the prairie, setting up multiple times and belly-crawling a time or two to get within shotgun range.

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12 | Montana

MONTANA

My three-week turkey quest ended with a laid-back hunt with a few buddies in western Montana, in the Bitterroot Mountains just south of Missoula.

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13 | Western Turkey Hunting

Even though spring was well underway, the weather was cold. And with high winds and steep hillsides and valleys to muffle the sounds of distant birds, we definitely had our work cut out for us.

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14 | Spot and Stalk

As in my previous hunts in Idaho, Kansas and South Dakota, we had little choice but to spot-and-stalk our way to success. Using the rough terrain to our advantage, we’d creep as close as we dared, then set up and use a mix of soft calls to close the deal.

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The life of a freelance outdoor photographer can be feast or famine. You’re either crazy busy or barely moving, depending on what’s in season. Spring of 2009 found me running in circles, chasing turkeys with both shotgun and camera. In three weeks’ time, I traveled from Idaho to Kansas to South Dakota to Montana. Here’s an inside look at three very busy weeks in the spring turkey woods ...