I've communicated with Brotsky a handful of times prior to this year's Future of Hunting threads. One of those times was when he sent me a check to help cover Ryan's costs to get him out to CA with Chris and Joe when he won the Future of Hunting contest. Justin (AKA Brotsky) obviously had no way of knowing his daughter would be winning the contest in the future (and thus getting that money sent right back to them for the same purpose) and his donation to the cause was purely out of the goodness of his heart.
Another time I communicated with him was to get some info about turkey calling. A few years ago he talked about a particular call he used that was his "go to" and I inquired about it via PM. It was clear at that time that he knew a thing or two about turkey talkin'. I've hunted big game for almost 3 1/2 decades, but turkeys are new to me. I learned a lot from him in those PMs.
At some point in a recent PM Justin mentioned that the SD turkey season opened a couple weeks earlier than the MN season. I had inquired about opportunities down there and I'm not sure if I begged my way into it first or if Justin offered before that, but either way Ryan and I planned a trip down to visit the Brotsky clan and the great state of South Dakota to hunt turkeys.
After the four hour drive down, Ryan and I pulled into the hotel at about 10:00 PM the night before opener. We "slept fast" and were up by 4:00 AM. Ryan ended up getting about five hours of sleep that night and I gotta tell ya, that's just not enough for a 12 year old boy! But he was excited and we got ready and headed off to meet Justin and his sweetie, Nichole.
We met up and went straight to Justin's A#1 spot. Ryan offered for Nichole to be the first shooter, but Justin and she declined this offer and put Ryan up to bat right away. Here's a pic of the view we were treated with that morning.
The birds ended up roosting a little ways from where they usually do and we think we were too close to them. They flew down and headed away from us right off the roost. We heard a number of gobbles that morning, but nothing came in to our decoy spread. We had a great time in the blind though! Justin and Nichole were a hoot! We heard all kinds of stories about Kia, them teasing each other (in a nice, fun way), and lots of other interesting tidbits about hunting in that area. Around 10:30 we decided to move to a different area and Nichole pulled the pin for the day. I think she had enough of all the guys in that blind and needed a break from all the testosterone! Ha! Can't say I blame her...
Here are our guides for that morning hunt. We had a great time with them.
That afternoon we moved to two different spots. The first spot was a little flat area right on the edge of private land that we couldn't go on. About an hour into the sit a big ol' SD tom came marching in to the spread. He came right up to the fence, almost crossed to the decoys about five yards across the boundary, then got all weird on us and left in a hurry. Dang! Ryan could have definitely shot him, but he was on private ground by about two feet and we needed just a few more turkey steps to get him on legal ground. Not quite, but close.
We moved to a different spot that evening and split up. I tried my version of Paul@theFort's turkey cart that evening and it made its one and only journey. For a few reasons it failed miserably. I'll be hauling my blind and gear via pack from now on- worked much better for me. That evening was all quiet. We bumped some birds on the way out and likely would have had them come by if we'd have stayed longer. Oh well!
Day #1 was fun! We looked forward to getting back after it on Sunday. Our plan was to hunt through Monday morning, then head home. Ryan would miss a day of school, but what the heck- ya only live once! He gets good grades and is diligent about his homework, so I didn't worry about it too much. Of course he was thrilled to miss the day!
The plan for the morning was to head back to the same spot as the day before. We figured we hadn't bumped the birds too much and they'd be back. Justin headed high, up where we had been the day before and we went low, down where the birds went. Long story short, the birds headed Justin's way, but wouldn't quite commit to the deeks. It was just a little too early in the season to get total buy in from the tom. Ryan and I decided to relocate, but on the way to our spot we were intercepted by a couple gobblers who were fired up. We moved in and tried a natural set up. Ryan wanted to do it "Joe and Chris style" and was convinced he could pull it off if we could get a bird to cooperate.
The gobblers were henned up and we couldn't get them to cooperate. We relocated and tried another spot. Eventually we went on a long walk and found a great looking spot in another area. We saw a couple hens, but no toms were found.
Justin headed home before Ryan and I went to our evening spot. That was the last time we hunted with him for the weekend. He shared a ton of info and many of his great spots that he had spent years figuring out. We were extremely grateful and really enjoyed our time with him.
When Justin left Ryan said, "It's always nice to meet nice people." I completely agreed with his statement and with his assessment of Justin.
Here's a pic Justin took of us before he left. We were having a great Father-Son weekend! Definitely fun times and the kind of experience you can't get on a tablet, X-box, or a smart phone!
Here was our view that evening. We went to a spot Justin suggested and he put us in the right area once again. However, the birds roosted just across a fence line, about 150 yards away on private ground we couldn't hunt. They ended up getting there from the wrong direction and didn't come by us that day. Dang!
We hiked up to the area we had been going to and all was good. However, we shut off our headlamps for the last two hundred yards and everything disappeared on us! It was ink black and you couldn't see where you were stepping or what was in front of you. The fog was also really thick and it was really tough to navigate through unfamiliar terrain and woods. If we could just find our way to the corner of the field 150 yards off the trail I'd be able to orient myself and get in the right spot. We stumbled and struggled, but we found the field.
