In this episode of the Wisconsin Sportsman, Josh talks guiding hunts and turkey hunting strategy with Jeremy Dersham of Ridge & River Running Outfitters.
Jeremy has been calling in turkeys for hunters since before he could hunt for himself. His passion for the outdoors and chasing wild game has led him to make a career of guiding hunters in highly successful hunts for waterfowl and turkey in Wisconsin. The guys cover a bunch of topics ranging from how Jeremy became a hunting guide, the best thing hunters can do when hunting with an outfitter, the ethics of reaping turkeys, and of course some awesome turkey strategy talk.
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What is going on? Everyone? Welcome back to another episode of the Wisconsin Sportsman Podcast, which is brought to you by Tcam. This is your home for all things outdoors in the Badger State, and I'm your host, Josh Rayley. I hope you're having a fantastic start to your week, and if not, I hope this podcast helps it get just a little bit better.
Today we're talking [00:01:00] Turkey hunting with Jeremy DERs from Ridge and River Running Outfitters. Their website is R rrr outfitters.com. And I don't know about you, but I am in a Turkey mood. I'm getting into that time of year when. Before I dropped the kids off at school or right after I dropped the kids off at school I find myself drifting out towards some areas where I think I may spot some turkeys, maybe see a Tom strutting in a field.
Took the time this past weekend to go and do some scouting for the youth season that's coming up here in Georgia. March 25th and 26th is the youth weekend here. I've got my youngest, my now six year old, which if you were listening last year around this time, I got him out in Wisconsin.
We were almost able to seal the deal, but just couldn't quite make it happen. He is going to be up to bat on March 25th. That is Saturday. And then my eight year old who was seven last year, who was wanting to get out but wasn't really sure about it last [00:02:00] year. This year she's committed to wanting to get out.
So this past weekend we went out to the lease, and I'll be honest with you, I joined this lease specifically to have a place to take. My kids for youth seasons. Now, you know myself, I'll find a way to get it done on public land. I don't mind going out there hiking super far, dealing with the public pressure, all of that good stuff.
I don't really want to try to do that with a six year old or an eight year old. It's not that my kids aren't willing to do the work. They absolutely are. I just want them to have a positive introduction to it. I don't want to have to worry about other people. Like worrying about keeping a six year old and an eight year old safe around firearms is enough.
Then I don't want to have to add in a bunch of other people. And if we're just being practical, if I get out there and roll my ankle on a hillside, my six-year-old is probably not gonna be a lot of help getting me out of the woods. And in fact, I might be putting. Or his sister in danger. So I don't wanna do that.
So I've joined a lease [00:03:00] here in Georgia. We got out this past weekend. We did some scouting. Went out early in the morning. I've never been to this property before in my life. It is a huge piece of land that is nothing but pine trees. Like when I say nothing but pine trees, there is maybe 10 acres total of hardwoods that, run as a long, thin strip through the, this entire property there is, there are no hardwoods anywhere.
So I didn't really know what to expect of the Turkey population on this property, but I had a spot picked out on the map where I wanted to go and listen. I know there are some food plots on the property, so I figure, hey, there may be some birds here. We go out to the property, we get to the high spot, not long after what would've been legal shooting light right.
We we're not hearing anything, not a single bird. So I do a couple of hoots, the standard, who cooks for you, who cooks for you, all kind of thing. Nothing, not a single bird. Then I decide I'm gonna try that obnoxious shriek thing that I hear the guys on the [00:04:00] hunting public do. And man, when I did that, like five or six birds fired off, probably about 250 yards from us.
So close enough that it's man they definitely heard me hooting the first time, but for whatever reason they just had not gobbled up until that point. And anyway, so after that though, that got 'em all going. They gobbled hard on the limb. Got to where I think there were probably five different birds, maybe six different birds, roosted all kind of down in this bottom area.
We got a pretty good pin on where they. And as I started looking at the map, I saw there were several food plots surrounding this bottom. So basically we just started by moving from food plot to food plot and checking out what the sign looked like. Went and checked the first food plot, almost no Turkey sign whatsoever, which made sense because once we got in there, the pines we could tell around us were very small.
So not any kind of quality roosting cover or anything like that. Really not a lot of understory either, because the pines were still too short. So crossed that one off the list, went down to the next one. Very quickly realized that we were gonna have to [00:05:00] cross that one off the list also. Then we circled around to the more northerly side of the property, and as soon as we get to the first food plot we were hoping to get to now we had to walk a long ways to get there.
But as soon as we got there, we start finding Turkey sign. Now, we're not seeing tracks or anything like that because the ground is this hard packed clay stuff, but we were seeing lots of Turkey droppings in the food plots, even found a couple of feathers in a food plot. So we decided, you know what, we're gonna hang up the reveal cell cams and just see what the day holds.
So just see what's coming out and using those fields. We knew that the birds were roosting down in the bottom. These food plots were up on the higher ridge to the north side of this bottom. So I thought, you know what? It would make a lot of sense for those turkeys to be roosted down low near where there's.
Seasonal stream. I don't know if there's any water in it right now or not, but I do know that it, there's a seasonal stream marked on the map so it would make sense for them to roost there. And then, throughout the day, mill up along that ridge hitting, the different food plots that are scattered.
Found a ton of sign put [00:06:00] out. The cell cam on the first plot that we came to a second plot, found a decent amount of Turkey sign walked a couple of terrain features. There was a really nice saddle that had good Turkey sign in it. There were a couple of finger ridges that kind of dip off towards the bottom.
Those all had Turkey sign on them. Got to another food plot came up to where we were almost in another food plot and I stopped and I told the kids, Hey, I have a feeling there may be turkeys in this field right now because of all the sign that we've been seeing. I've got a feeling there may be turkeys in this food plot.
And sure enough, we get up there, there are four hens and a tom in this food plot. Now we did not get to see them. A guy that we had met earlier that morning who also came to the high knob where we were listening from to listen for turkeys. He had worked his way around the other direction, through the bottom up to that food plot.
And he had seen four hands in the plot and a tom strutting and the tom got spooked as we walked towards the field, put out another cell camera there. So hopeful. [00:07:00] These cell cameras are gonna tell us whether or not these turkeys are using this plot on any kind of consistent basis. Now, you know me, I like to run and gun for turkeys.
That deer hunting them is probably not my preferred method. But when you have a six-year-old, you have thick pine timber sometimes you do what you gotta do. So my plan for opening day is going to be to get a good blind or at least get a good hide and park it, hope for the absolute best.
Put out a couple of decoys and hopefully one will come in and give my six-year-old on opening day and my eight-year-old the very next day about a 15 yard shot. They're shooting a four 10 with tss. Should pack quite a punch. But man, I'm stoked. I've got turkeys on the brain. I get weird this time of year.
I've said that before on here. I love deer hunting. Deer hunting as my first love. I would rather shoot a mature buck than a Turkey any day of the week. But for some reason turkeys just make me act weird and I don't know what it is. Anyway, I've got turkeys on the mind. So that's what we're talking about in today's episode.
Like I said, I'm talking with [00:08:00] Jeremy Dham from Ridge and River Running Outfitters there in Wisconsin. He specializes in guiding folks for waterfowl and for turkeys. Turkeys is where he cut his teeth. He was calling turkeys for people before he was old enough to Turkey hunt himself. So the dude knows what he is talking about.
He's been doing it for a long time. One of the really intriguing parts of his story is as he grew up hunting and as he became a guide and an outfitter, the Turkey population in Wisconsin went from very few birds to a lot of birds to tapering off to where we are today, which is somewhere below the kind of peak, but still very healthy Turkey populations.
So he came of age in this golden period of Turkey. In the state of Wisconsin. So he is got a very unique perspective man, and the guy's just a good guest, like his passion and his zeal for not only Turkey hunting, but the outdoors in general and for providing his clients a quality experience is gonna come through.
Like you're gonna hear it in his voice. This dude [00:09:00] is just as jacked up about turkeys and Turkey hunting today as he was when he first started calling in birds at I don't know what it was, like 10 years old or something like that. So Jeremy was a fantastic guest. I told him when we got done, I was like, dude, you have an open invitation to come back on this show anytime you want to, because this was an awesome conversation.
