This year, instead of just the wife and I heading to Kansas my son Eric came too. Despite the "OUCH" price of gasoline, I drove. The trip from central PA to Topeka, KS is just over 1100 miles. Fortunately the wifes car gets from 31 to 34 MPG on a trip. The trip was uneventful, just the way we liked. My wife and I left on the 10th of April and met Eric who flew to Kansas City on the 11th. After a somewhat quick stop at Kansas City Cabela's to get a couple of AR-type pistol grip stocks for our shotguns, we were off to Topeka and our turkey adventure.
Eric and I started our turkey hunting on Saturday morning in the midst of a cold snap that had snow flakes flying in the air. We wore just about all the hunting clothes we took just to stay warm. I shivered and shook, which I blamed on the weather, but the flock of about 20 - 25 birds may have had something to do with it too. That first morning, with great anticipation, we set up near a roost and had to watch the turkeys fly down to our left and they just kept on going. We did learn that there was at least one, maybe two longbeards in the flock and learned the direction they preferred to travel after fly down. Plans were made for an ambush the following morning. Eric declared it was his turn to shoot first so I was the designated caller.
Sunday morning turned out weather-wise the same as the previous day with snow in the air. We circled the roost area and set up just beyond the fly down area in the dark. As it got just light enough to see a little, we could see turkeys roosting in the same trees as the day before. I began to call softly and the dominant gobbler started sounding off. Man, did he make some pretty early morning music! I was reminded of the song, "The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Music". Both Eric and myself got a real shot of adrenaline from that music. In only a few minutes I realized that the tom had flown down first and was parading in front of where we were set up the day before. I started to pour on the most seductive calls I could muster in my excited state. After a few more very tense minutes I enticed the tom to start toward us. As it turned out he strutted right into Eric. At just 19 yards his dominance ended in a hail of copper coated #6 shot. A very fine two year old bird was tagged. He weighed just under 20 lbs. but sported a nice 9 1/2 inch beard and nearly 1 inch spurs.
Eric Rice with his first spring gobbler of the 2008 Kansas season.
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Monday morning we went back to the private land but had no luck hunting the other side of the property from the roost area. We then decided to explore some public land where we had seen turkeys when we hunted deer there. We parked the truck and walked down an access road to a really huge corn field next to Lake Perry. After surveying the area, we decided to walk to the opposite end of the field to a small rise and just sit there and observe. The trip across the field revealed many turkey and deer tracks, so we were encouraged. After an hour or so Eric said, "Dad, two turkeys just came into the field near the road we came in on." My view was blocked by some trees in a drainage ditch in the middle of the field, but the turkeys finally cleared the trees. With the aid of my binoculars I was able determine they were both longbeards. I got out my box call and really cranked it out and got the one to gobble and strut, but they continued on their way about 500 - 600 yards away. All we could do was watch and guess what they were going to do. You can imagine the frustration of not being able to do anything to get closer. Shortly after disappearing behind the line of trees we were set up in the turkey reappeared feeding back the other way. This time they cut down toward the lake about 250 yards in front of us. While they fed down the field, suddenly, there were four turkeys. The other two were jakes. We watched the two longbeards until they entered the woods to roost. We now had a plan.
Tuesday, Eric and I woke up to some hard rain and decided to wait until evening to try to intercept the longbeards. To our dismay, we spotted them right where we had set up the day before and they had a bunch of hens with them. As the day wound down the turkeys headed our way and crossed the drainage ditch in the middle of the field. Eric and I sat there in an ever increasing fever pitch. Finally, after what seemed like forever, the flock worked its way toward us with the toms to the rear. The hens paid no attention to our decoys and walked past. The toms did just what we needed them to do; they hesitated in the clear at 30 yards and I could not hold back any longer. At my shot, the first tom dropped. Eric shot only a moment later hitting the second tom. His bird took off flying but not very well. After about 60 yards it just seemed to hang in the air and suddenly dropped. We both took off running! My bird had been done in by many pellets to the head and neck. Eric's bird, however, was still going! After two more shots, his bird continued to get away. Eric yelled to me, "I left my vest at the tree." I knew what he meant; he was out of ammo. I ran to Eric and handed him my gun and said, " Here, there are still two shots in this one." Eric ran to his bird, shot once more and it was his. The realization of what we had just done sank in. We had just killed our first double and both were really nice birds. The field and nearby woods resounded with victory yells. Had anyone been nearby I am sure they would have thought two crazy guys were out in the field yelling and doing a crazy dance. As we stood there in utter amazement, both turkeys started to flop. We put our foot on their necks and both promptly got a royal flogging but we didn't care we had just scored a double on a couple of mature birds. Mine was a 20 pound bird with about a 10 1/2 inch beard and spurs just over 3/4 inch while Eric's was 19 1/2 pounds with a 10 13/16 inch beard and 1 inch spurs.
