turkey hunting, Scott Bestul, deer hunting

Last winter, in the February issue of the magazine, I wrote about my annual tradition of turkey hunting with my father and uncle; a pair of octogenarians the I’ve fondly nicknamed “The Norwegian Mafia.” Well, last week we continued that rite, and my uncle Al Bestul (83 years young, on the right in the photo above) bagged a nice tom from the hills of southeastern Minnesota. While dad (85, on the left) wasn’t so lucky, he had some close encounters, heard a lot of gobbling, and we all enjoyed some laughs in turkey woods together—a successful hunt by our measure, for sure.

We don’t write about turkey hunting much in this space devoted to deer, but I can tell you that Hurteau, Brantley, and I are all certified turkey nuts. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that one of the reasons we love the spring hunt (besides the obvious appeal of calling up a gobbler) is that it serves as a perfect antidote for everything that can drive us nuts about hunting, especially bowhunting, for whitetails. For much of the fall, we sit in treestands, waiting for deer. Alone. It’s a deeply satisfying and effective way to hunt, but let’s face it: By the end of December we’d probably pull the plug even if the DNR didn’t tell us to.

Come spring, I want to roam where the gobbles lead me, with a companion or two. I want to hunt for mushrooms while I walk, and search the tree limbs for a scarlet tanager. When I miss, I want a buddy there to laugh at me—a guy who’ll also who help me curse the fickle, idiotic behavior of most gobblers.

On the first day of my hunt with the Mafia, we endured a brief, cold, rain shower, and then yelped just long enough to prove that, no, there wasn’t a gobbler out there worth sitting in that crap any longer. It’s amazing how a miserable morning of turkey hunting can make you enjoy—more than usual—the simple act of sitting indoors with your family, drinking coffee, and eating Oreos. Later, when we walked past spots where we’d once whiffed a shot or killed a turkey, we stopped to reminisce. And when the weather broke and finally turned April-like, we soaked up the delicious warmth and enjoyed our coffee and Oreos on the tailgate of the truck.

I love deer hunting—more, I think, than any kind of hunting I’ve ever done. But this time of year, after the long fall of treestand sitting, and after the long Minnesota winter indoors, turkey hunting, especially with these two guys, is just the thing.