I actually ended up having to cut the conversation short because I had another appointment to get to. But man, we could have gotten into so many more topics had we had more time. So maybe I'll have him back. A little bit later on in the Turkey season. Talk a little bit more, late season Turkey hunting as opposed to early season, which is a lot of what we talk about today.
A couple things before we jump into into the episode. I'm rambling on too long here, but I do wanna say thanks to our partners. First of all, TCAM, they're the title sponsor of this show. They've got a great deal going on right now over at.com for 299 bucks. You can get yourself a 6.0 camera, a barrel mount, and an SD card.
That means you're getting $75 off of this package. When you buy it all together, just head over there, tcam.com, put it all [00:10:00] in your cart, and when you go to check out, the discount will be applied automatically. You can also check out their solo Xtreme camera, which right now is 1 99, I believe. A little bit more of a budget friendly option.
Still gonna give you HD footage, still gonna give you everything you want out of a tact cam camera. And guys, I, I love filming my deer hunts. I really do. Especially with these tact cams because it just makes it so easy to carry a camera along with you. But there's something about Turkey hunting with a attack cam.
You've seen the footage, right? Like the footage you can get with a tica is absolutely ridiculous. Turkeys are so decoy friendly and like just do all kinds of cool stuff. So great time to jump into filming your hunts if you haven't done that already. Next up, hunt worth gear.com.
Head over there right now and you can get 20% off of all their products on their website using the code T r k Y M 20. That's T r k Y m 20. That sale ends March 26th. So from the day this launches, you've got about five days to get over there and take advantage [00:11:00] of this. I'm gonna be wearing a lot of their lightweight camo.
I can go ahead and tell you right now the Durham lightweight pants are gonna be the pants that I'm wearing for this opener coming up on March 25th when I'm hunting in Wisconsin on April 19th, I may be wearing the Elkins, maybe something a little bit warmer cuz you never quite know what weather is gonna be thrown your way.
But I do know. That I'm gonna be using that tarn in pattern because holy smokes, that pattern is just, it's fantastic and it's gonna blend in well whether you're in the spring, Turkey woods, or in the fall, deerwood. So head over to their website. Take advantage of this hunt worth gear.com. Remember that code t r k y m 20 sale ends March 26th.
Now, I've gone on too long for this intro, but it's just cuz I'm fired up guys, I'm fired up about Turkey season. I've been waiting for this for a real long time. So now's the time to get out, do your scouting, go glass some fields, figure out where some birds are roosting. Take a couple things that you learn from today's episode.
Begin putting those into practice. We talk a good bit about scouting, so there's some good tidbits for you to pick [00:12:00] up from Jeremy in this episode. Now, with all that stuff outta the way, let's jump into the conversation with Jeremy Derham about being an outfitter and Turkey awning strategy.
All right. Joining me for this week's episode of the Wisconsin Sportsman Podcast is Jeremy Dkm from Wisconsin. Jeremy, what's up buddy? How we doing sir? Pleasure to be here, man. So glad you had the the time to come on. I reached out on a whim cause I found you online and was like, Hey, do you wanna come on the show?
And I'll admit I hadn't done a lot of research before you confirmed and said, yeah, I'll come on the show. Then I start digging in and I'm like, this guy's, every. Like I found [00:13:00] you because of Turkey hunting. And then I was like, this dude does everything living the dream, huh? Yeah. Then I start googling your name and you're like, in every article that Realtree has ever quoted somebody on Waterfowl.
And I'm like, okay, this dude knows this stuff. So definitely need to get him on the show. And it may be a little bit of a disservice that we're gonna talk about turkeys today because it sounds like waterfowl is like a lot for you. That's a big part of your puzzle. It is. Waterfowl is a big piece, but Turkeys is where I started.
And I it's a huge piece of our whole life, so Oh, awesome. Outdoor period is just a big deal. Sure. And I absolutely love turkeys and love the people that surround themselves with turkeys. Awesome. So it's flipping the dream. Yeah. Jeremy let's just kick it off, man, and start with some some hunter profile kind of stuff.
Who are you, what do you do? How'd you get into the outdoors? Absolutely. So I'm from the Midwest originally. I'm from northern Illinois and we are official transplants to the state of [00:14:00] Wisconsin. I have a lot of family that live in the Midwest. A lot of us, once we move my fa my personal family moved up here in the eighties.
And so there's this purge of family that moved up and followed us up here. It's called Wisconsin Home. Regarding the outdoors I come from a family, it's pretty typical come from a family of Abbott hunters. Going back a lot of my family that was from the western part of Illinois and it's a subsistence living, and so they had that.
World War II mindset, that kinda culture. Yeah. Yeah. Trapping, fishing hunting, it wasn't something that you did as a hobby. It was something that was a huge part of your life. Yeah. So those tools were transferred onto me and once I got into the outdoors, I just, there was nothing else that existed.
It just ate me up, and we came up into a time in the eighties where numbers of tur or ponders period were at kinda at peak, and everybody was doing it was kinda a big deal. And it was [00:15:00] just awesome. So it was, it's a great way to become up to, to view the world. I, everything that I do is very perspective based regarding the outdoors, and it's kinda, it hasn't it's fil into my immediate family.
My kids are, they. Dif many different duck species, Turkey species. What? It's just a, it's a huge part of what we do and who we are. Yeah. Yeah. So when did you move to Wisconsin? First of all, sounds like you made a good choice moving up from Illinois and into Wisconsin. for real.
Absolutely. When did you move up? In the mid to late eighties, we were up here. Okay. Yep. And my fam, my dad took a job in the SA County area. So we, they bought an old farmhouse. We leased a little bit of property behind it, and I grew up running ridges and learning creek bottoms. Eventually they bought a place on the Wisconsin River.
So we added that to our gamut. My back door, becoming a river rat. [00:16:00] So Turkey hunting on the islands we learned to do that pretty quickly. We learned to navigate river systems pretty quick. And then once that kinda took place, we started making just a little bit of a name for ourselves locally.
We'd have Wisconsin River gets hit pretty hard in the summer months. Yep. So I was always fishing or doing something on the river. With that being said, numerous people would take vacations up there. They'd see us come past and ask us how fishing was going. This was in the nineties. So next thing I know, I'm giving advice that a little bit later people were asking me to take 'em out.
Can you show me where we can catch a few small mouths or where I can catch a few walleye are the white bass running right now? So that's how it kinda just slowly progressed through that. Also, we had a lot of family and friends from the Chicagoland area, so they loved to deer hunt. The culture of Wisconsin for deer hunting is absolutely astronomical.
So we had some big leases going on throughout Sauk County, Columbia County different areas around here. And the guys would come up here in Deer Hunt [00:17:00] for nine days, the holy week. And then, the rest of the year, Turkey hunting wasn't a big thing, or, late eighties, early nineties in the state.
It was just in its stage. So I had the woods roam on my own and I'm learning all of these different ideas and perspectives and it just so happened at the same time that Turkeys really started inhabiting a lot of this area. Hearing a Turkey or seeing a Turkey was a huge freaking deal back in the early nineties.
Yeah. And the next thing you know, I'm the Wisconsin. Deer Turkey Expo was was a big deal. We used to go down to that. I would the calling contest were starting to take place. I was kid, middle school, high school. I'd buy a call and down there and partake in a few of the contests.
One cool story regarding turkeys that really kinda got me into it was Dick Kirby and the Quaker Boy team. They they would come up here and give on seminars in the early nineties, [00:18:00] some of the Quaker boy reps. And Dick Kirby was one of the idols, back in, in the days of Turkey hunting in the eighties and nineties.
So anyway I'm sitting there listening to him speak, and at the end I had a few questions, raise my hand, ask me questions. At the end of the seminar, he gave me a call called The Old Turk. So immediately Quaker Boy had me, they that's all I ran for the first. 10 years while I was Turkey hunting.
I called in my first turkeys with the old boss and the old Turk, and it just kinda blossomed from there. Then some of these same guys that came up and put on these, participated in these leases for duck, for deer hunts. Wanted to try Turkey hunting. It was just starting. So actually I was calling in turkeys for guys before I could hunt and I actually killed my first Turkey, so I had a few.
