Once again we set our sights on Southern Illinois for one of our spring destinations. The Rend Lake area is thick with wild turkeys and the crappie are usually jumping into our boats this time of year. My posse consisted of my son Kyle (who already killed a nice tom during the youth season), and 2 good buddies Kurt Kowalczyk and Christian Turvey.
We hooked up with my Southern Illinois go-to guy Jason Johns with Boneyard Outfitters. Once we settled in at the Seasons Resort, we wasted no time getting on the water. Fishing with our buddy Nick Schaefer, we boated about 200 crappie in about 3 hours. Not a bad start.
Friday morning brought forth the opening day of the 3rd Illinois Spring Turkey Season. Having already called in some toms for my son, it was my turn. Clear skies, a slight breeze and temps in the mid 40′s, the stage was set. We set up on some birds where Jason had located them the night before. But by the time we got close, the birds were already on the ground. As we approached a field edge, my son spotted a giant tom with a hen about 100 yards out. We quickly set up and started calling. Suddenly, a gobbled thundered from behind us and we were in between two set of birds (a great place to be). I quickly jumped up, changed my position against another tree facing the bird that just gobbled. I let out a few more yelp and was answered by 2 gobbles- they were coming in! From across the timber, a distant “boooooooom” broke the early morning silence (that was Kurt laying out a giant tom). But that didn’t stop the birds from coming. With my gun already in shooting position, I saw the first tom strut into view about 35 yards away, all fanned out. I gave a few clucks and as he lifted his blue head up to look around, I sent of swarm of Duplex Hevi-Shot at it and it was all over— two thunderchickens down by 6:33 am.
A low pressure system moved in that afternoon as the temperature plummeted by about 20 degrees. With heavy winds and rain, nasty conditions for fishing, we decided looking for wild asparagus sounded like a better idea. That’s the great thing about Southern Illinois, there’s always something to do in the outdoors.
The second day presented much tougher hunting conditions. The storm didn’t bother me much, but it shut the turkeys down. They all seemed to have lockjaw, so we had a hard time locating them. Most of the day was spent hoofing it through creek bottoms and timber, and glassing open fields for birds. We finally located a group of 10 birds with 3 or 4 toms, one of which was a giant. We put on the sneak, moving parallel to the field in a creek to conceal our movement, and got within 100 yards but the birds were content where they were. The didn’t respond to our calls, but a hungry coyote did. He prowled up along the field edge and got within about 5 yards of us. My buddy Christian clicked his safety off and the coyote took off. But it was too late, one blast at that range ended his turkey stalking days.
We struck out on the last bird, they just didn’t want to cooperate. But that’s turkey hunting — it can be real easy, or real hard. That day it was the latter. We got back on the water that afternoon with Jason, and proceeded to fill the live-well for a second time that trip. Looked like we were going home with a full cooler.
As always we had a fantastic time with Jason. He recently started another guide service, Boneyard Fishing to complement his hunting outfitter services, Boneyard Outfitters. Jason is building a beautiful new lodge to provide his hunting and fishing clients with top-shelf room and board. The state of the art lodge will have rustic decor, with outdoor-themed rooms for overnight guests. Topped off with home cooked meals, there will be nothing else like it in Southern Illinois. He is planning a Grand Opening by September.
The only disappointment was missing the morel bloom. We usually get the Southern Illinois Grand slam- turkey, crappie, morels and wild asparagus. Hey, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad!
Looking for this kind of Southern Illinois experience? Check out these websites for the details:
Check out the photos, CLICK HERE.