One Year Later

I had set out early on Friday morning to southeastern Montana, along with my best friend and hunting partner, Rick Hutton. We had planned on one last turkey hunt that weekend to wrap up our spring turkey season. The weekend prior, Rick had filled his general turkey tag, which meant I was up to bat first. We made a pit stop at the Region Five FWP office in Billings, Montana. We were to pick up our Region Seven turkey tag for where we would be hunting. In Montana, you have the ability to purchase both a general turkey tag as well as a region specific tag within those general regions.

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Seth Morris heads out toward his hunting grounds. (Photo by Rick Hutton)

We arrived in Region Seven around noon and quickly scouted out an area to set up camp for the weekend. After setting up camp, we headed out on a scouting mission just to get familiar with the area. It was an area that both Rick and I have never hunted before, although we’ve always heard good things about the turkey hunting there.

It was very hot, with the mercury hovering around the 90 degree mark. The last thing I wanted to do was walk around all afternoon in the hot sun, but if we wanted to have a successful hunt – it was something that had to be done.

We weren’t seeing much activity nor any birds, but with the heat, that was expected. Slowly making our way around, we were able to get an idea for the general layout of the landscape.

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The heat is stifling as Seth surveys the landscape. (Photo by Rick Hutton)

As time ticked on, the sun got lower and lower in the sky, and the temperatures finally started to drop. We found ourselves perched on top of a glassing point where we could see multiple open grassy areas – it looked like perfect turkey habitat. I was making a call here and there, but nothing was answering my calls. It was later in the season and I was worried that the birds were getting call shy from being called to all season long.

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Seth glasses for any signs of ol’ Tom (Photo by Rick Hutton)

Our hope for seeing a nice tom was dwindling fast, so we decided to keep pressing on and finish our loop back to camp. On our way back, I happened to take one more look out at the open areas below us, and as I did, I spotted two black dots in the middle of one of them. I threw up my binoculars and sure enough, it was a big tom and a hen that had just stepped out of the timber into the opening.

Rick and I  quickly started putting a plan together to go after the big tom. He was un-responsive to calls and in the middle of a wide open meadow. Our only options were

A: To just sit back and watch him go to roost and try to get on him in the morning.

or

B: Deploy the full strut turkey decoy and go after him.

We decided on plan B.

There was a deep drainage below us that ran right up to the edge of the meadow that the tom and hen were in. We used the cover of the drainage and made our way toward the meadow. About 150 yards from the meadow, Rick stopped to stay behind and I left my pack with him so I could move in quietly. As I approached the opening, I carefully watched each step that I took, making sure that I didn’t crunch any twigs or pinecones. If my calculations were correct, I would pop up in the meadow, and the turkeys would be about 120-130 yards away.

I held up the decoy in front of me, and crawled out into the opening. There was a little rise in the middle of the meadow and I assumed the tom was just on the other side of it. I slowly made my way to the top of that rise. As I approached it, I carefully peaked out around the decoy to try and get my eyes on the tom and hen. However, they were gone and I could not find them anywhere. I started to second guess myself – Did I make too much noise? Did they somehow see me making my approach to the edge of the meadow? All those things were going through my head.

As I was trying to figure out what had happened, I heard a turkey putt about 50 yards away off to my left. It was the hen and she had me pegged. The gobbler was about another 50 yards behind her and I thought the hunt was over.

I wasn’t going to give up just yet though.

I slowly turned the full strut decoy toward the big tom and started army crawling in his direction. This thoroughly pissed him off and he immediately went into full strut and gobbled at me. I was back in the game. He started moving in my direction, but I lost him in a small depression that was between us. I kept crawling toward him. He gobbled two or three more times, but I could not see him. I didn’t know if he lost interest and kept following the hen away from me, or if he was still coming my way. I crawled another five yards and noticed something out of the corner of my eye to my left. There he stood, 20 yards away.

I dropped the decoy, raised my shotgun, and a single shot rang out in the air.

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A beautiful bird in the bag ends a memorable hunt. (Photo by Rick Hutton)

I had hit my mark and as the bird flopped, I turned and gave Rick a “Yee Yee!” to let him know that the shot was on – and the bird was down. He quickly made is way over to me to see the big tom and I recounted the story of how it all went down. The sun was perfect in the sky that made for some amazing photos.

Exactly one year prior, Rick and I drove across the border into Montana with two loaded down U-haul trailers to embark on a new crazy adventure. I never would have thought that precisely one year later to the day, I would kill my first Merriam’s turkey in Montana.

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Photo by Rick Hutton

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Photo by Rick Hutton

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It is important to note that if it weren’t for our amazing public lands, this hunt would have never been possible. As of right now anyone can have the same experience that Rick and I had. We were hunting a national forest that is open to the public for all to enjoy. If we don’t fight to keep our public lands in public hands, we could have opportunities like this ripped away forever.

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Public lands should always remain in the hands of the public. (Photo by Seth Morris)

About the author: Seth Morris is a hunter, angler, and photographer based in Helena, MT. When he’s not behind the camera or behind the wheel scouting, he works at Windswept Wildfire, LLC as a Forestry Foreman. To see more of his work, visit and give him a follow on Instagram handle @signswest.

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