I knew I wanted to go 30 yards from the corner of the field-- easy, right? However, I couldn't even tell where the corner of the field was. The fog was so thick I couldn't see squat. I moved along the fenceline to where I thought we should go and we super quietly set up the blind and decoys. It was pitch black and still extremely foggy. About ten minutes later I opened up my pack to get my call bag and "Whoosh", two turkeys bailed out of the trees immediately above us. DANG IT! I then knew I had gone too far in the black woods and put the blind in the wrong spot. Over the next half hour ten more turkeys bailed out of that area- either spooked by us or just following the birds that were close enough to be spooked by us. Grrrrrrrr!!! I went from optimistic to mad as heck at myself. I blew Ryan's good chance at a bird this morning.
However, there were a couple groups of birds that were gobbling and the birds did seem a bit fired up this morning. Ryan wanted desperately to go chase the gobbles we were hearing. However, I insisted we stay patient and wait. He finally convinced me to go on a hike. We pulled his arrow and packed up. Just then, however, we heard the gobblers light up and they seemed closer this time. Soon after, we heard a hen calling from inside of 100 yards. I called to her and eventually called her in to the decoys.
I have to run to a meeting. I'll finish this later today...
I forgot to post it, but here's what our decoy spread looked like that foggy morning.
Just before the hen made it to the decoys the gobblers erupted behind us. They were about 30 yards away and their blast of unexpected gobbles from such a close range startled both of us. They proceeded to gobble as they made their way behind us and around to our left. The hen was now a few feet from our decoys and Ryan spotted the gobblers. He whispered that he could see them. Soon I could just barely make out three silhouetted figures on a ridge to our left- it was still quite dark and the birds were shrouded in heavy fog. The image was just flat out cool as heck! I wished I could take a picture, but I didn't dare reposition to get the shot with the hen so close.
The jakes gobbled and strutted their way in towards us. They crested the closest rise at about 30 yards, spotted the decoys, and came marching in. The pics below show how it played out. It was dark, foggy, and my camera has a tendency to get a little bit foggy in the lens under these conditions, so the pics certainly aren't as sharp as I'd hoped.
This is the picture just a split second before Ryan shot. The bird on the left stepped back and his head/neck was partially covered by the other bird's fan. Just after I snapped this picture the left-most bird lifted his head up and I heard the "fmmmmmp" of Ryan's bow going off.
As you can see by the next picture, which I snapped immediately after the shot, Ryan did very well with his one opportunity!
The bird flopped his way over to the left a couple yards and quickly expired. Meanwhile, the other two birds proceeded to continue their whoopin' on the jake decoy. We watched with great amusement. You may wonder why I didn't shoot at this point. Well... I was too cheap to buy a license! I figured we'd be fortunate get one tag filled and I knew Ryan would be the first batter up the whole trip until he filled his tag. I also assumed the odds of a double were not too good. I certainly blew it with some of those assumptions because those jakes sat out there at 7 yards and just begged to get shot! Oh well, I was thrilled with the outcome and enjoyed the show that followed Ryan's shot.
Soon the jakes wandered away from us and over to the hen, who had left the scene of the fight. She seemed to noticed that one of her boyfriends was missing and came back to check out his whereabouts.
One very pleased kid!
First the broadhead itself. The blade broke, but the broken one did all the work on this kill. To say it did its job is an understatement.
Just a little piece of skin left holding it on...
A beautiful sight-- a blood spattered decoy with one teeny, tiny clipping of a turkey fan on top (from the bird that was in front of the one Ryan shot).
Here's the other side story. Ryan lost his grandmother this past December to cancer. My mom went in on Thanksgiving, got pathology back the following Monday, we were told she could expect to live at least a year- maybe more, and she died two weeks and one day later on Dec. 13th. It was tough on Ryan and all of us. My resilient kids have bounced back very well, but frankly it's been tough on Ryan watching me struggle with the whole thing. Ryan is a tender-hearted kid and he knows the whole thing has beaten me up a lot and he understands it's still a tough thing for me. Accordingly, it was Ryan's idea to put Grandma's name on his arrow. He was very pleased to use the arrow that adorned her name to take this South Dakota bird and so was I. I was also very touched that he came up with the idea in the first place.
OK, enough of the gushy, mushy, emotional stuff-- on to some hero shots.
We packed up our gear, and headed for the truck.
As usual, Ryan insisted on carrying the turkey he shot.
This picture was important for Ryan-- he calls it "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turkey". Haha, I love him, but my kid's a little weird! I can't imagine where he gets that from...
It was mostly downhill, but this is one tired boy with a sore neck and shoulders.
When we last saw Justin, he gave Ryan a present (as if all he had done wasn't enough!) Given that he and his whole crew are Packers fans (don't judge folks- they seemed nice and quite normal in spite of this! Ha!), he had no use for this signed Chad Greenway jersey, so he gave it to Ryan! Ryan was thrilled!
...and that was our South Dakota! One final thank you to Justin and his crew of turkey hunters. Justin and Nichole couldn't have been nicer, more generous hosts to us. I'm so pleased we got to go down there and meet them. Salt of the earth kinda people for sure and they treated Ryan and me so great! They essentially gave up their opening weekend to help us out. I didn't expect that at all, but we surely are appreciative. I hope Kia can take us up on our offer for deer in MN sometime. It'd be fun to return the favor! In the meantime, I (and most of Bowsite) will be watching and waiting for Kia's first hero shot with a turkey. I'll bet anyone on Bowsite a case of beer that we'll see such a picture in the next month or so!
Thanks for following along- I hope you enjoyed the pictures and tale of Ryan's first South Dakota turkey. We sure enjoyed living it!
Also awesome of Brotsky and his family. Ryan is right-it IS always nice to meet good people.
I knew that Brotsky clan was good people. Being Packers fans just proves it that much more!
Good luck, Robb