Yep. So in 1992 and 93, I was calling in turkeys with old turkeys. Like I said, it was just a passion. I couldn't spend enough days out outside. So then the guys would call me and say let's, [00:19:00] I got a Turkey tag still the application system. So usually those guys didn't have the fifth, sixth season, which it currently today most outstate had at that time.
And so I'm running ridges and just. Calling for people and it just blossomed over time. So that's how, that's kinda how I got my foot in the door of turkeys. And my dad was never a really big Turkey hunter. I just I just came up a time where Wisconsin was really taking off and, once I started to go into some of these events, I learned from a few people and found out that, it's tiny.
It, everybody knows everybody and it's a very small little industry. Yeah, man, that, that is so awesome to hear, your perspective. A lot of times I have guys on who were in the day before Turkeys in Wisconsin and remember all that. Or I'll talk to guys who've come up since then who all they've ever known is really high Turkey numbers.
It's cool to hear your story. It's unique because you were there during that period where the populations were taking off. [00:20:00] And now, southwestern Wisconsin. I was actually talking to a guy from the n w TF the other day and he was like, Wisconsin is the most underrated Turkey state in the country.
Thank you. Sure. Absolutely. I agree a hundred percent. And I think he's right. I don't want him to say that too much. , I don't know that I want everybody to know. No, I'm kidding. Exactly what you're saying, but man, what a cool experience. Tell me what that was like for you, as the population boomed.
We're in a time period right now where, my, my family down in Georgia or Alabama, further south, they're dealing with declining populations. And they're asking the question, what are we gonna do with turkeys? And Wisconsin is either stable now or increasing still. . And what was that process like for you to just sit back and watch these, new game animals come on the scene so quickly. Humbling. So like I said, I, there were days when some of our, the leases that we had butted up against public, so we hunt a ton of [00:21:00] public and wen of turkeys up public. So there was many times where we'd hear go, early nineties, and that was a successful hunt. Wow.
And so with that being said, when you came across a Turkey track, there was a great likelihood I was trying to cover it up a little bit. You know what I'm saying? It was that kinda mindset. With that being said, each and every year it seemed okay I heard a bird there. Now I'm hearing three birds there now on this ridge line.
There, there used to be two, I'm hearing six different gobbler, a year or two later. It just, it was a constant influx of bird numbers and it was amazing. The first, we, now going back it was a different time and I'll be very clear on that. So we had five days. We season started on a Wednesday.
and they ended on a Sunday. And you only had, we mirrored kind of the Missouri approach. So noon is when it ended. Wow. So we killed, today I kill as many birds from 10 to two, 10 in the morning till two in the afternoon as I do off roost or as I do at six o'clock at night. But you only had till noon to kill that [00:22:00] bird.
So it changes the way you hunt. It changed the way you perceived and entered the woods in numerous venues, and you're tagged your availability, so getting a tag was a big deal. It's kinda going back to early nineties when you were deer hunting too. Getting a dough tag was a big deal.
Yeah. So it was just a whole different perspective change comparable to where we were at. So getting through that I think I killed my first bird, 94, 93. It took me two or three years personally to kill my own bird. And then later part of the nineties we had this just astronomical amount of birds, both on private and public land throughout.
Southwest Wisconsin, or southern Wisconsin. They kinda, Bosco Bell was a hub, and they just kinda influxed out of all of that area. We're seeing numbers galore. It was a big deal to get a second tag. We went from one tag and you're able to hunt five days and then you had the availability to draw a second tag.
That was a huge deal. Usually that was like the fifth or sixth season, and then all of a sudden the DNR [00:23:00] decided screw this. We can pay for these, we can sell these ordeal. So then all the new culture came about where we can, they're selling tags, availability, all these extra tags for end of March for usually, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth season.
So it was just this huge change. 20 I remember this. We started filming. We grew up the days of, like I said, bill, Jordan Jimbo. I'll do a little bit namedropping, show my age. Dick Kirby, all of these huge monumental people. And I loved the Monster Bucks, I idea of going out and filming all these hunts and doing all this kind of stuff.
So I had a friend of mine that hunted with me all the time. So we started he had his work, actually his mom's work had a BHS camcorder. So the late nineties were out there filming most of our hunts, and it was just to see this huge transition of where we're at today and the technology being utilized to where, me and my buddies started while we were in middle school and high school is [00:24:00] just astronomical.
Yeah. And again, it's just, it's, these are before the days of learn hunt. Before the days of youth seasons, it was a privilege. It was an, to be invited to go to these events, as a kid in grade school and middle school, your dad and his buddies inviting you to go on these hunts was a big deal.
And Just a different perspective base comparable to where we're at today. Yeah. What would you say is the biggest advancement? So I started, I tried my hand at Turkey hunting when I was younger. Yep. Down in Alabama. I got burned so bad that I just didn't want to do it anymore. And there it's the old school Turkey hunter culture of you find a guy on your lease, they have big hunting clubs down there where, you got 3,600 acres was what I grew up with.
There were a couple of guys at Turkey Hunt, only two or three, but you go and talk to them about turkeys and they act like they don't exist. But if you want to go hunt one of their favorite areas, even if it's during deer season, they'll come over and they'll just kinda be like, Hey, you need to be careful down there, because this is where I like to Turkey [00:25:00] hunt, and it's, they're real secretive. They don't want to share the information. That old guard of Turkey hunter. Colonel Tom Kelly talks about it in his book, 10th Legion. Absolutely. And he, what he describes is what I grew up with that old guard of Turkey hunter.
Absolutely. So then I get to Wisconsin and I have a guy who comes up. He says, Hey, let me take you Turkey hunting. And I was blown away by this. What do you mean, let me, lemme take you Turkey hunting. So we go out on the first morning and I was like, you know what will, what's gonna be the plan?
And he looks at me with a confused face and he says, if we don't have a bird on the ground by 9:00 AM something's wrong. And , I said, dude, what? Wait. Yeah. Perspective. What do you mean if we don't have a bird on the ground by nine? So we walk in and we cross this little creek and literally there are two Toms that watch us cross the creek.
They're directly above us. They're roosted right over this little bridge that he had. And they just watch, they don't even fly off. They put at us and stuff, but they're more just bothered by us being there. Yes. We're an inconvenience to them. Absolutely. [00:26:00] Absolutely. We get back into the property.
He calls a, there's a Tom gobbling. He calls a couple of times. The Tom flies down directly to where his blind is. We're in two separate blinds, peeks into his blind, looks around, turns and walks off. But then I get a clean shot when he leaves the other guy's blind and we're done by you. The bird had been on the ground for a solid three and a half minutes, , and just blew my mind.
, and it's and I've had great Turkey hunting, since then. It's branching outta my own. But What have you seen? I have come into this, all that to say, I've come into this late in the game with all these tools at my disposal as a Turkey hunter and a lot of stuff to just really fast track the learning curve for me, right?
Like I didn't have to go through 10 years of hunting low numbers, right? To try to figure out birds. I had success immediately, like my few weeks later I went out and called one in on my own and had a great, great hunt. What are some of the biggest advancements that you've seen in Turkey hunting over [00:27:00] the years and that have maybe shaped or changed the way that you hunt or the way that you see people?
knowledge per, that's the influx of information. And I, here's, and a prime example of that is what I thought I knew 20 years ago compared to bullet, I thought I knew 10 years ago, even five years ago, is just astronomical. Yeah. So growing up I gauged every bird, fr as Jake, a two year old, a three-year-old.
Then once you get up in that four year old category by the length of their spurs. So I age every bird like that. Last five years, we've come to find out that it's all genetics spurs are, have no more relevancy regarding age then antlers do regarding, deer. It's a genetic trait. So just the change of information the new knowledge that's becoming available.
For example, blind, it was always a big. We didn't, there was no blinds growing up. I think I killed my first Turkey in jeans for God's sakes. Real tree oke were huge, but at the end of the day it was [00:28:00] still, they were getting their feet up, so it was, the amount of knowledge that we have today is just astronomical.
