Zone 1 Spring Turkey Hunt Part 1 – Dead Bird Walking – 2012 Turkey #1

When you think of Buffalo County, Wisconsin, images of huge record book whitetail deer come to mind, of outfitters with their nose in the air because they know they have huge bucks and can demand large sums of money for the privilege of chasing one of these grandiose beasts.

This was a “slow year”!!

Bluff Country Outfitters, owned by Tom and Laurie Indrebo are certainly not the normal Buffalo County Outfitters.  Willing to bend over backwards to make sure your time spent is enjoyable, their prices are reasonable and comprehensive and the lodging, meals and guide service; simply top notch.  Their house is filled with antler sheds and deer mounts equaling those of the rich and famous.

There is a lot of history surrounding this farm, it’s a hubbub of activity for the outdoor industry, but that I will save for another article.

I wish I could say I was fortunate to stay with Bluff Country Outfitters during the deer season but alas; that is still a bit out of my budget.  But you can bet I’m saving my pennies now that I’ve seen the dozens of quality deer mounts up close and personal.  It’s one thing to see a photograph on a website and say “Gosh, I’d love to hunt there.”  It’s quite another to see them face to face, you tend to say “Gosh, I’m gonna hunt here someday.”

If you’ve never heard the tale of “Moses”; one of Wisconsin’s most famous Whitetail Bucks, you’ve been living under a rock.  Grab a cup of Joe, kick back and visit the gallery housed on their website www.bluffcountryoutfitters.com. I guarantee you’ll immediately start saving your pennies too.

Ironically I was there for a 5 day Eastern Turkey hunt.  And it truly turned out to be one of the most exciting and memorable hunts of my life.

Now, going back more than a decade +, I have killed turkeys, but they were so long ago, there were no photos taken, no tail feathers kept and someone who bragged to everyone that he killed both those birds.  Well, if he needs the credit that bad well by golly I’ll just wipe them from my kill ledger and start over.

From door to door, the trip to Tom’s farm was about 5 hours by car one way.  My husband had diligently practiced his box call, attempting to emulate the sounds emitted on the NWTF website.  We’d gone through a turkey hunting checklist I’d downloaded (which turned out to be woefully inadequate.  Scouring the web for a completely comprehensive turkey checklist was futile.)  I’d patterned in the Browning Invector Plus my cousin Ron had so graciously allowed me to borrow.  We’d packed up the night before and we were on the road by 8.

The GPS of course led us to a completely wrong final destination.  We turned onto the dirt road that is Tree Farm Road; the old run down houses and narrow overgrown gravel road let us know this was NOT the right road.  Unfortunately there was nowhere to turn around so we kept driving until the end praying we wouldn’t start hearing banjos in the background. 

We finally managed to get turned around and I located Indrebo Road on the map (which by the way, just to make it more interesting, is actually Schmidt Road).  We still managed to make it to the farm by 1 o’clock and a very smiling Tom came out to greet us.

He gave us the grand tour of the place, explaining that they’d purchased the farm about 20 years ago, stemming from a loss of his own hunting lease, it started out as just a place for him and some friends to go hunt.  Who knew it would turn into such an amazing venture.

They took this old farm and either tore down or completely remodeled the outbuildings.  He showed us to the one we’d be staying at – a granary built in 1922 and fashioned into a bunkhouse that could comfortably sleep 20.  Meticulously furnished, Tom proudly showed us the “wheelchair” he’d purchased when he retired.  I will admit it was my favorite piece of furniture in the house as well.

Zach and I wandered around, admiring the trout pond, the beautiful commons room and the custom sign they’d made up for their company, mounted in such a perfectly welcoming way.  Tired from the drive I didn’t take too many photos, a procrastination I would come to regret less than 24 hours later.

The first night we weren’t sure what to expect.  Tom introduced us to Dan Treankler who was to be our guide.  A super friendly guy who worked very hard to make sure we felt comfortable in this new environment.  It’s always awkward when you’re on someone else’s property, you don’t know them, their personality or quirks and the last thing you want to do is offend them.  Dan put us at ease and invited us along to set up blinds so we could get a feel for the properties we’d have available to hunt.

We piled into his pick-up truck and later a 4 wheeler and drove crazy logging roads and marshy meadows.

He took us to what they called Emmet’s Farm.  Upper, Middle and Lower sections, and when he said “Upper” he really meant “Upper”.

[Tweet “On Emmet’s Upper we set our turkey blinds side by side. via @CarrieZylka”]

On Emmet’s Upper, Dan set the blinds up side by side which at first confused me.  Everything I’d read and been told indicated you should conceal the blind, brush it in and try to become invisible.  He set them out smack dab in the middle of the meadow for the entire world to see.  I shrugged it off figuring this was their business, I’m 100% confident they know what they’re doing.

The next stop was another section of land that they had available for us to hunt on; huge fields north of the farm.  As we drove to put up the second one we saw a Tom and a hen out in the field.  Dan threw it in park and we watched as the hen wandered off but the Tom strutted back and forth; gobbling every so often in hopes that she’d come back.  He’d spotted the truck and was wary, not confident enough to chase after the hen and possibly get eaten by the great white dragon that had appeared over the rise.

