Kansas Turkey Adventures

kansasdad

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NOT what the doctor ordered for first weekend of the regular season! This is the umpteenth year in a row it seems that the Govemor's One Shot Turkey Hunt will be a wet one. Last year our own Govenor Sam Brownback accidently shot two birds while only having one permit. He made sure to report himself, and was fined as he should have been.

Come on blue skies!
 

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Summitthunting

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I hear ya. My dad and I postponed our trip to Kansas due to all the rain. I don't know which is worse, hunt early in rain or late with ticks!
 

Southwind

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I'm lovin the moisture but will have to see if I can get a hunt sneaked in sometime this weekend.

I don't do lightning so it is usually an easy decision if there is any chance for it.
 

kansasdad

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Today is the first Saturday of regular shotgun turkey season in Kansas. For me it was all about the sound. I don't mean noise, as noise it what is generally barely perceived throughout the day, mostly in the background, and noise means very little. This morning it was about the sound of spring in the turkey woods.

The weather pattern over the last 48 hours included overcast skies with rain/thunder and hail, and aways off even brief tornadoes (its Kansas!). My first sound of the morning was a huge thunderous boooom followed by heavy raindrops falling on the skylight. Two hours before the alarm was set to go, I fired up the radar and tried to extrapolate into the future to determine if it would be smart to sleep in or go ahead with the plan to make a solo run to the magical hayfield. As it seemed the worst of it would be pushing off north and east, I kept my alarm set.

My alarm was set for 4 a.m., and I was awake and away quickly. The streets were wet, but no rain was falling so the only time I heard the wipers chatter on the glass was when I was passed by some out-of-towners who failed to recognize the construction zone speed trap and passed me instead of slowing down. Turning off the highway onto the county dirt road that leads to my little slice of heaven, I just beat the freight train at the crossing. The splashing of sandy water hitting the mudflaps meant that I was three miles away from my gearing up spot. As I pulled off the road and hopped out of the car, the owl chorus was in full voice. I thought I could count six different spots for the o'dark thirty performance.

In the distance, flashes of lightning arced from cloud to ground and danced amongst the clouds themselves. If I concentrated I could barely hear the thunder, or did I just feel it in my chest?

I pulled my old winchester 12 out of its case, and very quickly figured out that the tin where most all the turkey shotshells are kept hadn't made the trip north with me today. As it turns out i had Julia's 20 in the trunk as well, and I did have turkey loads for that gun.


Making my way up the hill I ghosted along without any headlamp use, as the path is smooth enough for safe walking. The ground was wet and the only sound I made was the slight rustling of my waders and the sucking sound of the boot pulling out of the imprint It had just made.

Two weekends ago during youth season I made a tactical error walking in to our hayfield, and had set up nearly under the roost of a turkey, flushing him out of the tree with a startled yelp, sticks braking and flapping of huge wings as he made his escape. I decided to set up along the treeline of the creek this time just in case the bird had chosen that same tree last night.

Trains run very regularly within two miles of my spot, and I often use the throbbing if the engine and horn tooting as a sound cover, if, as was happening this morning, there was no wind blowing.
As quietly as I could and intentionally waiting a couple of minutes for the next train to go by, I set out two decoys and sat down. I was covered on my right by a small cedar, and on my left by some newly leafing shrubs and several clumps of Johnson grass.

I heard my first waking turkey noise, right where I had flushed out the bird two weekends ago. Then more turkeys gobbled to my right, which got the boys behind me and to my left going as well. Way off in the distance more birds were gobbling. What a concert.

It was still and dark, and off to my right where the main roost is, I heard the ugly "cronk" of a great blue heron. The turkeys loudly replied. A few seconds layer I was startled by that same heron flying right over my head cronking away. I may or may not have looked around to see if anyone caught my flinching at the sound of the bird, not unlike when a kid at the park trips and quickly looks around to see if anyone recognizes your America's funniest videos moment.

Over the next thirty minutes as the sky continued to slowly lighten in the east, there were Canada geese, pheasants, crows , owls, peacocks, coyotes, ducks, quail and chickens all blended in to a ebbing and flowing concerto of song. Missing from the soprano section of the choir was the hee-hawing of the donkeys that (used to?) live up the road.

