This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: Missouri’s turkey season opened recently and Tuesday morning, it was predicted to be pretty cold, but clear. Good conditions for turkey hunting.
GRANT: While reviewing some Reconyx cards, Daniel noticed there was a pattern of toms using a plot we call Prickly Pear. We’ve tagged a lot of toms out of this plot during the past year.
GRANT: Prickly Pear is located on a ridgetop and we recently expanded it from a small hidey hole food plot to about two and a quarter acres.
GRANT: In Missouri, turkey season closes at 1:00 p.m. daily. So, I like setting up on the east side of a plot so the sun is at my back.
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GRANT: Daniel and I decided to use two Montana hens and a jake decoy for our setup that morning.
GRANT: During years following a good hatch, oftentimes a group of jakes will get together – we call ‘em bully jakes – and really harass toms. But, last year, we had about 11 inches of rain right during the breeding/nesting season and we had a really small hatch. So, there’s not many jakes running around The Proving Grounds. And we thought that jake out there might be just the trigger to bring a tom in.
GRANT: (Whispering) Turkey season is open here in Missouri and it’s a beautiful morning – not too windy. The sun’s not over the mountain yet. We’re hearing a few toms gobble off the roost. We haven’t called yet. We wanta kind of get a better location. See how many are close to this plot. We’re at Prickly Pear. And then, maybe start doing a little calling once we think they're on the ground.
GRANT: (Whispering) Got some decoys out front. Should be a great morning.
GRANT: But once the toms hit the ground, it all went quiet.
GRANT: I suspected the toms had hens with ‘em. So, I called once or twice just to let the toms know we were in the area and set the Hook’s call down.
GRANT: In these conditions when it seemed toms are with hens from roost to roost, it’s best to set up on a location where you think toms are frequenting. It’s almost like patterning – just like hunting deer.
GRANT: It was quiet most of the morning. About 9:15, Daniel spotted a hen behind the blind.
GRANT: Not long after, we spotted a strutter following the hen.
GRANT: (Whispering) You still see him?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. He’s strutting. He’s working this way, though.
GRANT: Just as we’d heard all morning, this strutter wasn’t talking at all.
GRANT: We were looking through a small opening in the window and watched the show, but it wasn’t enough room to film.
GRANT: I shot competitive as a youngster, but no one told us to use hearing protection. Or if they did, I ignored them. Either way, I've lost a lot of hearing. So, now I use the Wild Ears to protect my hearing and slightly amplify the sound.
GRANT: Knowing he was close, I heard Daniel whisper, “Don’t move. He’s right beside the blind.”
DANIEL: (Whispering) I’m on him.
GRANT: I let him get out there just a ways. Then I eased the shotgun off the FieldPod and moved it to the other window.
GRANT: (Whispering) Daniel, are you on him?
DANIEL: (Whispering) I’m on him.
GRANT: I enjoyed watching the tom. But once Daniel gave me the green light, it was time to pull the trigger.
GRANT: I took that one down. (Laughter)
GRANT: As often happens in the turkey world, it doesn’t work out like you think it should. This tom was off-camera, but behind us for many minutes coming down a logging road into this food plot.
GRANT: I was peeping through a peephole back here and I heard him in the leaves over here. But I wasn’t gonna say anything ‘cause I knew he was close. And Daniel said, “Don’t move.” I mean, I knew he was right here.
GRANT: Oooo. It’s a – usually the first week of Missouri is real good. Toms are gobbling a lot. But, this year, of course, it’s been cold. Boy, you can tell, I’ve got my winter coat on now and a couple of neck gators on. And it seems like they're – a little later they're with hens. And that just a light calling just gives attention.
GRANT: And I actually called over here on purpose to try to draw ‘em this way. And I’ll be doggone if he didn’t walk on this side of the blind.
DANIEL: It’s a good morning.
GRANT: It’s a beautiful morning. You think they’d be screaming their heads off, but they're just so much with hens right now.
