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A few of my goose hunting friends had been hunting turkeys in Ontario for the past few years and would tell me stories at our fall goose hunts about how much fun it was to call in a gobbler and chase them in the fields. I never took it seriously, thinking how hard could it be to hunt a turkey! I was about to find out.

I finally decided to take the plunge and booked a hunt with Grey Bruce Outfitters in Walkerton, Ontario in May 2020. Unfortunately, COVID had other plans for everyone and with the travel restrictions I had to cancel the hunt. And 2021 was no better and I had to cancel the hunt again; it was looking like the turkey Gods were testing my patience.

Steve Todtz, the owner of Grey Bruce kept assuring me over those two years that the wait was worth every minute of the hunt and I should come out as soon as the restrictions are lifted. Finally, the turkey Gods smiled on me and I was off to Walkerton the last week of May 2022, along with three fellow SCI members and dear friends Brian, Glenn, and his son Brett. Only Brian had hunted turkeys before in the US and told us we were in for a treat.

Driving a rented car from Toronto to Walkerton, which is about a two-hour drive northwest of Toronto, the four of us were in high spirits. We saw our first turkeys about an hour north of Toronto. For me, Glenn and Brett, it was our first sightings of wild turkeys and it was quite exciting to see gobblers in full strut chasing hens. We saw several more turkeys before we made it to the hunting lodge late that evening.

Steve liked hunting them in the later part of May, as the big gobblers are done breeding the hens and responded to calls and decoys better. We were hopeful of getting at least one tom each. In Ontario, you are allowed two spring turkey tags and can take toms or jakes but you can only shoot one bird a day.

Our first day of the three-day hunt started very early at 3:00 am, as Steve told us turkeys have very good hearing and vision and he wanted us set up before the gobblers woke up. His guides had scouted the fields the night before and knew where the birds were roosting. We were on a 2X1 guided hunt and me and Brian were together with our guide Whitey, who was a young lad and had been hunting and guiding for turkeys for the last 15 odd years.

We were set up in a field planted with beans and there was a big chunk of bush in front of us, about 150 yards away. Whitey had spotted four toms and several hens the night before roost in the thick bush. Slowly the forest started to come alive and we could hear birds chirping and at about 5:00 am, we heard the distinct gobble of a tom. Our spirits were lifted instantly. We saw four gobblers come down from the trees with about eight hens but they wouldn’t leave the hens. Our guide called expertly but we couldn’t break away any gobblers from the hens and they wouldn’t come into the decoys. At about 10:00 am, our guide decided to switch fields so we packed up and left for another field he had spotted. The gobblers watched us leave from a distance and I’m sure they were clucking in triumph!

We got to the other field and saw four more gobblers with three hens right at the entrance to the field. We decided to walk in from behind to set up so we wouldn’t spook them and ended up walking about a kilometre with the blind, decoys, shotguns and gear.

We set up across the field behind some bushes and the turkeys were about a mile from where we first saw them. I was skeptical that we could call them in from such a distance. Our guide was relaxed and told us that the turkeys will make their way to us eventually.

We dozed off in the blind and after an hour our guide suddenly woke us up, as he could hear turkeys calling in the distance. He told us to get ready and to keep quiet. He called a few times and we saw four toms make their way to our decoys—the last fifty yards they came running in. My heart was pumping now, as one was a giant tom. Our guide told us we had a good chance at a double header and told us to stay still until he gave us the go-ahead. The four toms came right in and it happened so fast! The big tom was right in front of me and there was one to his left at about 20 yards. The other two were to my right, about 25 yards away.

Whitey whispered to me and Brian to take the toms in front of us. We both lined up our toms, the shots went off in perfect unison, and the big tom hit the ground dead. The other three ran away!

Whitey turned to me and said I missed! I said I didn’t! I lined up the big tom and he was down, but Brian had lined up the same tom too. We both shot the same bird! I didn’t realize that the bird to the left of the big tom was a jake but Brian knew it and thought I would take the one to his right. I just got a lesson in turkey identification. We both laughed and Brian rightfully tagged the beautiful bird.

We packed up, went back to the lodge, and Whitey took me out for an afternoon hunt right in front of the lodge where a big tom had been hanging out. We set up in front of a big bush and Whitey gave a few calls as we sat in silence. I had almost dozed off, having woken up at 3:00 am, when I heard Whitey’s voice saying, “Shoot! Shoot! Big tom in.”

Startled, I looked in front but couldn’t see anything. Then I saw a tom in full strut coming in from my right at about 15 yards. I raised my shotgun, aimed for his head, and slapped the trigger—the Tom went down!

Manak with his first eastern turkey.
It was a great feeling to tag my first turkey and he was a beautiful bird with iridescent coloured feathers. We went back to the lodge and Glenn and his son Brent had collected two beautiful jakes as well with their guide that morning. All four of us got turkeys on our first day. We enjoyed a few brews after a long day.

The next morning, Brian and I went with another guide to change things up a bit and as usual, set up before the crack of dawn in an open grassy field where our guide had spotted several toms the night before. Like clockwork, we heard the gobblers in the forest and watched them come down one by one into the field followed by several hens. Despite our guide’s expert calling, the toms refused to break away from the hens and skirted out of range.

After a few hours of calling and watching, our guide decided to sneak up on them by walking through the dense bush to get closer for a shot. We belly crawled, snuck beneath brush, over fallen trees, and walked through water-logged areas and after about an hour, we were within 100 yards of them—this was exciting! We had a hen come within four yards of us before she slowly walked back. We waited a little longer and a nice tom came within 50 yards and was a little wary of coming in. Brian offered me to take the shot. I took aim, however, I didn’t get the tom. I had a full choke and upon test firing it that evening at 50 yards, I found it more open than a turkey choke at the same distance. Another lesson learned!

The crew with their eastern turkeys.
That evening, I drove with Steve to scout for birds and he was a wealth of knowledge on hunting turkeys—what to look for in a hunting spot, what a good roost looks like—I learned more about turkey hunting in the few hours riding with Steve than I had ever read or watched on TV. What a great guide and fellow hunter!

The next morning I went with Steve while Brian went with another guide to see if we could seal the deal on our second toms. We had an evening flight to catch from Toronto the same day. Steve and I set up our blind and decoys on the edge of a ravine and the turkeys were in roost below us. At legal light, a hen flew over the blind and landed right in front of us. A few minutes later, a jake walked up from the ravine and onto the field from the right side and stood about 30 yards from us. On Steve’s word I lined him up and on the rapport of the shotgun, he went down—I had filled my second tag!

Brian bagged a nice big tom at 60 yards that morning too and all four of us were tagged out. What an exciting hunt and the opportunity to see so many turkeys up close.
Before we left the lodge we thanked Steve for an amazing hunt and said goodbye to his wife who, was a great host, and to his young daughter.

This story is dedicated to the memory of Steve Todtz who passed away unexpectedly on June 12, 2022. He was 45—I was the last hunter he guided. ■

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