When Tom and I picked up Emily in the RAM Outdoorsman at the Traverse City, MI, airport, the weather was okay. We spent some time looking around and getting into our houses where we'd spend the next three nights. And by the time we woke up Sunday morning, the weather wasn't so "okay" any more. Sunday featured high winds, sporadic snows, some rain... and did I mention the wind? Eric Cherry is the ranch manager at Timber Ridge. He and horse trainer/aspiring hunting guide Elizabeth checked the blind set ups on Sunday... and did plenty of repairs. That included pulling one blind off a ridge that did it's best impersonation of a kite. Eric said it must have happened just before they got there because there was a square of bare grass in the middle of the fresh snowfall. Yeah... sounds like turkey hunting weather, doesn't it?
Hunt winner Mike Oelschlager of Pontiac, Illinois, was a hit with the group. We talked a little bit about farming and markets, but we talked more about his farm and some of the deer hunting he does at home. When he and Justin Moore were in the blind together, I was up the ridge behind them doing the calling, but cameraman and show editor Mike Byers tells me they hit it off and talked farming and tractors while waiting for a bird to show up. And we saw some great pictures of Mike's 8-month-old boy Jacob. The kid has a great smile and Mike has a tendency to dress the little guy in green and yellow (that should tell you what kind of iron he farms with).
Unfortunately, Mike didn't get a bird. Opening morning, Eric took him to a blind on a hardwood ridge. They snuck in just fine, but even before the sun came up, they spotted the black blobs in trees about 30 yards away. When they came out of the roost... lets just say they didn't touch the ground close to the blind.
The first morning I spent time hunting in the blind with Mike Byers running the camera and I had Emily and Tom in a blind right next to us. Those birds that were roosted up by Mike came our way. They were crossing an open field about 150 yards away... but I got two jake-birds to break away from the group and head our way. They held up about 50 yards away and I don't think they liked the looks of my strutting tom decoy. They just wouldn't come any closer. I had an angle on them, but neither of the kids could drop a bead. So the first morning went down without a bird.
Justin showed up midday and we were all back in blinds for an afternoon hunt. It was me and Justin in one blind with his manager Pete and cameraman Eric Crowley in the blind next to us. I got a hen to come in... right into the decoys. She was putting and clucking and yelping... she sounded like a turkey ice cream truck calling the kids to the street! We were able to keep her in the decoys for at least 20 minutes... I told Justin she was doing a lot better job of calling than I could do so we wanted to keep her close. Finally, a tom explodes just over the ridge. I basically asked Justin if he had a favorite recipe for wild turkey because I knew that hen would pull him in. He crossed in front of us at about 65 yards and all we could see of him was his blue head plodding along behind the crest of the ridge. When we got a look at his full body, he was a really nice tom... about 75 yards away and in full strut trying to get my flock of decoys to come his way. (Oh... we had about a half-dozen deer in front of the blind while this is going on.) After about 10 minutes, he dropped off the back side of the ridge, popped up on the other side, ducked into the hardwoods and just teased us for the next 45 minutes. I told Justin if it weren't for the deer, we would have booked it out the back of the blind when that tom dropped over the ridge and we'd be walking out with a bird. But, with the deer right there, it was too much of a risk. So... no bird in the afternoon hunt, either!
Tuesday morning, we had the set up with Justin and Mike in the blind and me on the ridge behind to do the calling. Shortly after the robins started singing, two or three toms gobbled behind us and to the right. I called after they hit the ground and they started moving down the hardwood draw to our right. I figured it was a done deal... when they hit the open pasture at the end of the hardwoods, they'd see the hen decoys and make their move to the blind. I called again to check their location... they were working along nicely. Called one more time... got an immediate response and heard and immediate gun shot. Somebody (not in our group) was sitting at the bottom of those hardwoods and shot a bird right out from under Mike and Justin! I couldn't believe it...
You'll see all this in the show this fall... but I wanted to get you a report of how the hunt went. When everything was done, the group had killed two toms... but Mike and Justin (and me and Emily and Tom) went home empty handed. That's hunting! But... wait until you see the ranch and what ranch manager Eric Cherry is doing to improve the deer, turkey and upland bird habitat on the property. That alone is worth watching!
Aside from the fellowship and good times, you'll also have to watch this show to get a look at the fireside "concert" by Justin and his group. Eric, the ranch manager, even grabbed his guitar and joined in! It was an awesome night of music and fun! (And wait until you hear the single "Guns" from Justin's upcoming CD, "Outlaws Like Me" that will be available in June. If you're anything like me, you'll love this song!)
For now... here's a look at the crew we had in Michigan.
Left to right: Jeremy Stover (wrote theme song for the show with Justin and is a co-writer and producer on Justin's first CD as well as his upcoming release), Tom Flory, me, Emily Flory, Mike Oelschlager, Justin Moore, Pete Hartung (Justin's manager). (What a crew...)
If you can't watch on RFD-TV every Thursday at 7:30 a.m. CT or Saturday at 10:30 a.m. CT, you can always watch the shows here on the web site.