GRANT: The second week may be awesome here.
GRANT: Second week may be better. Be that as it is, that’s an adult tom down.
GRANT: Two-year-old tom. Man, that baby – he’s got some heft on him, too.
GRANT: A much colder spring than normal. Still got my heavy coat on. And this is typical. Been strutting and probably trying to express a little dominance, even though it’s a two-year-old. But, hasn’t worn those chest feathers off indicating he’s been breeding a lot. So, really light colored spurs.
GRANT: He’s got a long beard for a two-year-old. It’s not too thick, but it is a long beard for a two-year-old.
GRANT: Whoo! Was I excited! I love seeing critters and I love it when our strategy works out. Based on recent scouting, we felt that the toms are with hens and not talking a lot. So, we knew we needed good position and patience. We put that plan into action and it resulted in punching a tag on an Ozark Mountain tom.
GRANT: After celebrating and taking a few pictures, we headed back to the shop to dress the tom.
TYLER: 20 pounds.
GRANT: Well, we were blessed enough to tag a tom this morning; bring it back to the shop and we’re getting ready to take the breast out of this turkey.
GRANT: We’ve taken a bunch of pictures and admired the turkey. Man, wild turkeys are beautiful. It’s no wonder Ben Franklin wanted to make them the national bird. And at that time, they were a huge source of meat for American citizens.
GRANT: This turkey was going away from us and I shot him in the back of the head and it’s all bloody back there, but there shouldn’t be anything in the breast. We’ll get in there and see and this should be great meat for the family.
GRANT: I’m gonna roll him over and pop the beard out. And I just get the beard real low; right at the base. It will come out real clean if you pull it. And there’s no meat left on it. And, of course, all the hair stays in there. This is probably about a 10-inch beard and that’s a great beard for a two-year-old tom.
GRANT: You estimate a tom’s age by spur length. It’s not 100% accurate – there’s a lot of factors – diet, wear and tear. But on this one, they're about 7/8 of an inch long. Based on my history of turkeys here at The Proving Grounds, probably a two-year-old tom. He weighed 20 pounds.
GRANT: I’m gonna put the beard to the side. I’m leaving the legs and spurs on right now because they're handles to kind of handle the bird – if you will – and position it appropriately to remove the breast.
GRANT: A sharp knife is always handy and I don’t want to cut down through the feathers or I’ll cut portions of the feathers and get it on the meat. So, it’s almost like skinning a deer. I just pick up on the hide and get a little, little incision going and I want to go right down the sternum of this tom.
GRANT: And it’s tough to see. A little tougher than on a deer. On a deer, you see exactly where you're cutting. But a turkey – you’ve got so many feathers in there. Once you get going, I just get a hold of the meet – a hold of the skin, I should say. And I’m just, literally, skinning it just like I would any other animal. This one happens to have feathers.
GRANT: You want to be careful up here because the crop is up here and that’s where they store any food before it goes through the gizzard and gets ground up. So, I want to free up this hide all the way down the turkey breast and up away from the crop – being careful not to cut in the crop.
GRANT: I’ll go in there later to see what the turkey’s been eating. So, I’m just gonna take the skin off of the crop.
GRANT: I’m gonna go ahead and skin up the drumstick just a little bit here.
GRANT: Now, we’re starting to get it opened up good and really see what we’re doing. Skinning right between the hide – this big breast muscle. All the way back. And then the breast muscle will peel out of there much easier.
GRANT: And now, once I've got that laid – and I don’t see any pellet marks in there. That’s wonderful. Don’t want to bust a tooth on a Winchester pellet in there.
GRANT: Once I've got this whole side of the breast exposed, I’m just gonna separate the crop from the breast. There’ll be a fatty layer in between. I’m just cutting on that fatty layer and you can actually see it real easily if you look here. Turkey fat is slick, slick, slick, so be careful you don’t slide and cut yourself.
GRANT: Just going right between the fat and the meat there.
