There’s nothing I look forward to more than turkey hunting in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This year, I had the good fortune of squeezing in a day-and-a-half of hunting with my parents, Dwaine and Sharon Starr. After that, Amber Brandly, co-owner of 2 Vets Arms, flew in from Oklahoma to spend 3 days hunting with me. Amber has bagged 2 Eastern gobblers in her home state of Oklahoma, but this would be her first turkey harvest in 7 years, if she could connect with a bird in the U.P. Here are photos from my hunting adventures.
Hunt #1: Mom and Dad Starr
Mom, Dad and I arrived the afternoon before season started, and we had just enough time to unpack our gear from the truck, throw on our boots, grab our turkey calls and head to the woods to scout. Mom excitedly pointed out turkey scat that she found. This sighting and the sound of gobbling in response to our crow calls made the area “Plan A” for where we would hunt in the morning.
Our goal for the trip – to get Mom a big gobbler! Full of anticipation, we hit the ground running on a foggy opening morning. At sunup, we located a gobbler in our “Plan A” area, got situated on the edge of a field and started calling him in. Unfortunately, a propane truck that drove in to fill up the tank at the camp, near the area we were hunting, scared the bird and foiled our plan. Here, Mom and Dad discuss “Plan B,” which would include running-and-gunning on state land.
Mom didn’t end up bagging a bird, but the 3 of us spent a few days of quality time together as a family, and had a great time turkey hunting together.
Hunt #2: Amber’s U.P. turkey
After a crazy 9-hour drive (from Michigan’s Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula) that involved fog/lightning/rain, dodging 300 deer, 2 frogs and drinking a lot of coffee, Amber and I made it to turkey hunting camp at 2:30 a.m. With a couple hours of sleep under our belts, and with the rain giving a brief reprieve, we headed out to the woods. Of course, this gobbler strutted his stuff in an area we didn’t have permission to hunt. (Amber Brandly photo)
After a gaggle of gobblers replied to my owl hoot, our “Plan A” and first set up of the day consisted of getting Amber nestled into the brush along the edge of a nearby cornfield (different from the one I hunted with my parents at the beginning of the season). Late in the season now, the gobblers did not commit.
Amber and I both wore Eliminator rain gear from Próis Hunting & Field Apparel for Women.
Sometimes, when the turkeys aren’t cooperating, it’s a good idea to regroup and move on to “Plan B.” Fortunately, Amber and I had a lot of options and continued to run-and-gun on both state and private land.
Eventually, we made our way to the same farm where I started opening morning with my parents. I’ve always thought the spot had good luck, because of the horseshoe placed prominently on the barn. Upon arrival, we spotted a group of birds in 1 of the fields, consisting of 3 toms, 4 jakes and 1 hen. “It’s on!” I told Amber, “We’re going to get you a gobbler!”
And get her one, we did! After sneaking along the field’s edge, Amber crawled up and got positioned where I hoped that the group of birds would funnel down. I sat near her, and started calling quietly, not wanting to be overly aggressive. The hen wasn’t too fond of another female in her territory and started pulling the group away from us. I realized that I would have to belly-crawl in the opposite direction (farther away from Amber) in order to try and get them to come back. I hoped that I would be able to pull at least 1 curious Jake from the group; luckily, when I started aggressively yelping and cutting, all of the birds decided to move closer to Amber. She made a clean 25-yard shot with her 12-gauge Beretta A400 Xtreme and knocked down this 24-pound Eastern turkey.
Even though Amber’s tom weighed in at 24 pounds, his beard measured only 5 inches. Michigan’s harsh winter likely caused it to freeze and break off. (Amber Brandly photo)
The best thing about shooting a turkey (besides the memories) is having fresh, organic meat to cook! One of the turkey breasts from Amber’s huge tom ended up being big enough to feed 3 people. (Amber Brandly photo)
As my season of turkey hunting in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula came to a close, Amber and I enjoyed delicious turkey nuggets, breaded in corn meal and topped with hot sauce, complemented by asparagus and sweet potato. (Amber Brandly photo)