Hunter has opportunity to bag 3 spring turkeys

Courtesy<br><br>
Don Martin, left, and Las Vegas resident Pete Bartmus show the Rio Grande gobbler that Martin bagged on a hunt in southern Nevada. The gobbler weighed 19-3/4 pounds and had a 9-1/4-inch beard.

Courtesy<br><br> Don Martin, left, and Las Vegas resident Pete Bartmus show the Rio Grande gobbler that Martin bagged on a hunt in southern Nevada. The gobbler weighed 19-3/4 pounds and had a 9-1/4-inch beard.

Over the years, I've really come to enjoy spring turkey hunting. It's usually a great time to be in the field, with the country coming alive after being dormant all winter.

So in an attempt to get to participate in at least one spring turkey hunt per year, I have been applying in three states. Besides Arizona, I apply in Nevada and Utah.

This year I hit the turkey jackpot. I got tags in all three states.

I got lucky when I drew the only non-resident tag that was offered for a hunt near Moapa, Nev.

This is desert farmland country that includes the Overton Wildlife Management Area.

With the help of my good friends, Las Vegas residents Kensen Lee and Pete Bartmus, I was able to bag a big gobbler after hunting less than four hours.

Though it wasn't what you call a classic hunt, where you have decoys set out and call the bird right in, it worked out and I bagged a gobbler that weighed 19-3/4 pounds and sported a beard that was 9-1/4-inches long. This bird's beard was extremely brushy, measuring more than 4-inches wide at the bottom. The bird had sharp spurs that measured 7/8- by 6/8-inches long.

Then it was time to head to Utah.

I had applied unsuccessfully for five years in the area north of St. George that is called the Pine Valley A Unit.

This year, I finally drew one of the few non-resident tags that were issued there.

Then through a stroke of fate, I got a unique opportunity to meet some really great people who live in the area I was going to hunt. They were able to obtain permission for me to hunt on some private lands that were just loaded with birds.

Though I had the only tag for the hunt, friends Kensen Lee and Jay Chan would accompany me to assist in the calling and videotaping of this once-in-a-lifetime hunt.

Our hosts were Bruce and Vivian Whited, who live in a beautiful country home near New Harmony.

The Whiteds graciously offered to let me hook up my fifth-wheel trailer next to their home, so we had full power and water during the hunt. Turned out to be the best turkey "camp" I have ever had.

Chan, Lee and I arrived in the area on Friday afternoon and were met by our hosts.

A quick 45-minute tour of the area produced sightings of a lot of turkeys and deer in a creek bottom not five minutes from the Whited's home.

On opening morning, Chan, Lee and I set out at daylight, and within minutes, we were on the private property and in what I would say was turkey Valhalla.

As we were driving down the road, I looked out the driver's window. There standing in the open in a flat next to a creek were two large gobblers. They were not 40 yards from the truck and were gobbling their heads off.

I could have just stepped out of the truck, took aim and bagged one of them, but I hadn't waited for six years to end my dream hunt in less than 10 minutes on opening day.

As I have said many times about hunting, it's not the kill; it's all about the experience.

So after videotaping the two gobbling birds, off we drove, only to stop a half-mile away to set up our decoy spread.

After putting out the decoys, Lee and I started calling. We immediately heard at least four different gobblers answer, though they were obviously farther up the creek.

So for about an hour, we waited patiently, and then suddenly the flock arrived.

It was almost surreal.

For almost an hour, hens and gobblers came walking and running into the flat where our decoys were.

When it was over, Chan had videotaped at least 18 different turkeys, and amazingly, nine of them were gobblers.

By 10 a.m. on opening day, I could honestly say I had passed on seven different gobblers.

But we continued hunting and seeing birds.

Later that morning, we spotted a group of seven gobblers, and leading the pack was an old longbeard. This guy was smart and never came into range.

Later that day, there were more encounters with birds, but no shots were taken.

The next morning, we decided on a change in tactics.

We made a blind just outside the irrigated alfalfa field to the east of the Whited's property, where during the previous two days, we had seen two huge gobblers.

This area was public land.

That morning, I saw a number of birds, and when it came time to take one of the longbeards that came in enthusiastically to my calls, my shooting eye failed me and I actually missed three shots at two different birds.

My confidence now shaken and my faith in my trusty 10-gauge waning, we packed up the decoys and headed back to the creek bottom.

We saw more gobblers, and at 10 a.m., I called in a bachelor group of three birds.

One shot did the trick and I had my Utah gobbler, a bird that sported a heavy 9-inch beard.

Now I have one more turkey hunt to go on. I've got a hunt on the Navajo Army Depot west of Flagstaff that will start on Friday.

But I'm going to miss the first three days of that hunt, as I'm going fishing with the Kingman Bass Club at Alamo Lake.

When I get back, I'll head for the depot for a few days. We'll see if I can get a trifecta on turkeys in '08.