According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, an estimated 50,000 hunters will purse wild turkeys during Iowa’s spring turkey hunting season, which begins with a “youth-only” season that starts this Saturday.
Five individual turkey hunting seasons will begin April 16, and two Story County hunters are ready to be part of an annual pastime they’ve grown to love.
Billy See, 31, of Cambridge, and Terence Beaston, 35, of Nevada, have a combined total of nearly 30 years of turkey hunting experience between them. When interviewed separately for this story, there was a common denominator from both men about what it takes to be a good turkey hunter. Patience.
“Patience is the absolute key to turkey hunting,” said See, who’s been hunting since he was 10, but didn’t start turkey hunting until he was 16.
“Patience, patience, patience…don’t ever give up,” said Beaston, who had his first turkey hunt in the spring of 2002 with local hunter Rick Dobson. Dobson had property in southern Iowa, where the two went to hunt that spring. “I’ve hunted the spring turkey season consistently for the last 14 years,” Beaston said. “I bow hunt; when you bow hunt, you can hunt all four (spring) seasons. Also you’re able to harvest two male turkeys,” and, he added, even a bearded hen, which are rare.
Beaston said the Dobson brothers, both Rick and Doug, really influenced him when it came to hunting. “They welcomed me into their hunting group and friendships were made and a lifetime of memories. Now I’ve grown to not only love hunting, but I also started a YouTube channel called “Big Bidness Outdoors” to share my memories and stories with everyone.”
See also publicly shares his hunting adventures. “I run an outdoor lifestyle show, called ‘Wildest Dreams TV (on YouTube),’ and we like to video our hunts to share with others, so generally I at least have a cameraman with me (when hunting),” he said.
See traces his love of hunting back to his grandfather, LaVern Rullestad of Nevada. “My grandpa was mainly just a duck hunter, but that man taught me how to shoot a moving target. He taught me proper care for my equipment. He taught me how much respect these animals deserve and how important hunting is for conservation.” Also influential to him when it comes to hunting, See said, were his dad, Mark, and a good friend, Jeff Anderson.
What See, who like Beaston takes part in many other kinds of hunting during the year, loves most about turkey hunting is “the thrill.” He describes the turkey as the “smartest, dumbest bird” you’ll ever encounter. “Turkey hunting is a poor man’s elk hunt, in my opinion,” See described. “You get to listen to the turkeys gobble, while you try and sneak closer or try and call them to you. It’s an incredible challenge and a ton of fun. It’s such an affordable sport to get friends involved with.”
About “the call,” DNR officials say it’s the time when Iowa hunters will attempt to mimic the call of a lonely hen, and then wait for a frustrated “tom” to come searching her out. And it’s no easy task, officials say.
See said there are many who would tell you that you need to be a good caller to be a good turkey hunter. He doesn’t totally agree. “I know many people that are not good callers and admittedly so, that will go to a field edge where they’ve been seeing turkeys and just put out a couple decoys and sit and wait.” Again, he said, that’s where the patience comes in. “I like to think of myself,” See continued, “as an average caller.”
He said proper scouting of the right place is another important component of turkey hunting. “Find their roosting spots and listen for them to gobble in the mornings. Turkeys will gobble on the roost and then generally head to a ‘strut zone,’ which is usually some sort of oak ridge or an open field. I just wait for the birds to tell me where they’re going, and I make my move.”
Beaston said he has a few different spots he likes to hunt for turkeys. “I do not always hunt the same spots, although you can pattern turkeys at certain times and usually you can sit in the same spot and be successful. Like I said before, patience is the key.”
Beaston said it’s important when turkey hunting to practice that patience and never give up. He often finds himself sitting from sun up to sun down on most hunts. “You never know when that ‘hot’ tom will be in your area.” If the birds aren’t coming to him, he said, he moves to the birds, but he said just because the birds quit gobbling, “that doesn’t mean the bird is not in the area.”
While both See and Beaston say that turkey hunting is a great sport for young hunters, See does say there’s much to learn about turkeys to be successful. It’s one of those things that you become better at, the more you do it. See has tagged about 15 to 20 birds during his years; Beaston has tagged 13.
Expense-wise, See said turkey hunting can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. A hunter needs to buy a set of camouflage pants, shirt, gloves, mask, decoy and a call. You can do that at a discount store, or at a more expensive place. Other necessary items to have for the sport are a weapon and a proper license.
See’s weapon of choice for turkey season, he said, is archery equipment, but it depends on the season he hunts.
See said he likes to hunt with a friend, and, as mentioned previously, a cameraman. “We try to be informative and have fun with family and friends… The weather is generally pretty fair. You can get good exercise. You get to challenge yourself. It’s affordable. There’s just something about sitting outdoors and listening to nature come alive that is good for the soul,” he said.
See encourages the idea of getting more youth involved. “They are the future of hunting and conservation,” he said.
Beaston said he loves the outdoors and what it stands for. “There’s nothing else that can give you so many emotions in the blink of an eye. It’s not just the hunt; it’s the passion you share with your family and friends…. Hunting can instill in you so many different things, such as discipline, respect, safety, survival, dedication, perseverance…” He has gotten his wife, Vanna, out hunting and also believes in getting youth out there hunting.
“I have a daughter that will start (hunting soon),” Beaston said. “Maybe this year. I’m very excited to get her out there hunting!”