Idaho Turkey Hunting: Punching Tags on Opening Day

by Scott McGann

Spending tax day in a turkey blind has been a part of my DNA for 20+ years now when it comes to Idaho turkey hunting.  For many years it was just a one man show. Then along came my wife, Kami. For the past 10 seasons, April 15th isn’t tax day for us, it’s opening day of the Idaho spring turkey season. Seven years ago my wife spent opening day in the blind a touch on the uncomfortable side. You see, she was 6+ months pregnant with our 1st child. That boy sure kicked and jumped inside her belly when the Beretta shotgun played the gobbler lullaby that morning.  When that bird tipped over I looked over at my wife and she had the most surprised look on her face. She says, “Wow…the baby didn’t like that gun going off! He’s kicking and rolling around like crazy!”  

When our oldest son came along for his first Idaho turkey hunting experience, he witnessed the most amazing thing any hunter could ever experience.  That night he got to see a mountain lion not only stalk up to our turkey decoys, but also watched as the lion ran up and smacked our jake decoy. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime encounters that you gotta see to believe. My son just happened to see it happen his firs time out.   

Idaho turkey hunting mountain-lion-turkey-decoy
This mountain lion had definitely been duped by our decoys.

Fast forward to April 15, 2018 and we find the McGann family in a turkey blind well before daylight. Yes, all four of us in one ground blind. We had no idea what the day would hold, but we knew whatever happened we were hanging out as a family and that is all that mattered.  We had scouted the property and weren’t super hopeful since the landowner wasn’t seeing many birds this year. We even debated going somewhere else, but Kami and I decided the blind with all 4 of us was where we needed to be.

The 4 of us had been sitting in the blind for about 45 minutes when it started to break daylight. I glassed out of the blind about 500 yards away and there I could see 6 birds roosted in a tree. The boys got excited for a second, then fell back asleep. We soon heard gobbling and yelping from these birds as they prepared to fly down. 

The birds flew down a little later and disappeared from sight when they hit the ground. I kept calling and soon we could see a large group of birds coming our way. Minutes later, 12 birds were in our decoys. Our boys were at the edge of their seats pointing and talking. I repeatedly told them, “Put your hands down and shush!”  The group of birds had a couple young jakes in the mix, but we were holding out for mature toms on opening day. Then out of nowhere came about 10 more birds from our left, and in that group were 2 large toms.

Believing in Ladies First, Kami would get the first shot at these birds. With 20+ birds in our decoys, it took a few minutes for Kami to get a clear shot. But finally…Boom! Kami’s bird went to flopping on the ground at the shot and the rest of the birds began to pounce on the fallen gobbler. I quickly pulled up on the other tom and proceeded to miss. But with the bird still standing in gun range, I made good on my second shot. Our boys wanted to run out and retrieve the birds, but we had more turkeys making their approach to our decoys, and with Idaho now allowing you to fill both turkeys tags in one day, we figured we’d just sit tight. When another gobbler slipped in from a different direction, Kami shot and killed her second bird of the day. It finished flopping and was laying dead right on top of her first bird. We were high-fiving, hugging, and celebrating when another bird gobbled. 

 We looked out the blind to see turkeys flying into the field like geese into a cornfield. It was an amazing sight. There were 2 toms and 2 jakes with 4 hens that had been at the top of a ridge nearly 1000 yards away. They had been gobbling at our calls, but now they were literally flying in to our setup.

The jakes came to our decoys and did their best to breed the hen decoy. They violated her repeatedly, leading our 5 year old son, Nathan, to ask, “What are they doing???” He seemed content when we told him, “They’re just trying to stay warm.”  Finally, Kami says “Here comes the toms!” I peeked out of the left side of the blind and saw him strutting, drumming and putting on a show in an effort to run off the young jakes. When the gobbler finally walked in front of the blind…Boom! My second bird of the day was down. Our son, Micah, was relieved to finally be able to go and pick up the birds. 

idaho turkey hunting 4-turkey-limit
Four birds for a family of four.

I have been a part of over 200 hunts with kids over the past 20 years or so. Never in my dreams did I imagine spending opening day of an Idaho turkey hunting season in a blind as a family of four, with kids of my own. And to top it off, having the best turkey hunt of our lives go down with four big birds.

After pictures, hugs, kisses and many high-fives, we loaded up and headed out.  As we approached the landowners’ house, he came out to see us.  We didn’t realize he had been watching everything and couldn’t believe all the action we had experienced. He said, “Man, you guys must be doing something right! You guys had more birds around you this morning than we’ve seen in over a year!” Kami and I cleaned birds the rest of the afternoon and reflected on our day of feathers and family.

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