by Jason Brooks
For many hunters just finding a place to hunt where the game is plentiful and the people are friendly can be hard to come by. In today’s world of the internet-super-highway-world most private lands and especially any public land where the hunting is good is already overrun with people or overrated. But for the small town of Colville, about an hour north of Spokane, the area is full of turkey’s and there’s no shortage of land to hunt them on.
I spent the Washington turkey opener in Colville this year and as we pulled into Benny’s Colville Inn the parking lot had a few cars in it but there were still plenty of places to park. Checking in at the front desk I was met with a handshake from Andy Hydorn, the third generation owner of Benny’s, which was started by his grandfather. He explained that it was a good idea that I had a reservation as they expected the motel to be pretty full for the opening of turkey season.
The next morning we woke around 3:30 AM and as I went to warm the truck I couldn’t believe how full the parking lot was. Cars and trucks were double parked and every corner of the lot had a four wheel drive truck stuffed into it. I highly recommend staying at Benny’s and be sure to make a reservation before you make the drive.
Soon we were in the woods, adjacent to a landowner’s home where he has a bunch of turkey’s that come into his fields and scratch them up. The early morning dawn was just light enough to make out the pine trees on a bench above us. As the sun started to shed light on the surrounding woods turkey’s in their roost erupted in gobbles and hen clucks.
Michelle Bodenheimer, Regional Director of the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Kurtis Vaagan of Vaagan Brothers Timber, began to make hen chirps and purrs with a slate call. For diaphragm calls the Tripping Hen by Phelps Game Calls really brings the gobblers in. A hen decoy was placed in the dark about twenty yards out from our makeshift blind. Michelle later explained that she prefers to use only a single hen decoy, as strutting gobbler decoys tend to draw in hunters and can intimidate Tom’s and especially Jakes.
About thirty minutes after daylight a small group of hens made their way down off of the bench and into the field in front of us. Then more turkeys filed in and it wasn’t long before four big gobblers were strutting by us. My son Ryan raised his twenty gauge and took his first ever turkey, a big Tom with a 9-inch beard.
We spent the rest of the day exploring Colville and the surrounding mountains with Michelle and Kurtis. One of the oldest settled regions in Washington, Colville was first founded as an outpost for the Hudson Bay Trading Company around 1825, with the establishment of Fort Colville near modern day Kettle Falls. Once the United States and Canada figured out the border at the 49th Parallel the city of Colville was established for its vast timber and mining resources.
The timber is what keeps Kurtis Vaagan there, being a multi-generation timber company operator, Vaagan Brothers Timber is one of the larger employers in Stevens County. Kurtis is a hunter and believes in sustainable harvest, both in animals and in forestry practices. Working with the Department of Natural Resources and the Nature Conservatory, Vaagan Brother’s leads the way in renewable timber resources.
Over the weekend chasing turkey’s and learning about the rich history of the area it was pretty obvious that the locals welcome hunters. The elk population is growing strong, even after this past harsh winter. Whitetails fared well too, as the deer were everywhere. Finding some moose sign and a small group of mule deer added to the trip, but turkeys were everywhere. So were the grouse. On one ridge we found four blue grouse, strutting and thumping every time we called for turkeys.
The turkey season goes until the end of May and if you are looking for public lands in the area I recommend checking out the Chewelah Chamber of Commerce for local turkey information and maps. And if you’re still deciding on where you might hunt this year then take a getaway this summer to Colville and do a little scouting for this fall’s hunts. You will be met with friendly people and a lot of game.
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