We made a final stop on the way back, a non-hunting stop but a fun one.  One of their neighbors had put in a trout pond and had just stocked it.  We stopped to throw out some food while they were out of town and were treated to a special albino doe viewing.

[Tweet “A special treat: seeing the albino deer! via @CarrieZylka “]

Cursing the fact that I didn’t have my camera along, and all I could do was take a photo with my camera phone, which at dusk, turned this really amazing creature into a marshmallow.

That night Dan came to get us when it was time to eat and it was nice sitting around the big table visiting with Tom and his family.

Dan had let us know that he needed me to get my bird Thursday morning (uh no pressure there).  He was leaving Thursday afternoon and heading to Indianapolis to see his daughter graduate with a doctorate.  I said we’d be happy to do what needed to be done so he could go without a worry.  I didn’t really know what we’d do for the rest of the 5 day trip if we did get a bird within 24 hours of arriving.  Fish?  Hike?  Get more turkey footage?  Whatever, we’d find something to do and I knew how important it was for him to be there for his daughter.

We agreed that Zach and I would be ready to go by 4:45 the next morning so it was to bed early for us.

My husband does not sleep very well in strange places.  I do not have such issues.  I could probably sleep inside a big metal box during a hurricane.  (Oh wait I did that in the Navy)

It’s a running joke that I can sleep through anything and I felt bad because I knew Zach was in for a night of tossing and turning only to have to get up and hit it hard the next morning.

At about 10:00 it started raining and I vaguely heard him SIGH AND mutter “Seriously???”

At about 10:02 the thunder started booming and I heard “I’m never going to get any sleep.”

At about 10:05 I heard “Holy $!*&” as the Heavens opened up and poured forth her wrath upon Indrebo Road.

The storm lasted only a short time, about an hour or so but with the crashing of thunder and the constant flickering of lightening, when we looked out the window it looked like we were docked on a lake.  Water was everywhere, and it rained so hard; the granary that had withstood countless storms, began leaking at the seams, the seams around the bay window let loose, and a few other spots in the cabin – thankfully Zach and I were awake so we were able to contain the water and prevent any water damage.

The power went out several times and we both set our cell phone alarms.  4 am would come very early and tomorrow would be a long day.

Hunting that next morning was out of the question.  What we couldn’t see in the dark was the destruction the storm had caused.

We were up by 4 and knocking on Dan’s door at 4:45 thinking maybe the power had gone out and his alarm hadn’t gone off.  He answered the door and said we couldn’t get out of the driveway.  He grabbed a flashlight and showed us the hail damage and the blown out windows of the trailer two lease farmers were staying in.

Please see post “BCO Supplemental” for a photo slideshow of the devastation left behind by the storm that night.

That afternoon, after some cleanup and repairs had been done, Dan was still bound and determined to get us to where we needed to be and set before he left for Indianapolis.

To Emmet’s Upper we went.

The three of us balanced precariously on the 4 wheeler was probably a humorous site, but that little electric vehicle got us where we needed to go; it zoomed up that logging road and even the deep mud couldn’t stop it.

As we neared the top I felt a few raindrops, the sky had clouded up again and I was hoping we’d get to the blinds and the little bit of shelter it would provide us before it started raining.

We darted inside and Dan quickly set up the decoys just as it started pouring on us.  He wasted no time and with our well wishes and safe travels he was speeding down the mountain.

Before the squall lifted again, Zach and I were soaked to the bone.  Luckily this min-storm only lasted about 40 minutes and almost as soon as it stopped raining the sun came out.  A blessing and a curse, it was warm and everything could begin to dry out but along with the sun came the humidity.

By this time it was about 2 o’clock and we were both resigned to a few hours of boredom before the turkeys traveled past us to their roosting tree.

To our delight, within a few minutes we heard a gobble off in the distance.  Twenty minutes later the first hen traversed the path in front of us, half an hour later, hen #2 came from the same direction.

Every 15 minutes or so, Zach would let out a cluck or a yelp, and every other time he would be answered by a Tom off in the distance.  By 5 o’clock we’d had several hens walk the path in front of us and had one very curious (and confused hen) come in and check out our decoy set up, she seemed to get a little perturbed that her clucks and preening for the Tom seemed to be going unnoticed!

By 6 o’clock Zach had three Toms gobbling at him, gobbling at each other and pretty much just gobbling for the sake of being heard.

[Tweet “By 6 o’clock Zach had three Toms gobbling at him…..”]

Unfortunately all three of them were below us and each had their own fields.  Apparently Emmet’s middle was the place to be!  And on top of it, all three were convince our hens should come to them, not the other way around.

At sundown we were still wet, exhausted from lack of sleep, and pretty tuckered out from all the excitement the turkeys had visited upon us in the last 5 hours.  We decided to call it a night, fearful of navigating an unfamiliar logging road in the dark.  The last thing I wanted to do was twist an ankle.  Taking our time it took us quite a while to make our way back down to the truck.

We headed back to the Indrebo farm for dinner, high on adrenaline, thrilled with the day’s experience and full of high hopes that Friday would be the day I got my turkey.

Were we successful?  Did I fill my tag?  Read the exciting conclusion to CarrieZ’s Zone 1 Turkey Hunt here!
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