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Quick Tom

The truck drove slowly up the long dirt road between the north and south-western hay fields carefully avoiding the mud holes. The creaking sounds of the suspension faded into the country music that was playing low on the radio. Once we reached our spot, the driver put it into park and stopped at the top of the eastern ridge on the forest edge.

It had been raining for a few hours now and the temperature was starting to drop at about six degrees Celsius, we had lowered our windows, so that we could hear the nightly sounds and hopefully get a gobble or an owl hoot. I then carefully swung my door open, stepped out into the mud and moved my way to the back to the truck, unzipped my hunting bag and grabbed my crow caller.

It had been dark for about thirty minutes now and we were slowly sinking further into darkness. I cupped my hands around my mouth and started with a few owl calls and then waited a few minutes, then called again with my crow caller. This went on for a few minutes and would stop, listening with my hands cupped around my ears, and then I would start calling again. I was anticipating a call back from a gobbler but instead I heard crickets, geese from the lake nearby and some other nocturnal animals. The farmer had said that the field on our left was full of turkeys during the week and so we were attempting to find their roost.

After a few failed attempts, we packed up and made our way back to the cabin for the night. It was going to be a short sleep because we wanted to be back on site about half an hour before sunrise in order to get the best setup. Since I had not located the roost, we decided that in the morning we were going to still-hunt along the edge of the fields just like Ray Eye had done in his book. You must exercise a great deal of discipline while moving through the woods and fields, know your terrain, be patient as well as have a good eye.

Turkeys can hear and see extremely well and it is absolutely critical that you know and understand the game you are pursuing.

It was now five in the morning and I awoke to some nice song birds. Within minutes we had eaten breakfast, which was a few pieces of toast and a cold glass of milk, and then we loaded the gear into truck and drove back to the very same spot. My good friend was carrying my decoys in a bag, along with green mosquito netting for cover. I had my Quaker Boy slate caller around my neck, a set of binoculars and my pump-action Remington 870.

The hunt was on and we were extremely excited, we slowly moved our way east through some copse of trees between the east and western fields and as we broke the forest edge two deer leapt into the tree line to our right and disappeared. We decided to go up the left hand side of the field north-east of the truck and then cut across about half way through as there was a crest in the field leading to a point which offered a great shooting spot.

As we slowly made our way up the forested edge of the third field, I went down on one knee and completed Wade Bourne’s Fly down Cackle hitting my hat against the tree bark and boy it sounded authentic.

I must have alerted some animals nearby because within an instant of finishing my call a coyote came trotting along the field to our right and then when he saw us he disappeared just as fast as the two does. We did however find his meal left over’s which was a porcupine carcass. Several minutes had gone by and now after having seen some wildlife our senses were set to high gear and then almost every dark object in the fields looked like an animal.

We must have taken around forty more steps and had stopped by a pile of logs when my friend tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to our left. We instantly took a knee and stared at the large black mark in the center of the field down in the low ground. As we looked on, I noticed that it was lifting and lowering its head but it was too far out to make out what it was. I whispered “It looks like a coyote” but my friend was not so sure, so I handed him my binoculars and he focused on the animal. He was several hundred yards away down in the low ground. Behind him was a beautiful valley and on its crest there were very large trees mixed with pine and aspen, oak and birch.

To his north there was a very large hay-field and a small lake behind some more trees which formed a sort of barrier between the two features. To his south there was another field and it was on its southern edge where my point and best shooting spot was located. By the time my friend handed me the binoculars to have a look, he had already whispered back that it was a very large tom and he had a huge smile on his face. It seems that my calls had worked and he was spreading his wings in a feathered dance then moving slowly into the direction of my calls. He was all alone with no other turkeys in sight.

We kept very low and slowly moved back toward the southern edge and decided to place the two decoys twenty-five yards from the brush. My friend walked back to the logs some thirty yards to the west providing me with a safe and wide shooting arc. Ideally, I needed to be further east on the point but I could no longer move as the tom was closing in on my decoys and would have instantly seen me.

I tucked myself into the bushes on the edge of the forest my back facing south with my decoys slightly to my left to the west about fifteen yards out. I carefully placed my Remington 870 aiming directly to my front and lifted my slate caller and let out a few cutts, yelps and purrs. I would then lift my binoculars, look for the tom’s position and reaction.

At first I could see him moving toward me but then he would fade into the low ground, and I thought to myself “Damn! He saw me.” Then I would see this very long neck pop up like a submarine periscope and then disappear again behind the grassy knoll. It was quite comical. What I found very neat is that he never once communicated with me, not even a few clucks or a gobble.

