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Yard Birds
By Steve Van Ert

Denied (again)

Frustrated, and a bit hopeless, you leave yet another “ideal” area. You hiked your tail off. You have found all of the tell-tale signs of a great hunting area: tracks, feathers, and fresh scratching around roost trees. You waited patiently, knowing that your prize will come sauntering in. You wait, hoping, praying as the sun begins to set. And then you stretch that wait just a little longer. Ugh! Well, okay, maybe that was a bit of muffled swearing, but you get the point.

Anxiously, you returned next week. “One more time; today is the day! My scouting until my calves burned, and jumping in pain through the relentless cramps at night, those were just the little dues I pay to reap the great dividends when that big Tom is in the back of my Outlander.”  You sit. You call. You wait. Another morning creeps by without a sound. Frustrated, vowing to give up this stupid hunt, you head down the gravel roads and questions begin to pop into your head. “Am I calling too often? Not enough? Are they the right calls? Did the birds come by and I missed them?”  As further disappoint settles in, your rig pops onto the paved signal of complete failure.

On the Road Again

Sure, now you see them. There they are; crossing right in front of you. Those tricky, arrogant turkeys! They don’t even run. It’s as if someone guided them into their safety zone and they are not going anywhere. And this isn’t the first time. It’s like a bad dream, one that has played over and over, you know; like that movie, “Ground Hogs Day”. Oh, of course, there is an unmarked gravel road just about 100 yards away but you never bothered to really look around the area to see if there are houses, or what kind of land you are next to. Why would you?

How many times have you seen this after putting in a long morning of utter frustration?

Why? Because almost every day, whether hunting or returning from work, I would see turkeys just off of the road, usually on fenced property, or along side of a paved road that was close to an open area I could hunt if I knew anything about it. And I wanted them. Oh, how I thought, just for a millisecond of course, about how I could jump out (heck, I could shoot from inside my car!), blast one of those bad boys, toss him in the back and be gone before anyone knew better. That’s just stupid, crazy and lazy. There had to be a solution to all of those birds that taunt me as they linger in a farmer’s field or along side of a paved road.

Map it Out!

If these turkeys are really that smart, I was going to be much smarter. I could; I walk upright. I have a degree in biology: that should help somehow.  Maybe those other things aren’t so important, but: I have hunted other birds for years, and I do love technology!  Bam! The simple solution was right there in my hand as I reached to open the glove box and put my Garmin GPSmap 62s away.  I just had to figure out exactly how this baby was to going to be the answer to my turkey troubles.  One of my fellow teachers, Mike Herzog, who always gets his bird,


Such a simple, detailed, incredible device that does so much more than keep you from being lost!

told me to take his GPS, so I could get around easier.  I liked it, it was fairly comforting, but I couldn’t see how it would really help me to get to those dog gone birds hanging out on private lands. And it was an older model that was really difficult to use.  That next Monday he showed me exactly how he used it. Funny how he always has me suffer a little before he would show or tell me everything I need.  Mike knows the boundaries to all public lands and the names of the owners of the private lands. Now I do, too!

Knowing Who and Where

Deep in the bottom drawer, tucked away safely, waiting to forever change how I think about my hunting world, was a tool about 3mm wide x 4mm tall and 0.25mm thick that I had almost forgotten about. I ran into my room, tussled about the papers and worthless junk until I found that little opaque case which housed the gold. There it was; my Oregon ONXMaps Hunt Premium PLAT Topo Map.  

I drove up to the house that was set on the front 2 acres of the twenty acre hay field. A couple dusty-faced boys ran past the car as I edged towards the front door. “Can I help you?” came a call from off to the side. I stepped back and said “sure, Dave? Dave Williams?” “That’s me” was his reply.  I walked over with my hand out to shake his. His glove came off as he asked who I was. We talked just long enough for me to let him know that I would be behind his property, and that I would be trying to call in the toms I had heard coming from inside of his field last week. He said that was fine and that if I needed to, I could cross his fence to retrieve any of those stupid- @$$birds that have been destroying his garden. 

After an hour an half I still couldn’t get those darn yard birds to move up close enough. It was late in the season, and though I got a few return calls and a gobble or two, they just wouldn’t move up close enough. I left without a trophy, once again, but now I had a plan. I would use my ONXMaps to find an area where I could set up on public land and call Tom or even Jake, from off of a private field.  I had just the place in mind.

It was a good plan, no really, it was. I had seen turkeys around that area and there were wooded areas all around. I selected a couple of spots to try, and then I confidently looked up a couple of more recipes for that long beard I was going to bring home today.  So I went to the first area and I stayed for over two hours before moving to the next area where I wasn’t quite so patient. Forty-five minutes later I was loading up my car, sore with a bit of turkey-butt, and really disappointed. With my Bellini 12-gauge in its case and my seat belt latched I limped slowly down the road, thinking about my next day hunting.

Then I caught a glimpse of something just off the road, behind some black berry bushes. I thought, what the heck, and gave a short series of yelps. To my surprise, a faint gobble resonated from about a hundred yards ahead of us.  I waited, in my car, on the road, for a moment before putting. Again, a new surprise; another young Jake ran up to the fence, just about ten yards away. Now what? I had three potential targets, including the one coming up the roadway toward me. I panicked. Of course, what else would I do?

I put the Outlander into reverse until I found a spot to park, which was only about fifteen yards away. I got out the passenger-side door, opened the back tail gate and slid out my gun. I took a quick look around before grabbing my Garmin. I had left it on, meaning there would be no wait time for it to get started acquiring satellites. I was easily able to determine that the wooded patch next to me was BLM, even though there appeared to be a fence around it!  I scurried out a couple hundred yards where I hunkered down next to an oak and yelped once more. Gobble, gobble, gobble, came the call from out in front of me. It was the young Jake that ran up the road towards my original position. He strutted past my car and froze. He looked confused so I gave a faint yelp. Jake didn’t need any more coaxing; he ran straight into me.  He seemed half-crazed as I put him down, just about twelve yards out.

               Now, as I prepare for the fall turkey season, and the upcoming deer season, I am updating and studying my ONXMaps Hunting maps. I’ve marked a few spots where I have seen bear, turkey, and deer, so I can easily find that area again when the season starts. Now I’ll know exactly where I can go and, if needed, who to talk to. The ONXMaps has really opened my potential.