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  • TOO Hall of Fame Inductee: Ryan Naydens "Unforgettable spring"

    Spring of 2010 is one I will never forget. Here is how a spring becomes unforgettable…

    I was staring down turkey season with high expectations and a new found confidence. I was coming off a deer season that saw me drop bucks in NY and PA, which had my confidence on the rise. I could have completed the trifecta by filling my Ohio tag buck with year and a half year old, but I let him pass in hopes of finding his grandpa! Throughout deer season, I had turkeys roosting in a ravine on a small parcel I had access to in OH.

    Pre-season scouting confirmed the turkeys were still roosting along the ravine and I was able to pattern their morning after fly downs. At sunrise on March 20, 2010, I was off for a morning of scouting turkeys. The morning of March 21, 2010 was spent in labor and delivery at University Hospital in Cleveland. My wife and I welcomed our first child, Landon, two weeks prior to his expected arrival. Regardless of the turkey season to follow, March 21st made the spring of 2010 one I will never forget!

    Opening day for spring turkey was a short four weeks and a wake up from being upon us. I blew through some vacation days so I could spend time at home helping my wife, while learning to be a father. I took a personal day for opening day to hunt in the morning and to go to Landon’s one month checkup in the afternoon. With little sleep, I got myself out of the house and headed towards the property I had not set foot on since last month. After drinking a full thermos of coffee during my 45 minute drive, I pulled off the road into the field at my destination. I threw my vest on, grabbed my 870 Supermag and headed through the field to an inside corner. Once I reached the corner, I set out a single jake and hen decoy combo.

    Like clockwork, the turkeys were right where they were supposed to be. I thought to myself: “Game on!” I started with a few soft tree yelps with the diaphragm and box calls. At least three gobblers were making their presence known. As the light continued to grow, I heard the birds start to fly down. I readied myself and started the waiting game. I waited. And waited. Then waited some more. I would call and they would hammer, but they didn’t seem to be closing the distance. This continued till the gobbles began to fade as they worked south away from my location. I decided to make a move and circle around to get in front of them. It proved to be the right move, but they skirted me just out of range. I called it a day and figured I would give it another go on Saturday morning which thanks to work, would be the next day I could hunt.

    A buddy called me nearly every morning that week to inform me birds kept hitting the field to the north (where I had been setup opening day) and there was a tom strutting each morning he drove by. I couldn’t wait for Saturday morning based on this information! Landon decided to get me up at 3AM that Saturday morning. At 4AM, he was still up, so I my wife up and told her she needed to take over because I had to hit the woods! That didn’t go over too well, but she was raised in a hunting family so that worked to my benefit that morning. I poured two thermoses of bold black coffee and hit the road.

    As I walked across the field from my truck, I decided to get closer to the roosting area and set up in the woods rather than on the field edge. I decided to set up to the north of the birds based on my friend’s observations over the past week. I found a nice tree lean against and waited for the birds to awaken. As the horizon began to fill with light, I could make out the silhouettes of the birds along the ravine. The first of the three gobblers sounded off and the other two followed his lead. The hair on the back of my neck stood up with excitement, this was my morning! I let out some tree yelps and just like opening morning, they were cutting me off each time. Unfortunately, just like opening morning, they flew down and the hens took them south. I couldn’t believe it! This time I just hung tight since I was already in the mostly bare early spring woods. After they disappeared from sight I threw the jake and hen decoy set out in front of me and said to myself: “Time to be patient...”

    I called every so often and they would gobble from a field to the south of me. Around 7:20 out of nowhere, I catch movement out of my peripheral vision. Here comes a jake from the south heading north; then I saw the tom about five yards behind him. The jake saw my decoys and made a beeline for the set like he was on a road! The tom followed suit with his fan laid out, drumming, and spitting along the way. He closed the gap to get next to the jake, in turn leaving me with no shot. I needed them to separate before I could touch off a shot. I place my bead on the tom as the pair worked behind a tree. Only the jake popped out and he immediately disappeared behind the next tree. I said to myself: “As soon as the tom hits the gap between these two trees, I am letting it rip so long as his head is out.” He listened to my wishes and the 870 ripped through the quiet spring morning air. The 3 ˝” Winchester Supreme #5’s did their job and put him down. I sprang to my feet and ran over to him, running the Jake off in the process that was still standing next to my decoys. I was overwhelmed. I had just taken my first tom and I had done it on my own. I can’t describe the level of excitement and accomplishment. But I’m not sure I have to because I believe each of you reading this know that feeling; that raw emotion.

    I took out my phone and started waking people up! I called my wife, she didn’t wake up. I called my parents, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, my wife again…she still didn’t answer/wake up. I called a friend/coworker who was in the woods. I was burning up the phone lines! I took pictures and did my best to take it all in. I was officially hooked to this turkey hunting thing!

    I will never forget the walk back to my truck that morning, followed by the drive home. I felt like I was finally growing and developing as a hunter. I had had an incredible six months dating back to deer season. I couldn’t help but think about the years ahead when Landon will be tagging along, then eventually getting behind the gun himself. It was a great morning!

    After posting pictures and my measurements, I was informed the beard length was good enough for top three in the state per NWTF records. I had frozen the bird to take to my father-in-laws taxidermist, so the plan was to have him officially scored when I took him out of the trash bag at the taxidermist. Unfortunately when we pulled him out of the bag a few beard strands snapped off including the longest strand. Despite my disappointment, it did not really matter because the bird and the spring of 2010 were far greater than becoming another statistic.

    As he roosts today…