Why Turkey Hunters Hate Cows

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

Have you had these livestock issues while turkey hunting?

Cows seem to love and/or hate turkey hunters. That’s a problem sometimes.

Cover Scent

Turkey hunting legend Preston Pittman has had his challenges with cows while turkey hunting, too. He once told me the story of a tough field gobbler and a bunch of calves that kept sniffing out his setup. “Like bird dogs,” Pittman joked. The turkey would enter the field, see all this activity and repeatedly spook. So Preston did what none of us likely would: he looked at the ground, reached down and spread fresh cow crap on his body – to cover the human scent the calves were so interested in, he said. As you guessed, the next time the turkey came right in and Pittman killed it. I’m still not sure if the story is all true – Pittman, as some of you know, can be a prankster – but it’s a good one.

Blind Eating

My first turkey hunting encounter of the cow kind happened over 20 years ago. I’d roosted a handful of fall longbeards during the New Hampshire bow season, and barely slept. My pre-dawn setup came in a pasture corner, which included some perfectly placed blind material. Hopefully this would afford the ability to draw and try to kill one. I’d run the scenario over and over again so many times the night before it felt like it might happen.

At daybreak, they gobbled. That’s right, fall gobblers – gobbling. This isn’t news at all to two-season turkey hunters of course. The trembling in my fingertips wouldn’t make killing one easy. So I took a deep breath, then another. And then I saw them crest the rise: not the turkeys; the cows. Down they drifted, and as a testament to the early Realtree camouflage patterns, one drifted up to my blind, and stood there eyeing me hungrily. And then it started trying to eat my blind material. Yes, I tried to scare the cows away. They weren’t buying it – one just kept chewing away at my blind. The turkeys shut up, never showed, I eventually got mad and left the scene wondering what the heck had just happened – and yes the cows followed me for a short ways heading out. Bird dogs indeed.

© L.Kora-Shutterstock photo

Stampede

Another time, I was part of a pre-dawn stampede. The Vermont farmer gave me permission to hunt his big property. “Just don’t shoot one of the cows,” he said in his dry Yankee way. By the end of it I thought I might have to in self-defense. I parked my rig, scaled the fence, and started my way through his pasture. Seeing me, over a hundred cows first drifted off, then started my way. At one point somebody in the group panicked – and they started going in about a dozen directions. Cattle wheeled and wheezed around me, the ground thudding with raw power. When my flashlight found an opening I ran toward it – fast.

The drama was worth it.

Not long after daybreak I called several gobblers with a few hens in – killed the strutting tom, and then a subdominant spring gobbler that just stood there wondering what just happened (filling your two spring tags in one day is legal in Vermont). I felt like Santa coming out: one turkey on my shoulder and one in my vest. This time the cows moved off as I approached, not wanting to fool with my big profile, I guess.

Number 47

Florida is one of my favorite turkey hunting states, even if the flight down and back is always full of wild-eyed Disney-bound kids and their exhausted parents. “Just walk past number 47,” my host half-joked, “and the roost is right there in the woods.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by number 47, but we were in a hurry so I didn’t ask. They dropped me off in the pre-dawn fog, and told me to walk the dirt road in.

Halfway there, my light caught something in the road – a cow, dead. Its ear tag read number 47.

It read the same thing when I walked out with the Osceola.

Realtree.com blogger Steph Mallory has also had cow troubles while turkey hunting. “I had a group of about 10 cows approach me,” she said. “They formed a semi-circle around me, just stood there and stared at me for the longest time. Finally they lost interest and wandered off. It was strange.” Check out her post on what PETA thinks about cows.

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Editor's note: This turkey blog was first published February 7, 2014.