Chasing turkeys while waiting to fish

Editor's note: This year, the Johnston brothers will share a monthly column where both will offer insight and information on a variety of topics.

Cory Johnston: While we wait for the Bassmaster Elite Series season to start up again, and for most of our Canadian fisheries to open, Chris and I are spending lots of time scouting for turkeys, which is one of our greatest passions. Our season up here didn’t open until April 25, and normally we spend most of our springtime down in the U.S., so it appears that for the first time in a long time we’ll get to indulge this interest even more. 

It’s a super-intense pursuit, and one that helps us to stay in touch with the outdoors year-round. Of course we love deer hunting in the fall as well, but turkey hunting is even more like fishing. The excitement of interacting with them – getting up early, anticipating where they roost, waiting for them to strut and gobble, and then calling one in, is a lot like patterning bass. 

Because we get to enjoy more of the season than usual, that gives us time to introduce more people to the outdoor lifestyle. We have buddies who love turkey hunting as much as we do, but now we can devote increased effort to helping friends and family get birds of their own.

Between the two of us, it’s always a competition anytime we do anything, but it’s particularly cutthroat when it comes to turkeys. We have a bet going that varies every year, and all I can say is that the pot is slowly climbing. I put in a lot more time than Chris because he doesn’t like getting out of bed in the morning. He’s late for everything. I hope that my diligence pays off.

Chris Johnston: I was up at 3:30 this morning, ready to hunt, but Cory is right – I don’t know anyone in their right mind who likes to get up that early if they don’t have to. Nevertheless, there is something special about getting up at first light and waiting for the turkeys to start gobbling.

Cory is also right that the thing that makes turkey hunting so special is how active and interactive the process is. Unlike deer hunting, where I spend a lot of time in one spot, when I’m trying to kill a big bird I usually use a “run and gun” strategy. I move around until I get on the birds, and I rarely stay in one spot very long. It’s probably pretty similar to the way I fish – I’m just not very patient when nothing is happening. I want to make something happen all of the time. 

Cory is an incredible caller, I’ll give him that. He’s better than anyone I’ve ever heard.

With respect to competition, I want to beat him no matter what we’re doing. It’s at its strongest when we’re fishing – we have side pools and you can either be on “Team Chris” or “Team Cory,” and at the end of the season the losing team has to pay for beers for the winners for the next year. That should tell you something about how much money is wagered.

Cory: I’m glad that turkey season is going on, because our fishing opportunities are limited right now. All of the public boat ramps are shut down, and while we were able to pull a few strings and use a private ramp, all we’ve done is a little bit of crappie fishing. We might find time to chase some steelhead, too. 

To be honest, right now my mind is not really on fishing. This situation is out of our control, so when it becomes safe and advisable to travel again, and B.A.S.S. finalizes the schedule, I’ll get ready and prepare to head south. I’m disappointed that we’re missing the springtime tournaments – especially the sight fishing slugfests that I favor – but it really doesn’t matter when the tournaments are held. You still have to catch them against the best competition in the world. 

Chris: I am going crazy not being able to fish for bass right now. It’s not just fishing that I miss – it’s tournament fishing. I want to compete more than anything. Of course, there’s also the issue of money. We earn a lot of our income through tournaments, not just in prize money, but also in terms of sponsor support.

In order to keep supporting our sponsors adequately, we’re really trying to increase our YouTube and social media presence. We bought new video equipment, computers and software, all so we can bring our media presence up to the level it needs to be.

I’m not terribly worried about staying fresh on the water. We normally have four to five months off each winter, and by the time the tournaments start up again I think that we benefit from the fact that we’re so excited to fish. By the time we’re done in the fall, we’re burned out on it and ready to start hunting again. It’s a cycle that keeps our interest up.

As Cory said, we don’t have any control over when the tournaments are rescheduled. I just hope that whenever they occur the fisheries are on fire, and that it doesn’t cut too much into deer season.