There was one thing which was clear and this is that this tom was quick and he was in a hurry to see my hen decoys. He was now fifty yards out to my right, I had tucked myself away into a ball and pulled my camouflage hood over my head, I looked like a Real Tree bush with just my eyes moving, he was moving quickly but cautiously towards my two decoys. He would complete another feather dance which was just breath-taking and you could see his beard dragging along the ground. He would then tuck his head back in and move forward a few more steps, then stop and move yet again.

My heart was racing like crazy and I kept on going through my shot scenarios and wanted to insure I chose the best time to take my shot, so I waited for him to walk directly to my front, I slowly raised my Remington 870 and unlocked the safety using the slow push technique which Wade Bourne had shown on his video. It made no sound at all, took my breaths and when he was twenty-five yards out, I lined up my bead sight with his head and neck and let out a shot of number four.

It struck him by surprise and made him jump into a winged frenzy, I instantly leapt out of the bushes and while on my second step toward the bird I fired a second shot. Upon the second impact he spun around and the twenty-three pound beast fell to the ground. I had just harvested my turkey on the second day of this year’s season and it was all over in less than two hours. Brilliant!

I may never meet Wade Bourne, Ray Eye and Preston Pittman in my lifetime but they were all present during my hunt. Thank you!

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In one of my previous blog entries titled “Double Edge Sword” I wrote about the differences between necessities and wanting, when it pertains to purchasing equipment for small game hunting. It is about asking yourself the following question before you make a purchase. Is it something you really want for hunting or something you need?

This is not because you are being cheap but rather because hunting equipment can add up very quickly. One important point that I must mention is that if you are starting in the sport, there will be initial costs just like buying a home. But the neat part is that once you have your clothing, hardware and accessories, you can start adding to it and improve it constantly. This is also very fun!

For me the right handling of a double edge sword is finding a balance within your budget so that you do not cut yourself financially. Hunting rifles or shotguns, clothing, ammunition and permits are necessities that must be acquired. It is also about being comfortable, well equipped and enjoying the sport without over spending on unnecessary accessories and supplies.

The question often comes up “How much does a small game hunter spend on equipment?” We should also ask: How much does the necessary equipment cost for small game hunters?

In response to these questions I have decided to break down some costs looking at the necessities and show you how much I have spent in Canadian dollars. In my case I already own a bolt-action rifle which cost about $150 dollars in 1962, but today you can easily spend a couple hundred dollars depending on the model and if you wish to add a scope. My Remington 870, which is my versatile work horse cost me $400 dollars and it allows me to save money because there is no longer a need for a different gun for each type of small game you hunt.

Ammunition does not need to be expensive either, I can get a box of fifty rounds for less than $15 dollars for my .22 bolt-action rifle . For my 870, I can buy a box of #6 shot for under $25 dollars.

My first pair of hunting boots cost me $200 dollars but I got a second pair of NAT’s boots just under $80 dollars. They are ultra light and waterproof and come with its own repair kit in the event of tear.

For a resident of Quebec your small game permit cost $18.83 effective Sept 2, 2012  (2017-2018 is now $24.58). If you are hunting on Crown land it is free but if you hunt in a SEPAQ park like me it can cost you around $18 dollars for a day hunt.

Now for clothing, my hunting pants cost me about $150 dollars and my hunting jacket which is considered a 6-in-1 system cost me $200 dollars. Having said this I also purchased a second hunting jacket for friends when they come out with me at discount store for $20 dollars. If they wear layers using long johns and thermals worth about $40 dollars it is just as warm as the very expensive jackets.

When I go on a one day hunting trip it normally cost me between $20-$40 in gas and about $20 dollars in food.

Costs will also be affected depending on the time of year that you hunt as you may require specialized kit such as snowshoes.

So how much do small game hunters spend on hunting equipment? The answer to the question is, it depends on your budget but when it comes to necessities I have listed the costs below.

Examples of necessities:
Rifle or shotgun: $400-$2000 Canadian dollars
Ammunition: $50 Canadian dollars
Clothing and boots: $200-$500 Canadian dollars
Permits, park access: $20-$40 (Quebec resident)
Food and gas: $20-$100 (May vary depending on distance traveled)

Buying Small Game Permits:

Small game permits can be purchased at any local hunting store in your area as long as they have a permit printer. You may want to call the shop before hand to find out if they issue permits. For the cost of the permits in Quebec, you can go to the following website:

Hunting – Fishing – Trapping License Rates

Also make sure you bring your Hunters Certificate/Card with you in person when buying a hunting permits and have your Federal Firearms card when purchasing firearms and ammunition.

Shop smart and enjoy the sport!

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