Yeah. And it, when we made these little blinds up, it was all just dead leads and branches and putting stuff together. If you'd have told me 20 years ago that you could set a blind in the middle of a field and not inter, and not disrupt Turkey behavior, I just said, you're nuts. Think about what we're saying here.
So what we've learned just regarding Turkey biology, Turkey behavior, and just the plethora of ideas, it's we've come to find out that turkeys are. Social bird, they're very decoy friendly, comparable to other species of game that are out there. We learned that, sticking, I had a l years ago I had a decoy called the Little Turk, right?
And it was nothing more than a decoy, yay big, but it was very easy and convenient to carry around. And we went through all different sorts of decoy type of processes throughout the course of these years. We actually cut hen and [00:29:00] like a full flam, decoy, styrofoam hen put the little Turkey in the middle of it.
And I, my first experience with a Turkey fighting a decoy was under a situation like that. So it's just there's so much knowledge regarding where we're at today. You can bypass all of that and find out that, you can reap a dominant bird, there, that's a possibility. Yeah.
You can set a blind up in a middle of a field and work bird. That's a possibility. It's just a learning curve is. Just astronomical, comparable where we were years ago. Yeah. Do you mind if I pick your brain on the whole topic of reaping for just a second? Cause you just Absolutely. Oh, we're going right into Epic dude.
Going right into Epic, dude. Absolutely. I wanna, I want to hear about it because I've been a part of reaping a Turkey. I successfully reaped a Turkey at this point. But I hear all of this stuff about it. Like all these ethical questions and I get it. I get it. I get it. I get it. I just want to hear your take on it.
You just mentioned it. So I had a [00:30:00] Tom one of my very, it is actually the opening morning of Season A I get into this area and one of the things I love about Season A, they may not respond to your Yelps very well. Like they may not come in, run into your calling, but if you get some decoys out there, they will break their necks to try to get to your decoys.
Absolutely. So I had a couple times come running in. And shot the lead Tom, right? Get that done. There's one Tom back in the background, he was the dominant looking bird of the group, right? , he shredded the whole time. He wasn't in a big hurry to get there. Meanwhile, a couple of Jakes and a couple of other younger Toms come sprinting in kind of thing.
I hunted that bird all season long and I knew it was him. , because he was missing two feathers from his tail fan. Absolutely. So I knew it was him. So we get in there or I hunt him all season long and can't get him to respond, can't get him to come in or whatever. And finally, we get to the very end of the season and I go to one of my buddies who's got [00:31:00] a reaping decoy, and we drive past this property.
We tried another property early in the morning. No luck. We drive past this specific property and he's out there in the field and we know it's him because of his tail fan. , we get out there with the reaping decoy, I've got the video camera. Next thing you know, he gets inside of that thing's bubble and it turns and comes right at him.
Turkey's down. So obviously very effective on a dominant bird and a bird that's seen other decoys and, yep. Pen yelps. So what are your thoughts on the whole process of reaping? I I think it's a valuable tool. And with that being said, what we see, it was 10, 12 years ago, what we see when it became pretty prevalent and made famous it's not as, as.
It's not as user-friendly as it's portrayed to be. Yes. I'll be very clear on that. Yes. So I push as many birds. I've reaped numerous times. And the general public is their consensus out on that. It goes back into the ethics and I'm a [00:32:00] firm believer if it is legal in the state, and each state varies considerably with their legalities on what they believe is ethical and not.
And so it changes from state to state. But if it's legal in that state it's a tool to be utilized. Yep. And with that being, I've had fun with it. I have, I've I carry a full fan with me at all times, and that's what I use as my reaping decoy when available. I don't use it as much as I used to.
I, when it first came out, I thought it was fun, but I I pushed, I screwed up as many hunts as I had successes on. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. With that being said, little tidbit re regarding the thought process with it. So we had a few we were working with Vendor, in the outdoor industry.
And we do, we did a lot of video type stuff, right? So we killed a few reaping, and we were gonna look at, using this for content for vendor. It wasn't six months later, a year later, the outpouring of social media and the cries on this is unethical. This is, this is completely [00:33:00] unfair to the bird.
And so we scrapped it, you know what I mean? It was, it's it's, but it's a very perspective based approach. And all of Turkey hunting, that's all of hunting period is ethics. I can't emphasize that enough. It's, you usually one-on-one in the woods with this quarry. So with this game, I should say, and ethics are a huge piece of that, and it's to be utilized, it's a personal stance.
Doesn't mean it right or wrong, as long as it's legal in that state. Or at least look into it. With that being said, if you don't, if you choose not to use it, that's awesome. That's awesome. But don't judge another person for how they hunt. And I wouldn't be very clear on that. It's, we're all on the same freaking team here.
We're 4% of the population, let's not argue amongst ourselves. That's right, man, that's so good. And I love the way you said it now with all, with reading and research and all that I've done, so I actually, I reaped a bird last year and I'm like, you man, I'm these people that say it's not fair to the bird because they can't resist it.
I'm like, you've never tried it then. [00:34:00] Correct. Or if you, man, if you did try it, you tried it once and it worked right. And you were like, that was too easy. Yeah. On that bird, go try the other 15. Correct. I've busted correct. Quite a few birds. Same here, trying that out.
And any Tom that is not looking for a fight. Is not coming in. He's walking away man. And he, a lot of times he's doing it at a pretty good clip. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. Yep. , so . And another problem that I've run into it, it's really interesting, I think in the Turkey world hunting turkeys, if you're going, cuz I've tried to use it before where a Tom is just hen up, he's got six or seven, eight hens around him.
Yep. I'll go in and I don't know if it's because of the way I'm going right at them, and charging 'em straight ahead. , I've had the hens come to me, leave the Tom and come to me and him just tuck tail and walk the other direction. And I, so that to me is really interesting.
I, I wonder if they think, maybe there's a new dominant bird in town or they're just curious or he's been fighting a lot. So here's a prime [00:35:00] example. I would say 2010 to 2012 is when we hit our, just our plateau of turkeys. I'd hit ridge line and. I would be on a setup and I could have four different Toms come in on me at the course of the morning.
Since that time it's really, it's not that same type of punt. With that being said, I've watched turkeys last week of March, first week of April one, Tom go out there and fight. They're still in their winter flocks, fight six or seven and just cause you could walk up to 'em and they don't care.
They're all, their mood is fighting and establishing that hierarchy. So I don't really believe that the decoy is like flaring them or scaring them, they like it. So they're pretty decoy friendly animals. They're just not in the mood. They're not, they don't wanna fight, or it doesn't look natural.
That could also be, where, turkeys usually zigzag when they're coming into a spread versus coming to a straight line. Yep. There's so much to these animals, and if you go out there and just watch 'em, starting now and through the course of the year, turkeys today are a whole different animal than they are June 1st.
Yep. It's fun to watch and [00:36:00] it's fun to be a part of their world. Just wanna take a quick minute to let you know that the Wisconsin Sportsman Podcast is brought to you by Tcam makers of the best point of view cameras on the market. For hunters and anglers, they're on the cutting edge, making user-friendly cameras to help the everyday outdoorsmen share your hunt with friends and loved ones.
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All right, man. That's good. You're about to get me off on this whole Turkey tangent, and we got other things to talk about. Regrouping a little bit. So you you cut your teeth with turkeys, right? You're guiding folks by the time you're, before you're even hunting on your own. Let's talk a bit about how you transitioned from hunting, being, this passion, this hobby, this thing that you love and you just love sharing it with others to where you are today, where you're doing that for a living. That's a great question. I knew when I was in high school that I was gonna make some sort of, income on the outdoors in some ways, shape or form.
I didn't know whether that's going to be in the guiding aspect, writing. With that being said, it just, it came very natural. So I had, I was building a clientele base back in middle and high school , yeah, it just, it kinda led to that next step. And I could not be outdoors enough, I, the seasons for turkeys at that time was five days, so I [00:38:00] wanted to be out and under be a part of their world.
So I'm out guiding people. It picked up right where my dad left off. So I, he, we had these leases going on. A lot of guys starting to age out, get out of hunting. I just kinda expanded onto that and kinda moved forward. I wanted, I did not want the, I knew the outdoors gonna be a huge piece of my life, so I just.