GRANT: And you can actually – once you get going, you can tear it with your fingers just about as easily as you can cut it. There we go.
GRANT: And then once I’ve got that freed up pretty good, I come right in the center here; go straight to the breastbone. The breastbone is kind of shaped almost like an inverted bell – so wider top and then skinny. So, you want to go in the breastbone and get those tenders right next to the breastbone.
GRANT: So, you're cutting in – just fileting – just like you might be fileting a big ole fish right now.
GRANT: There we go. It’s coming out nicely. And you can really see from this angle the crop and how the breast meat is separated by a layer of fat. There it is right there – all that yellow fat. It’s actually a good healthy sign. Just about all the way out now.
GRANT: And when you're doing this – the vitals are up in there, so you're not, like sticking your finger in the guts like you would a deer or something. Cut the very top of the muscle up there.
GRANT: And it just comes out clean in one piece. Great turkey breast – not a pellet in it anywhere that I see; not a pellet in there. We’ll take this inside and just filet off a little of this fat and connective tissue and that baby is ready to go in the cooker. Or we could cut it up and make turkey fries.
GRANT: After the breasts are removed, I move down to the thighs and drumsticks.
GRANT: Then, I’m just gonna skin out – Jacob, if you’ll just hold this up just about like that – skin out this drumstick real quick. Nothing to skinning one of these out.
GRANT: When I killed my first turkeys, everyone back then thought you had to pluck it and you spent hours plucking a turkey. People dipped the whole thing in oil and all kind of funky remedies. So much easier just to skin ‘em. And the meat is probably a little better.
GRANT: There’s a ball and socket joint right here and if you just bend it backwards like I just did, you don’t have to take your knife and cut through there, you just bend it backwards and you go right through this ball and socket joint without dulling your blade. And there you have what would be the back leg of a deer or we’ll take this inside and filet off some of the meat off here and we’ve used all the edible meat on a turkey.
GRANT: There’s a lot of tasty meat on a turkey and I’m sure my family will be enjoying it soon.
GRANT: Now that we’ve taken all the edible meat off, I like to look inside the crop; see what this turkey’s been eating; because there’s still guys that got a turkey tag here at the farm and the evidence of what this turkey has been eating will help us know where to hunt.
GRANT: And I just grab it at the top. It’s not like a deer stomach; it’s not like full of a bunch of bad gas that’s gonna come out and blow in your face. Just take the pressure off at the top.
GRANT: And toms – this time of year – oftentimes don’t eat much in the morning, so there may not be a whole lot in there.
GRANT: And we just make a hole. And this bad boy is empty. He was thinking about hens. There is nothing at all inside the crop of this tom.
GRANT: In Missouri, hunters are only allowed one turkey the first week of season. So, I’m tagged out and Daniel is up to bat.
GRANT: Based on our scouting and my hunt, it didn’t seem the turkey behavior had changed a bunch and they were still with hens; talking on the roost, but not a lot on the ground.
GRANT: Some additional MRI – most recent information – our interns Tyler and Jacob checked camera cards Thursday afternoon and noticed a pattern of two toms walking down a mountaintop road.
GRANT: Putting all the information together, it seemed these toms were roosting up on the ridge; pitching down – maybe circling through a food plot and then walking down the road into an area we recently burned.
GRANT: Turkeys love to bug and feed on fresh, young, tender forage in areas that were recently burned.
GRANT: The low vegetation also makes a great strut area.
GRANT: Daniel and Tyler felt – wisely so – they might as well set up right in front of the camera ‘cause they knew the turkeys were walking right there.
GRANT: Just as the boys got settled in, the toms started firing off on the ridge.
GRANT: Daniel made another smart tactical move and refrained from calling given the pattern.
DANIEL: (Whispering) It is clear and cool out this morning. And we’ve got a great pattern with toms walking this road into this burn unit right behind us. They're roosted up on the ridge; they're gobbling their heads off. Not gonna do a lot of calling ‘cause they're on such a great pattern walking this road. I can hear hens back over to our right. We’re in between the hens and gobblers. They’re hammering.
