The spring of 2017 brought a new adventure for myself and hunting buddy Jimmy Wilhelm. He was needing a second Colorado gobbler for his goal of 2 superslams and I was just out to hunt turkeys. As with any long distance hunt trip preparation had begun months earlier. Jimmy has all kinds of resources and contacts and he chose Daniel Borrego of Trujillo Creek Outfitters in Aguilar Colorado for this hunt. For me half the adventure is traveling new ground and enjoying different sights. Its not all about just going and shooting turkeys but I really don't mind that part either. The western states offer adverse terrain and a different experience than the eastern woodlands. Not to say its easier or harder just different. Depending on your location you could be hunting Merriams, Rios and still the Eastern subspecies of wild turkey. Goulds in the U.S. are found in southern Arizona but we were far from there this trip. In our particular location there was a mix of Merriams, Rios and hybrids. I would say in most cases half the challenge is weather followed by locating and trying to pattern birds in a short amount of time depending on your trip schedule. As with your home turf the old Toms still like the ladies and you just have to try and find the one that will cooperate. We arrived in the town of Aguilar midday and met our host Daniel Borrego for details. We followed him several miles outside of the desolate town to an old ranch home in the foothills which really offered a "step back in time" experience.
(Back view of ranch house)
(Near the front yard..an old wagon from times forgotten covered with a dusting of snow greeting us the 3rd morning of our hunt)
Once Daniel showed us the property lines he departed to continue his ranch work and the hunting was up to us. After unloading our bags we started scouting and later that evening watched some turkeys from a distance. We could have hunted that evening but decided to see what all moved about before we jumped in and spooked them. We watched a flock of birds with a couple nice Toms feed in a bottom near a creek. Once evening set in they retreated to the tree line which bordered a cattle pasture and went to roost. Jimmy and I decided on a game plan of covering each end of the pasture against the tree line the following morning. If in fact the birds came down and hens pulled them either way one of us would at least get a chance. That morning we crossed the creek on a deadfall log bridge. Luckily the log was there because the majority of the creek water was from snow melt off the mountain peaks and it was deep and cold. Getting to our spots we chose from a distance the evening before it was a matter of waiting on daybreak. As I sat and listened to coyotes carry on a the sky brighten up I heard the familiar sound of tree yelps maybe 150 yards away. I let them have their time just listening to the language. Getting about that "flydown time" feeling I purred a little on my copper call. I eventually put in a little wing beat and cackling letting them know they had company.
A few minutes later the flock appeared at the edge of the treeline. I got some hard stares my way with some raspy cutting and yelping from a mouth call. I watched a couple scraps and listened to a mess of hens as they went about their morning roll call. Luckily I had put out a jake decoy over a sitting hen to try and pull something my way. I watched the biggest Tom and every time he would look my way with interest I would purr and cluck. Maybe 10 minutes had elapsed and the main hen group started back into the wood line. The best Tom at the rear was accompanied by a satellite gobbler and I figured to go above and beyond my normal calling routine. The Tom came out of strut to follow his hens and I began some cutting mixed with wing beats to give him something out the norm to grab his attention. He looked my way again and I purred a couple times. He peeled off in my direction for about 10 steps. It was then he saw the decoy and the sitting hen in the grass. I guess at this moment he figured some sneaky jake had wrangled one of his hens away and his walk pace hastened. Half blown up he was on a mission headed my way and there was no need for any more calling. I focused on his approach gun on knee picking my spot watching his body language. Its always nice to get them close but be wary of getting busted. The closer they get the more they pick up on if just a simple finger twitch to unhinge the safety with a click. At 50 yards I pushed my safety off and focused on bead alignment of my Browning auto 10 ga. At 50 yards our game ended and the tom was in hand. I waited awhile before exposing my hiding spot hoping Jimmy would have some luck on the other end of the field but the birds had enough that morning. I went out to check out the tom and he was a good gobbler.
(My gobbler first mornings hunt)
Jimmy and I went back to camp to regroup. We had another spot about 5 miles away Daniel said we could hunt so we decided to see how that was for Jimmy. After a long evening and blind sit no luck and we returned to camp again. The following morning Jimmy went back up to our first day hunt spot after I had spotted some birds feeding the previous evening. It was a matter of location as Jimmy sat in the blind and the birds went to roost maybe 150 yards away. No luck that evening but persistence is key. The following morning we were greeted by a couple inches of fresh snow another challenge for our hunt. We decided to set up and see if the roosted birds would enter the field at first light. We had plenty of gobbling and high hopes but the birds flew up the ridge and went away to feed. We left that spot early morning and I drove Jimmy to our alternate spot to hunt. I could see the ridgeline above Jimmys position and birds were moving. At one point Jimmy got within 100 yards of 3 Toms and I thought for sure that would happen. I watched 3 Toms approach his calling position praying for luck. The last Tom turned 100 yards out and went up the ridge. The front two gobblers wanted to go to Jimmy but their buddy talked them out of it and they turned as well saving their necks that day. I left Jimmy to his work and drove back to our original spot near camp.I glassed the ridgeline and spotted some birds in a small opening feeding around so they hadn't left the area just yet. After a couple hours I went to get Jimmy and picked him up around 1pm. I told him of the bird activity back at camp and he chose to try those our final evening of the hunt trip. Jimmy went up to the most common roost area we had been watching for a long sit and "deer hunt" tactic of just being patient and hoping. Around 6:30 that evening I noticed gobblers feeding from both ends of the field towards Jimmys spot. He being tucked in the pines couldn't yet see the Toms until a couple gobbled with the feeding hens. The closest bird got within range and Jimmy shot, as the bird flopped he shot again. As he exited the pines I heard another shot and I knew for certain he was dead. Laughing to myself I thought about Jimmy having so much on the line was just being certain this one wasn't getting away. His gobbler ended up being a double beard and finally Jimmy had his second Colorado Tom in the books. There are books in the making about the folks making the superslam journey. I know first hand what Jimmy has gone through to get here. He drove every state hunt with the exception of the Hawaii trips. Sleeping in the back of his vehicle in many cases on unknown public hunting ground. The challenges he's faced blows my mind. I feel fortunate having shared a handful of trips with him over the years. I do not know anyone with his persistence in the field against such a wary opponent. His accomplishments speak for themself. At this time he lacks only 5 states of having completed and registered two Nwtf superslams. This my friends is to be continued....if the good lord is willing.
(Jimmys double beard Merriams)
(Camp photo with my Tom)