Picked up and continued to make forward movement happen regarding that. Come, I've learned so much over the course of the last 20 years. I think. I think original River Runnings, don't quote me on this, I think it was founded in oh nine. No, I've been guiding for years prior to that. But we decided to make that in that next step LLC and that oh nine type of area.
So it just it just slowly blossomed in there. I'd guide a few people a year. And then I was deer hunting quite a bit in the fall doing a lot of waterfall hunting. So how do we expand this into, to, into creating a, an income and make this successful? Outdoors is [00:39:00] awesome.
You can turn it into a four Seasons type of event if you truly choose, you can fish, you can hunt, you can do all kinds of things. And then once you decide to go down that road, the people you can associate with, the, your colleagues, for lack of a better term, are again, very small.
So you come to find out and learn that, most full-time guides that I know are nomadic by nature, and they're good quality people, but they're adventurous, they're nomadic. So they're guiding. You can waterfall guide now just the North America, nine months outta the year, but with that being said, that's, it comes at a cost. So you're gone , you're traveling North America, starting at latter part of August, and you're not getting back until May, but Wow. So if you're wanting to have a family, you gotta just, what's important to you? What's your perspective base?
You want to be out in the woods, 250 days a year. You want what are you trying to accomplish? I decided I wanted to have a family, so I'm not my buddies that are traveling, nine months outta the year. It's hard for me to be gone three to four [00:40:00] months outta the year, let alone nine months.
Hey, sorry Tasha. I'm, I'll see ya, I'll see ya this summer. It's not a perspective thing that I wanted to do but it can be achieve, and so it's how big do you want to go? In, in my opinion, a lot of guys get too big too fast and they crumble, another situation, guys just are very happy to stay where they're at.
For our Turkey hunts is a prime example. I'm very limited. I only take four to eight people out. So four to eight groups, lemme rephrase that out a year, I, now I'm not, but that I'm putting those limits on myself because I have a family and I don't in. , all of the details that, that, that can occur to that.
So once you bite off a big leaf, we've all been burned in different ways, shapes or form. You've got that money out there, you gotta fill it, yeah. When co when Covid hit, it changed the perspectives on a lot of different venues, so people started reeling their stuff back in a little bit.
Oh my God. I saw people just belly up and just lose everything they had. So it just, it changes your viewpoints on what you wanna do, how you wanna go [00:41:00] and how you wanna get there. And there's no right or wrong answer to it. But it being outdoors, like I said it is something that it wasn't, it was a non-negotiable.
It was something that my family is going to experience, whether they they could choose to live in New York City, by the time of five, but I promise you they're gonna know how to butcher a deer. They're gonna know how to reap a Turkey. You know what I'm saying? Is what it. Funny story and I, it's all perspective based going back to how we view the world, right?
My daughter, my my oldest daughter is seven years old, right? She is grown up on benison and bear and elk and ducks and turkeys and everything, right? So she she takes cold lunch four days a week, right? And she loves summer sausage. So I killed a bear a few years back and she eats bear summer sausage, all the time.
She's in class at the lunch table and she's eating her summer. And one of the colleagues come up, one of her peers come up to her and say, what you eating? Bear? That's the truth. You're eating a bear. [00:42:00] Avery looks at her straight in the face. You've never had bear. So my point being is it's very perspective based.
Oh, that's funny. Yeah. You know what I'm saying? Yeah. It's very perspective bait. Man. That's so good. Living the dream that's so good from a seven year old. Wait, you've never had bear, like how . . How are you this old and you've not had bear yet exactly. Exactly. That's right. Exactly. Fathom that, man.
That's, that is incredible. That is incredible. . So you're your your company now, Ridge and River Running Outfitters, right? Yep. Did I get that right? Yep, that's correct. And you guys, so Ridge, go ahead. Go ahead. So Ridge and River running outfits was established at oh nine. At that time. We strictly did Turkey hunts.
And I was taken, I was probably taking 10 or 12 people out at that time. We keeping some leases, some, bigger leases going. We hunt a lot on public land too. It depends on where the birds are at. Then we, I, we were doing some duck hunts at that time too, just inland duck hunts type stuff.
At I was also. Spending a lot of time, like I said, I cut my teeth on the Wisconsin River, so I learned I [00:43:00] graduated outta University of Wisconsin Platteville, and I was student teaching at Bosqueville, so I was spending a lot of time in southwest Wisconsin. Down there I met a, I met some people that were spending some time on the Mississippi River.
So once that door opened up, whole nother, change of viewpoints of life happened. So then I spent a lot of time on the Mississippi River and in 2015 we opened up the doors to Big River hunts on the Mississippi for ducks and waterfall. So it's like I said it's, you can turn it into a year-round ordeal.
If that's your So process ridge and River running, we're strictly at this present moment, strictly Turkeys in the spring. and waterfall hunts in the fall. Okay. All right. So you guys, you're not doing deer. Did you do deer before or so? We did. We did, yep. Alright yep. And you can't do it all and be successful?
I cannot, I can't do it all and be successful. I deer hunt. I've deer hunted every year since I was 12 years old and we spent a lot of time deer hunting. We got outta [00:44:00] guiding deer hunt and moved strictly over to waterfall hunts. But with that being said, from a family and friend point of view, I come back and I hunt deer every year.
And my wife this year went on our first deer hunt. So we still deer. We run trail cams. We're that's still an integral piece of what we do, but I'm not, that's not part of a repertoire regarding guiding at this time. Yeah. Not saying it won't happen down the road, but not right now.
Sure. And that man, that makes sense. And I'll, I wanna ask you a question, and it may be too close to home. It may be one of those industry inside kind of things. When it comes it, it seems like guiding for deer, it's another Hannibal. Yeah. It's so hard to keep your limited amount of ground fresh enough Correct.
To provide every group a quality hunt. Does that play into your decision for that as well, keeping leases? Oh, yeah. With a huge piece of that. So I can tell you it's unique. There's certain situations where kids today do not, wanna be on video games and their family have these [00:45:00] working farms and they don't wanna take advantage of that.
As soon as you get that ground up and moving and you're starting to see a quality deer, as Q DMAs taking place, you're starting to see dividends take place. Then all of a sudden an uncle, a family member wants to come in and hunt it. Yeah. So that changes dynamic regarding, so just, that's a hundred percent correct.
Keeping leases available. We're not, I'm not dealing with. And that's all perspective based. I'm dealing with Wisconsin. Yeah. Where a big piece of ground is two 50 acres. If I talk to some buddies out in Montana or Wyoming, that's a pasture, that's, it's all relative.
You be very clear on that. And I could tell you from that that, that changed my dynamic around, so I want the deer hunting culture's very strong in my family. I just, at this present moment with my small family, it does not meet our repertoire of where what I can qual, what I can provide quality s to.
Yeah. And I think that's just a big piece. And I had a feeling that was where you were gonna go with that. And I, so I wanted to highlight like, guys, this is something that you [00:46:00] could offer, but like you just said, you don't feel that with the present way of things going and with your family.
That's not something that you could provide the quality of hunt that you would want to be able to and be faithful to your family at the same time. I think that speaks to you as a person. So I wanted to highlight that a little bit and just say that's a standup move, man. I appreciate that. Now, so Josh I think you've been in the outdoors for a while.
It takes a lifetime to build a solid name for yourself. It takes milliseconds to destroy it. And I've seen, yeah, people all over the country, they start believing the articles that are written about them. And next thing you know, that height of arrogance and narcissism is through the fricking roof.
So stay humble, man. You know what I'm saying? We're on the same team here. We're all wanting to enjoy the outdoors, the best of our abilities. Say what you're gonna do. Yeah, that's a, it's a big deal. And we have enough problems inside just trying to create quality hunts when things are going well.
You know what I'm saying? Let alone That's right. Issues are arising. [00:47:00] That's right. Very good. Ma let's shift a little bit and I want to hear specifically about your, the Turkey hunts, how they break down for you guys. What if somebody called you what could they expect? But then also what all goes into your into your guiding and a successful hunt?
