An Early Morning Double and the Cinnamon Phase Jake
Open morning turkey season 2020, was cold clear and sunny. The type of morning we usually experience hunting some of the northern most turkey in Canada. While hunters in southern Ontario experience summer and spring like mornings, where the birds are chirping, the grass is beginning to green and the leaves are beginning to flush, those of us hunting in northern Ontario in April experience sub zero temperatures, snow and frost. This can make early season hunting tough as cold mornings hold the birds in their roost until the late morning, usually with very little calling.
Weather-wise opening morning 2020 was no different than previous years, dressed in clothes usually reserved for late December whitetail hunting my dad and I began the trek from the house on our family farm. The night before I had snuck down along the edge of one of our fields and located a flock of birds, with a group of three big long beards (mature male turkeys), and as I watched them through frost filled binos, they flew into some tall poplar trees and roosted for the night. The stage was set we knew where the turkeys were, we just had to sneak in before first light and wait.
As the sun rose, bringing little warmth, the turkeys calling very little, flew from the roost and hit the ground. 10 birds total flew down into the middle of the field 100 yards from our set up. We had decided earlier to go with a minimalist setup, with only one hen decoy in front of us. Maybe due to the fact that it was so cold, no birds strayed from the flock and paid us little attention. The flock spent most of the morning working back and forth on a sunny rise in the middle of the field soaking in as much warmth as the early morning sun would provide. The morning was not a total loss though for it was the first time my dad and I saw the cinnamon phase jake. Standing out from the flock, the white and red coloured plumage drew our attention, its juvenile beard visible through our binoculars it gobbled and strutted with a group of jakes chasing hens around the field.
Eventually as the day warmed, the turkeys exited the field opposite of us and we headed back to the house. With both of us having plans for the rest of the day, the turkeys would have to wait until the next morning. That evening, my dad was able to sneak back and again he watched the flock roost in the same trees. After a quick call our plan was set for the morning, set up closer to the roost, set out more decoys to mimic a larger flock, and hopefully draw the turkeys close before they reached the sunny ridge out of range, in the middle of the field.
The next morning was much like the first, cold, calm and crisp, and before the first rays of sun even tickled the horizon we had left the house, crunching our way through the frost laden grass to our spot. Setting up closer to the roost as planned, we set five decoys instead of one, and waited. The sun rising and warming the cold morning air was enough to wake the turkeys. This morning unlike the last the birds were more vocal, the hens clucking and the toms gobbling in the roost and as one excited hen flew down from the roost, we let out a few soft calls of our own. The flock followed suit with a few cackles and flew down from the roost. The lead hen seeing our decoys began across the field, with 3 big toms, in full strut, in tow.
With hearts pounding and the toms drawing near my dad and I prepared for the shot, just on the edge of our range the birds decided something was up. The plastic decoys weren’t nearly as enticing as the hens they had left, they were on the verge of spooking. It was now or never. With barely a whisper and side glance to my dad we shot. Him at the tom on the right and me at the one on the left. The left one dropped in flurry of feathers and wing flaps. The right on didn’t even flinch, a clean miss. There would be no follow up shot, and we watched the 2 remaining toms run across the field. Before we could even move a loud gobble erupted from directly behind us, there were more legal birds and close. Within seconds, a group of 5 jakes, juvenile male turkeys, came into sight and into the decoys staring intently at my turkey still laying in the field, with them the cinnamon phase jake, the only one with a visible beard. My dad a life long turkey hunter had never seen such a uniquely coloured bird, and with it being legal in Ontario, made no mistakes this time. We had 2 turkeys down, our tags for the day full and it was only 20 minutes into the morning- a morning neither or us will ever forget. Hunting is a long standing family tradition in the Coombs & Co. family and something we look forward to every year. I hope you enjoyed one of our many stories.
My Dad (Kevin) with his cinnamon phase jake