DOES ANYONE HERE KNOW exactly what they will be doing come 5 a.m., Wednesday, April 22? I do.

That morning will mark the opening day of my Wisconsin season for spring turkey hunting and at 5 a.m., I will be well into the woods heading for a place where I have killed three gobblers over the past several years.

Last year, I did not draw a turkey tag for Unit 7, which is the unit in which we residents of Vilas County live. This year, I was rewarded with a coveted permit.

My only worry with getting a tag for a season that opens at the start of the fourth week of April in north Wisconsin is that there could be, as there was last year, snow up to my drawers still on the ground.

On the other hand, we may be snow free with temperatures well above freezing at daybreak, with a rising sun quickly warming the landscape as it was a few years ago, when I walked out of the woods after a first morning hunt during the even earlier first time period hunt with a beautiful tom turkey hanging over my shoulder.

I first hunted turkeys in Missouri during the ’80s, when there was no such thing as a wild turkey anywhere in Wisconsin. Around about that time, this state began trading Wisconsin ruffed grouse for Missouri turkeys and an amazingly short time later, turkey hunting in this state became a reality.

I was fortunate enough to have an aunt and uncle who lived in Viola who had turkeys running all over their property, and that of an adjoining property owned by a neighborhood friend of theirs. I don’t remember exactly when I went on my first Wisconsin turkey hunt there, but I do remember every detail of a first morning hunt that ended with a gobbler on the ground.

My uncle was sitting about 100 yards from me as a spectator, his tag was for a later season, and he had the five-turkey group of which my gobbler was a part march past him at a range of about 10 yards.

Unable to signal me by any means that turkeys were on their way, he could only sit, wait and hope they kept on going my way. They did, but the first bird, a hen, almost busted me.

She stopped at the edge of a brush thicket 25 yards away and there I was with my back against a huge oak, out in the open, plain as day for her to see. I sat motionless as the next bird, my gobbler, strutted past her behind the brush thicket. Three others veered off headed uphill, two hens and a gobbler. Too many birds with too many searching eyes for my comfort.

The first hen kept staring at me, but didn’t start “alarm putting” as she continued to try and figure out what that camouflaged lump against the oak was. Watching her out of the corner of one eye while keeping a lookout for the gobbler to get to a narrow opening in the thicket, I was caught between a rock and a hard place when he stopped in the opening, while the hen remained in the open staring at me.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and when the gobbler gave me body language that he was about to disappear behind the rest of the thicket, likely to disappear for good, I made a quick decision. Deciding that if the hen busted me she busted me, I raised my 12-gauge in one quick motion, got the bead on Mr. Gobbler’s head and touched off a shot.

The turkey gods were with me that morning and a few seconds later, I was up and headed toward my first Wisconsin gobbler as he lay kicking on the ground. To tell the truth, I never did see what direction the hen went nor the other three birds, Know what? I didn’t care. I would be eating turkey breast rolled in seasoned bread crumbs and fried in olive oil for lunch.

That was truly an exciting turkey hunt and as it has turned out, just one of quite a few I’ve enjoyed in Wisconsin. Maybe none will ever exceed the morning in Missouri when I killed my first gobbler, but there are several others that have moved into a tie for first place.

I do know for sure that my first hometown gobbler, killed 2 miles from my house, made a first-time ever north Wisconsin hunt one for the books. Mainly, I would say, because never in my life did I think I would ever be able to hunt turkeys in this neck of the woods.

Winters are too hard here. There are no farms and farm crops to sustain turkeys here. You name it, the common wisdom of the times was that anyone who lived here would have to forever travel to points south in Wisconsin to hunt gobblers.

Turkeys, which I have considered the greatest of all upland game birds ever since my first Missouri hunt, not only moved into our north Wisconsin habitat, they thrived here. Tougher than I would ever have imagined, they have given me many thrills, close calls, some successes and heartbreaks. I wouldn’t have missed any of those moments for the world.

Since that first Missouri hunt, I have chased after gobblers in Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as right here in Badgerland. Someday, if I win the lottery, which would be a more likely thing if I were to actually buy a lottery ticket, I will travel the entire United States and hunt turkeys in every state.

These grand birds, which Ben Franklin rightly believed should be our national bird, have captured a place in my heart second only to ducks and geese.

Every hunt they provide moments of hope, excitement, thrills and sometimes, deep satisfaction at the conclusion of a successful hunt. But every time I hunt them, whether successful or not, I am grateful just to get to spend time in the same woods with such a marvelous creature.

And now you know what I will be doing at 5 a.m., April 22, as dawn is about to break on another turkey season.