So I have found a process that works really well for me in the area of Wisconsin that I hunt for turkeys, right? Like it's, yep. And it's evolved into a year round thing. Like I, as soon as I'm tagged out for deer season basically, or deer season ends, I'm obsessively trying to find the birds and watch what they're doing year round.
Like I wanna know where they're at all the time and yeah. I don't know how much that helps, but I do know I'm obsessed Walk me through your process for getting your clients on birds and what a hunt might look like. Typically right now we're about a year out with our clientele. So by all means, call me tomorrow and I try to get back to everybody as soon as I possibly can.
I know I ticked a lot of people off where I get caught up [00:48:00] with something I don't get back yet. I will get back to you as soon as I can. I try to make that pretty time. With that being said, we're about a year out with our Turkey hunt and I put people on a current waiting list if needed. It's, I offer two and a half day hunt, so typically your hunt starts on a Saturday and then half on Monday, at noon.
We aren't offering lodging at this time. I'm asking my guys to stay at a hotel that I usually name a couple of little towns either stock or Columbia County. And we'll stay there. I meet you. Morning of the hunt, I pick you up from your hotel and then you're with me for the, until nightfall.
We're hunting up usually from sun up till sundown or until you can, you kill your bird. So historically we're running about an 80 to 85% success rate. That's historically what we run the last few years. It's, and we always have cancellations going on. So if you're on my cancellation list, there's always certain situations come up with clients, that happen and it is what it is.
Most of my guys are [00:49:00] repeat guys and most of them are out state. Typically one or two groups that come in or throughout every other year, every third year on a cancellation basis. Kinda cool. The last 10 years, I'd say starting in 20 14, 20 15, I've had guys that are chasing the 49. From a Turkey hunting per perspective, so that's kinda cool.
So most guys that are hunting with me are hunting five or six states a year. And they're, this is Wisconsin is one of their must stops. Then I, like it's about every third year I get a guy that comes in and he's on Quest of the 49. So it's just, it's neat. What I love about it is the people you meet, they're all hunters.
I've taken doctors out, neurosurgeons out and I've taken garbage men out. And the perspective bases they bring in at my repertoire as a Turkey hunter and just the relationships that have been formed over the course of these years is just awesome. It is absolutely positively awesome.
We all have the same perspective as loving these wild turkeys. That's cool. Yeah. That's a neat thing to have. [00:50:00] Yeah. I'm always curious to hear anytime I'm working with or talking with somebody who is a guide now, whether that be hunting or fishing or whatever it is, one of my big questions is always, How would you describe the dream client?
Because there are people I've been around and done enough other things to know there are people that make your job more difficult and not just a little bit more difficult. They make it astronomically more difficult, and they do that in such a way that it also makes your job not fun at all too.
So they just crash the whole thing. So rather than saying, tell me some stories about terrible clients, what are some things that make people like an ideal client that you're like, man, this is the kind of guy that I can get on a bird that I wanna work my hardest for. And that, his, his approach or his mentality or whatever is gonna set him up for success better than most expectations first word, expectations.
So from my point of view, I try to be [00:51:00] as transparent as I possibly can, but there many times, This precon of expectations come in where, because you're hiring a guide, ducks are gonna fall from the sky, fish are gonna jump into the boat, you're gonna line this ridge line up, and there should be 10 turkeys talking, as sunrise approaches.
So expectations first and foremost, it's, these are wild animals. I, and if we have a hunting contract or a hunting agreement that you sign off on in order to book your hunt with us, and I wanna be very clear, it's an adventure. It, and that's what it's an adventure. Yeah. I do everything in my freaking power to get birds to cooperate.
Sometimes. It's not in the carts. It is. I've had situations where, we've hunted our butts off with quality people and it just did not pan out. It's hunting. It is what it's so those expectations be realistic about those expectations. With that being said, going with it just going with the flow, I've had situations pop up. Where guys, I'm not gonna reap a bird. Okay. That's awesome. That's [00:52:00] just one last tactic that we can utilize. I've had guys line up that, and again, this is all epic type of ordeal. I want to strictly hunt out of a blind. I can't walk up down these, that's fine.
Okay. But that, with that being said, we limit the tools that are at our disposal. So a perfect ideal hunter is I'm not in, same peak physical shape that I was at 22 years of age. With that being said, I try to keep myself in good enough shape where if I need to, man, we gotta hump three or four miles that day.
We're gonna do what we gotta do, carrying paxson, doing all that other stuff, do what you gotta do. So being in reasonable enough shape to exert yourself over the course of, two and a half days. I, I'll be honest, I've had guys show I've hunted with guys who were running a gunning at times, and the very next day I go to pick 'em up.
They come out and say they can't walk. That's happened. Wow. Okay. That's fine. Yeah. That's fine. But then we're limiting our success rate, that's, it is what it is. Guys, we're gonna we'll hunt. But we're gonna be setting up in the blind over here today, and this is what we're doing now.
With that being [00:53:00] said, I had other, we may hunt out of a blind acreage can vary, very much. So we may set up out of a blind three days each and every day too. Because of the conditions that are presenting himself, because of where we're hunting. Yeah. But being flexible and making sure those expectations meet your needs, it's a making we're talking about full transparency and making sure everything that we've talked about is taking place.
Yeah. I've had, like I said, I've had guys tell me they're in peak physical condition and. . It is what it's, you know what I'm saying? It's what it's, yeah. So tell me a little bit about your scouting process. Because man you're, everything hinges on you knowing where the birds are and what the birds are doing.
One of the things that I personally love about Wisconsin is it's not is how visible the birds are compared to other states. You go down south boy, it's really hard to see a Turkey. Like you just don't see them out a lot. We don't have a lot of crap crop fields. There's not a lot of ag.[00:54:00]
Absolutely. Turkeys in Wisconsin very visible. I love just sitting back in glass and for a morning, just watching. Absolutely. What do they do? What better way to spend a morning? Agreed. So what all goes into your scouting process early on? We turned it into family adventures.
So I'm taking my kids out and before school in the morning or after school, and. About a week or a week and a half from today, it turns into, a daily or weekly, a few days a week adventure, where we're going out and glassing fields. But more specifically, we're getting up a little earlier in the morning.
And while these birds are still grouped up in their winter flocks, we're trying to get headcounts, that, that's a, from my point of view, while they're still grouped up, it's a prime opportunity to at least get numbers of where you're at, so we, and we're covering large swaths of territory, and that may not just be where we're hunting, but, neighboring locations around the area, as they're in their winter formats they're still all grouped up, so they're gonna disperse throughout the [00:55:00] course of the season.
But just because they're not on yours right now doesn't mean they're not gonna be over there, a month from today. Looking at I, I'm going gonna age myself here, but years ago I would grab a plat book and go down the road with today's tools, HuntStand or Onyx maps. You have the availability to key in on a lot of different areas and do your due diligence.
So once you're get, getting number counts is my top priority. Then once we start getting number counts, you can go back and decide, okay, I'm taking X amount of people out this year. This is this is an area and never putting your eggs in one basket. Okay. Just, I personally, I, there's been some years where I've ran into more hundred interference with neighbors and on private land than I have on public for God's sake.
Yeah. You know what I'm saying? Yeah. So making sure that you're not putting all your eggs in a basket. Okay. We've got, I know I've got four area four birds in this mile radius, or this. Mile and a half radius. I go over here and I've got three birds here. I go on this ridge line. We had an [00:56:00] influx of Jake's last year.
I've got seven, seven times running around over in this area. So having many opportunities and then adding more if you possibly can. Yeah, that's good, man. I have found, for me it seems like a much bigger deal to have multiple properties for turkeys than it is for deer. Absolutely. I have, absolutely, I have some faith, at least where I'm hunting deer in Wisconsin.
If I get on a piece of property that holds deer, there's one or two there that I'm gonna be really happy with. And there's probably a couple more that I'm gonna be pretty happy with, especially if I'm hunting at that, sweet spot of the year, right around the rut, turkeys, however, There might be a property that it holds, four Jakes all spring long.
And if that's the only place I have to Turkey hunt, then I'm outta luck. . So I need to have five, six different places that I've got permission on and I need to know what the birds are doing on this piece of public, and have a couple of different options. Cuz like you said, man, I ha I have a [00:57:00] place that is, the farm has just been a honey hole for me.