Paul Rice with his 2008 Kansas turkey.
We took the next morning off as we did not get to bed until about 11:30 PM from cleaning the two turkey. The next afternoon we headed to a spot I call "The Honey Hole". I had not hunted turkey there, but had seen them when hunting deer. We had to walk in about a half mile and set up in a fence row overlooking a large grass hay field. I set two decoys but was a little uncomfortable at being so exposed as there was precious little cover. It was early, so I just sat there and played with a couple calls. What I did not hear was a couple gobbles in response to my messing with the calls. Eric heard them but did not say anything as he was about 20 yards away on the other side of a big juniper. When I finally looked up there was a nice longbeard in full strut about 70 yards away and in full view. Man, here I sat like a novice, no gloves on, and my gun leaning against the fence beside me with my hands full of call and striker. He put his head down to feed at one point and I tried to put the call down as slowly as I could. It was a good plan but old sharp-eyes saw the movement and off he went. My heart was as low as my boots. A while later a hen came up the field and got all fluffed up at my hen decoy. She eventually walked off. Just before dark another hen sneaked up behind us, saw Eric and took off across the field behind us. At dark we headed back down to the road and just as we got there two birds sounded off down in the field across the road. Now we were excited again! As we walked back to the truck, another bird also sounded off. The strange thing is we did not get to hunt there again as another hunter beat us there.
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Several days after Eric flew back home I went back to the private land and set up with no luck. I picked my stuff up and walked a road along the edge of the property. As I came to the top of a hill I paused to call. To my amazement, I got a very raspy call back. I quickly moved to the edge of the road and sat down. After a couple more of my very seductive yelps I could hear the turkey was coming closer. I then spotted the bird coming up the road, but things did not seem quite right. Soon the bird was less then 20 yards away and I could plainly see it was a hen. That hen, however, had a beard about 6 or 7 inches long! Other than the beard she appeared very hen like. What that hen did not know was she was legal game and was being aimed at by a hunter that still had a tag in his pocket. I finally whispered "bang" and she walked off putting all the way. I was looking for a longbeard or nothing.
On the morning of the last day of my hunt in Kansas I tried to hunt the flock Eric and I got our first bird from, but apparently we had bumped them once too often as they had moved. That afternoon I set up on what I figured was the return route of a flock roosting just off the property. As I sat there a couple hours attracting all of the local ticks, I thought I heard a noise behind me. I very slowly turned my head and saw a tom that had sneaked in silently. My plan for a shot was quickly stopped when, for the life of me, I could not see a beard. This was a big bird but no beard! I even looked at him with my binoculars and still saw no evidence of a beard. I guess he loaned his to the gal I saw that morning. He walked off putting all the way.
That concluded our 2008 Kansas adventure. We counted each outing a success as we saw turkey on nearly all of our times out. Of course, we also managed to take three mature toms and scored our first ever double!
About the Authors: Paul, a.k.a. "PA RIDGE RUNNER", has been around the hunting community since he started hunting in 1955 and took up archery a couple of years later. He was a part-time employee of a Sports Shop for many years and was also a member of the U.S. Military for over 34 years, from which he is now retired. Paul enjoys all forms of hunting. However, the wild turkey holds a special place in his heart. Paul would point out that he has no special training in composition, but simply loves the tale of the hunt. In his spare time, Paul enjoys reloading and target shooting with both modern rifles and muzzleloaders as well as hunting with both. You can contact Paul via the Hunting Resource Forums.
Paul's son, Eric, has been hunting for nearly 30 years. From the first day of deer season in 1981 when he shot his first buck (a spike) hunting with family members, Eric has been hooked. He explains that it took him years to realize it, but that hunting with his family and friends is very close to his heart. Although Eric loves to hunt white-tail, the wild turkey is on the top of my list, he explains. Besides modern firearms, Eric's flintlock muzzleloader has been his most productive hunting arm. Since he was a kid, Eric has worked on various farms. He also formerly worked in the automotive industry for approximately 10 years. Eric is currently in the industrial and medical gas field as a filler/truck driver. You can contact Eric via the Hunting Resource Forums.