At fly down time, the closest roosting birds started quite a ruckus. If I shut my eyes, I thought maybe the fighting birds reminded me of star troopers shooting at Han and Chewie ( minus the explosions). Although I was close to the roost, I couldn't see the birds in their roost, and I didn't hear the birds pitch out of the trees.

As the morning progressed there would be gobbles coming from all points of the compass. The most constant gobbles came from across the wood lot, and down by the newly swollen creek. I stubbornly staid put, calling sporadically, and felt gratified that on several occasions it seemed like my mouth call, slate and box call were all getting responses.

The biggest adrenaline rush and heart rate increase occurred around nine o'clock. I had already seen several deer working the edges of the field, and when I saw movement on the crest of the hill, I assumed that it was yet another whitetail. Looking closer through the binoculars, I saw that it was a bedraggled coyote. About the time I saw the coyote, he saw my decoys. Going still as a statue, this canine begin to plot his approach. Using the contour line of the hayfield he angled back and forth, getting closer to the decoys. He flared off once, only to came back stronger when a second even wetter coyote started down the slope towards the decoys. If I had my 12 gauge, they were both in lethal shotgun range. As I had the 20 gauge Mossberg Bantam and this early in the morning on the first weekend of turkey season, I decided to let these dogs off the hook.

The morning rolled on, with the clouds getting darker and a windless dawn transforming to a light breeze. Gobbling activity became more sporadic. On several occasions the volume of the gobbles seemed to increase, and then sadly fade away as if the turkey making this "here I am" call was only willing to come so far, and then head back from where he had just been.

My cell phone vibrated in my pocket, pulling me back to reality. My mother in law had fallen and broken at least one rib. I needed to get back to town. I dashed across the field to switch out the memory card in the trailcam, and headed to town. Although there had been hundreds of gobbles floated into the air this morning, I only saw one hen turkey.......and it had been a fantastic morning in the turkey woods
 

Sawtooth

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Sounds like a great day in the woods. Thanks for taking the time to give a a write up so we could all come along. Hope you mother-in-law is going to be well soon and you can return to your magical hayfield. Keep us posted on your next turkey adventure.
 

kansasdad

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This morning as I awakened and walked out to get the paper, I wondered why my eyes felt swollen and puffy. Probably because they were swollen and puffy. Fortunately there was no hive like itchiness that has accompanied a cedar pollen exposure in the past. I fully expected my face to resemble Will Smith after he had eaten some seafood in the movie Hitch. I was just a little less swollen, and by the time I got to church, it has reduced in size, or maybe everyone who saw me was just kind enough to not mention how I didn't seem to be myself. Daily generic Zyrtec generally keeps me from reacting to my "Kansas allergy". Cedar pollen is my kryptonite.
 

Southwind

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Well I had some real highs and lows on my Kansas turkey adventure.

The rains and thunder storms have had me dodging and wondering if I would get in a hunt or not. Friday I just out to the farm too late and then the storms rolled in over night and screwed up my planned morning hunt and with the forecast I really didn't know if I would squeeze one in.

The thunderstorms calmed and the rain ended about 1:30 pm Saturday so I started plotting an afternoon hunt. My preferred spot was across the river at the edge of a hay meadow where they come down from nest areas late day and roost somewhere along the river. The river was up and moving fast with a lot of debris so what is normally a 25 minute hike was now a 20 minute drive and 45 minute hike from the other side.

I park at about 2:50 and hike down to meadow and set up in my favorite little birds nest and get comfortable and notice it's 3:35 pm. Five minutes after getting settled I hear a distant gobble from where I walked in. I had no decoy out and took a box call and made three loud yelps soon some 400 plus yards away across the meadow I see two dark shiny dots pop up on the horizon. I know they are tom's and just decide to see what they do. They could not have been anymore on a string and the trotted without stopping the whole distance.

I was watching intently to try and see beards and could tell they were both good tom's, they got within 40 yards of the edge of the field where I was hidden and they pulled up and the one on the right went into full strut while the bird on the left let out a thunderous gobble wondering where the hen they had heard was. I was leveled on the full strut birds head and took the shot, he dropped, the bird on the right took off running I shot him and he goes down and pops right back up and I nail him again for good.

I look at my watch and I'm no more than 15 minutes into my sit and I'm tagged out.