GRANT: It’s like a siren call when you hear turkeys gobbling. But Daniel and Tyler wisely held their ground and remained quiet based on the pattern.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Unfortunately, the toms have hit the ground; they’ve gone up the hill; top of the ridge to Big Boom. But, I think they're gonna swing back down later in the morning, be walking this road. So, we’re just gonna sit tight. They’ll come by. Gotta stay positive.
GRANT: After a while, Daniel heard a hen down in the holler and it sounded like the toms were following the hen.
GRANT: Daniel made a couple of soft calls hoping to draw the hens and the toms out of the valley.
GRANT: It wasn’t long before guys heard scratching in the leaves and it was close.
GRANT: Was that scratching coming from a hen or a tom?
GRANT: It wasn’t long until Daniel spotted a fan coming over the ridge.
GRANT: Daniel and Tyler loved watching that show.
DANIEL: (Whispering) I’m gonna take him.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Okay. You ready?
TYLER: (Whispering) I’m on him.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. Okay.
GRANT: Finally, Daniel couldn’t take it anymore and fired the Winchester.
DANIEL: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
GRANT: Once again, the Long Beard XR dropped it in its tracks.
DANIEL: Golly. You want to talk about birds working us. I don't think I’ve ever been more uncomfortable on a turkey hunt. I mean, my fanny is numb; my legs are tingling; my heart is pounding.
DANIEL: We've got a big burn area; big burn/bedding area just back behind us. And so we were just cutting ‘em off. So somewhere in between 7:00 and 10:00, they were gonna come through. Sure enough.
DANIEL: Let me check my phone. 8:47. And we just put our time in. We got a big tom on the ground. Beautiful tom. Great fan. Good beard. That other tom is still right there behind him. Man, his head’s fired up. He’s, he’s hot.
DANIEL: Dude. How, how sore are you right now?
TYLER: Really sore.
GRANT: What a hunt. Their strategy worked to a ‘t’ and Daniel tagged a fine tom during some tough hunting conditions.
DANIEL: It was tough. I didn’t want to sit for three hours in one spot. That’s always hard to do when you're turkey hunting. But, we hunted the pattern; we put our time in; we got some sore legs. But it paid off.
DANIEL: And just a beautiful tom. He’s got a beautiful fan here. Man, he’s got a great beard. His spurs – they're, they’re thick. Man, they're thick. Probably, probably a good two-year-old bird. His spurs are – I don't know. They may go a little over an inch. But, man, they're just thick.
DANIEL: What a awesome hunt it was this morning.
GRANT: Daniel was using the iSCOPE. So, as soon as he got back, we couldn’t wait to get his phone and watch the footage right there.
DANIEL: There he is. And you just…
GRANT: Hmm. Hmm.
DANIEL: …full strut.
GRANT: Hmm. Hmm. Beautiful.
GRANT: This is where the music starts. Yeah. I dig that. Um. You're way more patient than most people at this point.
GRANT: I get a lot of questions about guys wanting to self-film their hunts and I tell ‘em all. Step number one is get an iSCOPE. It’s the easiest way to get quality video and audio of your hunt.
DANIEL: He goes down. And then this other tom – he comes right back in.
GRANT: Oh yeah. Very cool.
GRANT: This was a great hunt that ended in a great tom.
GRANT: So cool that Daniel is gonna get a full mount of this Ozark Mountain trophy. We’ll share that mount with you when Daniel gets it back.
GRANT: The weather conditions have made turkey hunting challenging from north to south this season. If you’d like to stay up on the most recent hunting tactics that are working, simply subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.
GRANT: Changing weather conditions are one reason it’s so cool to get outside and enjoy Creation. Most years, by the opening of turkey season here, the trees are leafed out. This year, they're just showing buds.
GRANT: But no matter what the conditions are, take time every day to find a place and be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.