Yep. And last year during, I forget which season it was, but my wife had a tag, so I took her out and we're sitting there, we're listening to bird's gobble. They're doing what they normally do. They roost on the neighbor's property, fly down, do their thing, walk the fence row or walk the edge of this field up from this little creek and then pop out into the ag field where we were sitting where we're sitting there. And next thing a shotgun goes off on the neighbor's property. I've hunted this place for three years and have never. Ever heard another hunter on that property and I've tried to get permission there and the guy says, no. Some people that work for me hunt there already.
I'd never seen them. Lo and behold that one morning they come out and that changed. I think she must have had Season A because that changed the hunting on that property for the rest of the year. Ab it's real. Those guys being on that place changed the whole neighboring property for the entire year, which changes yours.[00:58:00]
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. It changed everything on the place that I loved to hunt. Yep. To, to the point where I struggled out there and had to go other places. Yeah. It's so real. It's so real. It, which kinda leads to the next interlude over the, I know there's been studies done, but how long does it take to replenish that bird to come back?
Let's say you kill a bird on there, right? How long does it take? Just going off. Experiences we're seeing about 18 months to two years. Wow. In order to get, that's what we're seeing. So some of our areas that we have access to, we've been hunting for a lot of time we limit, knowing that, the neighbors are hunting it pretty hard or maybe they didn't get out there this year.
So knowing that roughly 18 months to 24 months, that's gonna take another bird to replenish that area changes how we go about looking at things too. Yeah, man. That's really good. Cause I actually, so I ended up tagging one bird on, on this property there last year which I was very happy with.
But for the entire rest of the season, and I got lucky enough where I had either [00:59:00] myself or my kids or my buddies all had tags, right? And so I was keeping up with the birds on this. I hunted all six seasons and I was keeping up with what the birds were doing. Either for me or for a friend.
Cuz I want to know on all these different properties, what are the birds doing right? And literally on this property, a group of four Jakes. Was already on it. They were on it early in the year, and they were there before season and they were there all season long. And I shot that one Tom, that I did.
I left, brought all my camera gear and everything to the car, came back to get the Tom and the four Jakes were sitting there stomping on him in the middle of the field. That's awesome. Somebody shoots the, somebody shoots a bird on the neighboring property and I don't, and now I got some trail camera pictures of Tom's moving through, but not like with a lot of consistency or anything like that.
And those Jakes ran that property for the entire year. Oh, I time, I'm hoping this year that means it's replenished. But the year before this property, opening morning, I called in nine birds [01:00:00] at the same time. Three of three of them were Jake's and the rest of them were Tom's. So we go from that to now.
We took one bird off the property. to, this year. I don't know what's gonna happen, but Right. Absolutely. Very different. Absolutely. Very different hunting. , talk to me a little bit about this dispersal time, because one of the, one of the things that I always hear or have heard folks say a lot is like, Hey, doesn't matter if you have a winter flock on this property come spring, they could be anywhere.
I have found from my experience though, if you've got a winter flock, they're not all leaving. You're gonna have some birds. Does that make sense to you? It does. It does. It does. And I've heard that song in dance, and it, again, it depends on the property. Now, if you're hunting vast area of wilderness, public area, you know that we're talking about the thousands of areas they can traverse, travel a lot of different places looking for food.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to habitat. [01:01:00] We're they're gonna go where the foods are at, they're gonna go where the cover is to build nests. and you're gonna have Toms around those areas, so from a guiding point of view or from a Turkey hunting point of view, I also key in on where I run into nuts, and use that knowledge down the road.
Typically, if I find one or two nuts pretty close by, there's a great probability we've got Toms somewhere, close by in, in that vicinity. Yeah. And when I've seen that hold true where those big winter format, those big winter blocks, Don't necessarily stay on that piece of ground in big fast, big cut cuts of timber.
I've seen them travel a along a long ways. With that being said, in more timber ag fields, what we have around this area they don't go to, turkeys are no different than anything else. They don't have to exert enough energy. They're not going to, they're . It's a deer.
Dear ducks at all of it. They're, they want to be left alone. They wanna be turkeys and they wanna be able to feed, they wanna be, feel protected and live their [01:02:00] life. It's just what the coolest process of all this is being a part of their world. Yeah. I can't that enough. It's just awesome. Yep.
And that's, so that has informed my, permission strategy if you if you will, Yep. I go after those properties that hold large winter flocks. Yep. Because the terrain that we're in blocks of timber with mixed ag if I can find those places that held a winter flock, it's, yep. Going to have Tom's on it in the spring.
The places down the road might have a couple too, but this one definitely will, or at least you. Those are the spots that I seem to have more success on. Let's talk just a little bit about, and I don't wanna take too much of your time today. We've been talking for almost an hour.
I wanna hear a little bit about your early season strategy because as I've talked to a lot of folks, I love that season A or season B, if I can get 'em right, I want to be in there that time of year, because for me, I'm really love hunting, un pressured birds and yeah, I love to call birds.
In the first Turkey or the second Turkey I ever took, first one I ever took on my own was a bird. [01:03:00] I called in with no decoys. The whole hide the hen thing did the, had the whole experience, right? But I love watching 'em turn inside out, coming into a decoy, I just, I love that interaction, so I love early season.
Tell me a little bit about your early season. Tactics and how it may differ a little bit when, the weather can be cold, it can be hard when they're more flocked up. Yep. So when the state of Wisconsin changed their early season, what, seven, eight years ago or so? We were, we normally were a week ahead.
Yep. So I typically, myself personally and some family typically hunt the first two weeks of the season and then we open up guiding usually third season till the very end. Some years we will do the early season stuff, but we're hunting family type stuff those first two weeks. And it is, it's a different animal.
So the hierarchy. Today has been established. So first season now is usually what, the middle of April. And usually that, [01:04:00] that fighting the bulk of the fighting has taken place. Doesn't mean all of it. We still witness it at times, but the bulk of the fighting has taken place. The hierarchy is being established.
You have a dominant that is got four or five other times around him if you got, if you're in a pretty good area. So we use a lot of decoys. But again, it depends on the clientele. Last year, here's a prime example. I had a big piece of public ways from here that I've been dying to hunt, right?
I just have not had the time to do it. With that being said, this is a big piece of. My buddy was also the cameraman. He went out there and he was able to do a little bit of scouting in the morning, a day or two. Heard a few birds. We had no idea, so I loved the idea of hunting new areas.
So we showed up there fresh. I had no idea where birds were at, didn't even know exactly what to anticipate. Just knew from scouting, online that this looked really good. We got out there, I grabbed one decoy in my hand. I had a Jake decoy with me, and we just sat there and got down to a [01:05:00] low point area, a lot of big ridges and just listened.
Everything was relatively high that day was, conditions were miserable. It was rain, spitting the rain, but birds were talking. So immediately we're on the move, we're running up on top of this ridge. We got birds pegged birds started flying down. We got within a hundred yards of them.
Got into some screaming matches with a few. And we're just learning this specific. Birds on this piece of property, on this piece of property, right? We get up to the top. We got on the same level as them. Everything went down below. They were with hands. We moved on 'em two or three different times that morning, staying with trying to stay within that hundred to hundred 50 yards, staying within their bubble, but also using the train in our advantage where we weren't gonna bump him, right?
I do think we bumped two heads that morning. As we were transferring back and forth. It wasn't until 11 o'clock that morning Jake Decoy, we set out, we brought one Tom come screaming in. We were on the same level of him. He saw the Jake Decoy came, run into the Jake Decoy, and it was just a typical [01:06:00] awesome, big timber type behind where they're decoy friendly.
We got the whole show that morning from gobbling birds to them shutting up, for a couple hours in the morning, them gobbling back again. It was just an awesome show. Went out there a little bit later with my wife. And we hunted out of a blind, right? So she's relatively new to the hunting world.
So much easier to move your gun, do this. At that particular hunt we, it was missing rain again. Early season. Set the decoy up. We had a Jake and a breeder decoy we were using, which is fun. We used a lot. We used those combinations a lot. And typical off roof. We were within 150 yards that morning to two or three different times that we were aware of.