Now the bad. Hauling 45 lbs of birds my gun and vest full of stuff back out of that meadow to the pasture above where I was parked was happy labor. I stopped at the top of the hill and put down birds and gear and walked the remaining short distance to retrieve my camera and take a few pics.

I take pics and put on my vest and pick up both birds and open my pickup cap and drop the tailgate and load my gear and head back for dinner at the farm.

I wake up today drink my coffee and eat breakfast when I suddenly remember I left my gun back on the pasture. I race back over as it had rained another 3/4" that night and was worrying about all the gun cleaning ahead of me. That was the least of my worries, I see recent tracks going into the property through the posted gate and yes directly down and past where my gun was and back out. Yep, gun is gone.

I reported it to the sheriff but believe that gun I have had since 2001 and have taken piles of birds with is gone. I have a lot of people checking around but I really don't hold out much hope.

1 bird 22 1/bs pounds 1 3/16" spurs and 10" beard, other bird was 21 lbs , 1" spurs and 8" beard but the bearded had either been cut somehow and only about a third was still remaining.


 
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kansasdad

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A rousing salute for your double on two nice birds. Really sorry about the shotgun. I hope it finds it's way back to you.
 

Southwind

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Thanks Ksdad, it was a great short hunt but major bonehead move leaving my gun and then even worse someone a half mile in private ground taking off with it.

A lot of good hunts and memories with that gun, I don't think I will get it back but who knows someone may talk it's a small community.
 

kansasdad

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So Sunday it was all about the wind. There were still rain possibilities and even an outside chance of dangerous stuff, but the sharp northwesterly breeze should be the main concern for a turkey, and thus for turkey hunters as well. I drove out to my local wildlife area and as I passed several parking lots I noticed there were no cars at the "trailhead". I layered up and headed out, tightening the Velcro strap on my hat to keep it from heading off to Oklahoma.

Walking and getting more than 1/2 mile from the next county road in Kansas is nearly impossible when you are east of Colby. "Applecore" field does get you nearly a mile from any public access spot. This field was so named by our family long ago when we found a log ground blind littered with applecores. I saw three birds down by the lake when I peeked around the treeline. They were headed towards a shelterbelt of Osage Orange (hedge apples) so I decided that would be where I would head. Stepping into the woods to travel out of sight of the field birds, I bumped two turkeys almost immediately. As they were escaping dead away from me I couldn't verify that I had flushed up two bearded jakes.

Traveling along a now muddy backwater tributary to the lake, I skirted along moving towards the last know location of the turkeys. As long as I was in the bottomland or in the trees there wasn't much wind, but the noise of the wind through the tops of the trees could have covered Hannibal and his elephants sneaking through the woods. I figured that since turkeys rely on sound and sight for self defense, this wind would have them on high alert. I was glad that it was the first weekend of the regular season, and that there were almost zero human tracks in the mud, so maybe these birds were not yet on defcon 4 high alert.

I made it to the far side of Applecore and slowly worked my way into the line of trees. In the middle of these shelterbelts it can very often be free of grass and underbrush as the dense canopy totally keeps out any glimpse of sunlight. Another common feature of these tree lines is there often is a barbed wire fence running right down the middle of the trees. Very often these fences are in a dilapidated condition, and as such draw little attention to their presence until it snags you as you walk past. Sneaking forward I peeked through the trees and didn't see the hoped for threesome of birds. I tried to sneak further forward undetected, only to see one turkey flying across field only to crash into the far side treeline. A second bird scooted out into the open, obviously aware that something made his buddy fly out, but he was unaware of the direction the danger was coming from. For a moment it almost seemed as if this bird was going to turn left, and run right at me. I made a silly mistake, which was raising my shotgun quickly, and now he knew where the danger was coming from. Although I KNOW this bird was a jake, I couldn't see the "visible beard" that is required to make him a legal spring turkey target and thus let him go join his flying buddy.

Heading back to the car, the clouds were still overhead, and the wind was dropping its intensity. The sun began to peek underneath the dark clouds, illuminating the wildlife area with strong red yellow and oranges of evening. Once again Kansas and the turkey woods had given me a magical adventure.
 