But we also heard what we thought, two or 300 yards away was a gaggle of Jake's did not know that we thought they were. So nothing came in right off the get go. Patience kills turkeys. It always does. [01:07:00] If you, if I could talk about one thing in life, patience, we're super, there's a time and place to be super aggressive.
We, and we utilize that, but we bust as many birds when we're super aggressive as we end up killing, kinda like the reaping ordeal, yep. If you're hunting a specific area and you're hunting with, you got a limited amount of time to hunt. I agree with being aggressive. We had a couple days we decided to spend that morning in the blind.
About nine o'clock in the morning we see a tom walk out and grab the decoys and he comes just running right at well, just I love watching the show. Just absolutely love watching the. So he comes be lion. It was about a hundred, hundred 50 yards out, a hundred yards out. Comes be lion to the decoy.
Behind them I see seven or eight more turkeys pop up. They're ways out. They look like Tom's, but I couldn't quite tell. He gets within about 15 yards. My wife's there waiting for me to call a shot, right? I wanted him to come in, attack the decoy and put on a right. The camera guy's right here.
He's filming this whole ordeal going on. My buddy on stop on the camera [01:08:00] he gets within 10, 15 yards of the decoy stops, immediately runs into the ditch. Now, this is my wife's first hunt. I, the camera guy's right here, I could have her swing on and try to make a iffy shot, but she's gotta move.
She's gotta, we gotta adjust the camera so the bird's still only 20 yards to the side, but he's in. Viewpoint where she, he, she can't get an ethical shot. My bad, blame me a hundred percent. We could have killed this bird two or three times. I did not because I want, I was arrogant and wanted to watch the shell, right?
So I see that the Jake's coming in. Now this is, again, this is my wife's first real kind of Turkey hunt. Jake's come running in and they start putting on a shelf. Very easy. They, I see my wife just heart through. I see the gun going up and down like this. We're gonna kill one of these, Jake.
Oh yeah. We're gonna kill one of these Jakes. So it seemed like you asked my wife, it seemed like 20 minutes, it was literally a minute or two just to get 'em to separate. We had one separate on the side, and she was able to take the shot and kill her fir very first birth. [01:09:00] Now again, all perspective base, if you'd have told her, That wasn't a trophy hunt and an incredible, just a life altering experience.
She'd have said, she'd have cussed you out. That could have been A2 six pound Tom that made the Nwtf books. It was the same prize to her as it was, as Jake was. It was an awesome hot. Could we have killed the Tom? Yes. Did it work out Absolutely perfectly?
No. And again, that goes back into ethics and just the perspective base of what is a good hunt to you. And it was awesome. It's a hunt. I don't remember all the days I'm in the woods. It's a hunt. I won't forget. It was absolutely, positively awesome. Hot. Yeah. So that's early season. I stopped, yeah. Yeah. How important is roosting birds, like the evening before for you? Oh, God. For me, I have had I'll just tell you. , my success rate is let me put it this way, I'm very confident if I've roosted a bird the night before. Yep. Absolutely. But a lot of that is because the properties that I [01:10:00] hunt, I know where they roost it.
And a lot of people tell me they don't roost in the same place all the time. You need to jump on a couple of the properties that I hunt, because they definitely have really preferred roosting locations. And if they're roosted there, I know what they're gonna do. I know typically how they're gonna behave when they come down off the roos.
So I'm really confident. How important is that for your, you and your hunting? Another perspective? If I'm, if it's a new area to me, where I don't have a lot of hunting experience on that piece. It's a big deal. Yep. It's important. Yep. I'm going out and I'm, I wanna know what's going on. I wanna be as close as possible if I know the lack of a better term, woodsmanship of that area.
Where the Specific ridge lines are at where the funnels are, for lack of a better term. It's not as important. Yeah. And if I, when I'm guiding full-time and the seasons under underway, I can tell you, Turkey 30 in the morning comes very early, and if I don't have to go out and roo turkeys at night, I'm not going to, but typically I'm hunting those birds where I know what's going on.
[01:11:00] So 20 years ago I was out there almost every. Putting turkeys to bed. The stage of the game, if I'm hunting a new area or if it's a new piece of property that I'm on, I wanna know if, when possible, but it's not something that I am going to spend a lot of time doing, especially as the season gets later.
Yeah. La last question for you. During this early timeframe especially, but maybe season long perspective, what would you say is your favorite decoy setup? If you're gonna be banking on decoys, because I know I've got Season A, I'm gonna be banking on some decoys because I'm not super confident in my ability to call that boss Tom away from his eight or nine hens.
I'm just not that good. So if I hear Yep. Decoys, if I carry one decoy in the woods and I use decoys about 50% of the time to put that in perspective. Okay. So 50% of the time I'm killing turkeys without 'em 50% of the time. I'm, hunting out of a blind and using a decoy. If I had one decoy to carry in the woods, it'd be a Jake.
Okay. And that would be it. With that being said, . I'm also a [01:12:00] waterfall hunter, , I like decoys, I like having birds do what I want 'em to do. Yeah. For me, half the game is having, is the interaction and the communication I have with these animals. So a lot of days I will utilize a feeder decoy if, later in the afternoon or in the morning I'm running, I'm hunting a field of some sort, a corner of a field.
I love just running a feeder decoy that looks pretty natural. A hand coming out looking for someone to talk to. But there again, early season, I'm a firm believer in them. I, with that being said, a few years back, again it's what you, what's going on in the woods at that time. I've used full body decoys.
There's some great companies out there that have movement to their spring, bring their fans up and down. They twirl around. We've used a lot of those decoys in the past. There was a decoy, a Jake decoy years ago that we utilized in Nebraska that I think that Turkey has been beaten.
He has his coloring and his pain on his face is gone right from the amount of time he's been beat on. So it, it depends on the situation and what's going on. But if I only had one decoy to bring in [01:13:00] the woods at the at the Jake Decoy, be a Jake, what's your what's your setup gonna look like?
If you're all, if you are on a, on an ag field, like how are you gonna position those decoys? Or does it matter? They're nine outta 10 times. If you've got a bird that's active and pretty vocal and or willing to fight, he's gonna come straight to that decoy and that he's gonna bypass the hens.
He's gonna, he's gonna come. He knows if you're talking, he knows the hens around. You know what I'm saying? So he knows that there's a hen somewhere and he's coming to that J Decoy. With that being said, I love, just from my own cosmetic, Appeal and what I see turkeys do. I love having a either a breeder, Jake, right next to breeder hen, or there's been some sets where we did a lot of video work where we had four decoys out there.
It's not the norm, you know what I'm saying? Yep. We've had a full body out there. We've had some feeds. We had a breeder hand, we had a Jake decoy out there, but it was mirroring what was going on that time of year. They were still in winter flocks, right? Yep. Now in, in that [01:14:00] particular hunt, we brought the whole fricking winter flock into us, so it was it's so variable depending on the conditions of what's going on, where you're at, and what that looks like at that time. Ma'am, ma'am. But from an overall standpoint, Equis are only being utilized about 50% of the time. Okay. Good stuff, man. Look, I don't wanna take too much of your time, but I so appreciate you taking the opportunity or taking the time to come on.
This was excellent. Where can folks go to find more from you, find out about your outfitting and all that good stuff? Absolutely. And find us on the web, our outfitters.com. We do have some social media. I haven't been keeping up with it as much as I should, but on Facebook you can find us original River Running Outfitters.
You can see some of our videos and some companies that we work with. I think we have some YouTube videos up there and just about us. But yeah, contact, contact me, you can contact my number. All the information's on there. I'll get back to you as soon as I possibly can. If you're looking to hunt Wisconsin, either for turkeys or ducks, don't hesitate to shoot me a call.
Awesome. Thanks man. I'm gonna, I'm gonna link all that in the in the show notes and hey, good [01:15:00] luck this spring. Thank you much. Good luck to you. That's all for this week's episode. As always, thank you so much for tuning in. If you dig this show, be sure to subscribe to this podcast wherever it is that you get your podcast.
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And until next time, make sure you make the time to get outside and enjoy the incredible natural resources that are ours as Wisconsin Sportsman.[01:16:00]