Southwind

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Another stormy Friday but I have been seeing birds out and very active every morning this week on my way into town. I would think this may be a very good weekend to score a bird. I am heading out to lend moral support and hopefully find some morels. Good luck gents!
 

kansasdad

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"I've been waiting a long time for this"

My oldest child Aaron (kansasson on HuntTalk) has lived overseas for the last year, so it was a great day for our family when he returned after traveling 30 hours straight to get back to Wichita. Working with full blown jet lag, we left the house two days later for his first hunt in nearly a year. He said it had been hard to read about my fall/winter hunting times, and yet he was living a little vicariously through the words and photos.

We left the house on time for the 45 minute run up north. We made it to the hayfield and put the decoys out without fear of getting busted as it was still dark. Unlike other mornings,there was no early morning bird concerto. Dark scudding clouds finally started spitting tiny droplets, and it was then that I realized the radar prediction algorithm had failed to account for the precipitation coming down. Once again we had a visit from a juvenile coyote, and once again we let him walk, as there were toms gobbling up and down the river bottom, and we decided to not alert them to our presence.

With increasing rain intensity, the turkeys went into silent mode. Throughout our stay today, I didn't ever feel like I ever had a bird react to my calling. Not one bird was seen, and yet it was a fantastic day out with my son. Just as we had put the decoys out and were getting settled into out little pocket of field side brush, Aaron turned to me and said "I've been waiting a long time for this".

Me too Aaron, me too. Welcome back to Kansas.
 

kansasdad

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Yesterday's early alarm clock and lack of birds at the
hayfield meant that I was going to change up the strategy to get a spring
gobbler. I decided to go out to Applecore field in the late afternoon after kid
and yard duties were finished. I arrived at the state wildlife area with just
over two hours to make it happen. Once again there were no cars seen at other
parking lots, but there was one truck parked at the bridge crossing. So unless
someone was coming upriver via boat, I would have the public land all to myself.


Walking towards the river through the first ag field and cutting through the
creek crossing, I wasn't yet in turkey hunting mode. Bad move on my part as when
I was halfway up the incline to the next field I looked up and saw a scurrying
jake make his getaway. I hustled up the incline hoping to see
a lagging/unaware bird or two when I turned the corner. I saw my bumped bird
running with full afterburners ignited, weaving through a strip of CRP grass.
Bump # 1.

I decided to sneak down to a vantage point to scan the cut corn
field below this strip of CRP. Now in full ninja mode, I saw the birds before
they saw me. Down on hands and knees I pondered my options. Do I try to call these birds up
to me, or sneak in on them? There was a light wind and a slight hum of car noise
from the nearby turnpike. The ground was soft from recent rains so I decided to
attempt a sneak. Using the intentionally unharvested strip of corn as
cover I worked closer. The birds were slowly drifting away feeding as they go,
scratching away across the field. I stopped my sneak and let them cross in front
of me. I breathed softly on my mouth call, stopping the little flock of
turkeys. Craning their necks in my direction, they suddenly "took a meeting"
amongst themselves and evidently the majority voted to continue across the
field. Once they went 70 yards they were again behind a screen of standing
corn stalks. I gambled a quick move to get in front of them, only to be found
out once again. Bump #2

As they jetted away, I was sure I knew where they
were headed. Moving down the field and cutting through the next stream bed with
its accompanying tree stand, I peeked out onto Applecore field. Directly in
front of my was one feeding hen, and three hundred yards away were two jakes and
a hen. I knelt in the thicket of young shrubs and poison ivy shoots that ring
Applecore and watched the birds and contemplated my options: call those young
turkeys across the wide field or be patient and wait as I was sure those birds
would head my way to roost for the night somewhere along the woodlot in which I
was currently kneeling.

As I tried to get a better view of the far away
birds, I forgot about the hen in front of me. These public land birds have been
subjected to nearly a month of youth, disabled and archery hunters early season
activity, and now it's the second weekend of regular season. Spooky and wary are
understatements of their ability to sense danger. She figured out that something
wasn't right, and exited stage right. Bump #3.

I wasn't too concerned as the only legal
birds on Applecore field were 300 yards away, and totally focused on dinner
time. These feeding birds were at first working to the south, and then east
toward me, and them haphazardly meandering in random morsel-searching-mode. I
was able to keep track of these movements while hanging back in the creek
bottom. As the sun continued its descent towards the horizon, there meanderings
lead them to the middle of the field, where for the first time for me this
season I got to watch some birds pop their (jake) fans, and watch the hens chase
each other around. Cackling and fighting noises faintly drifted to my ears, so I
made an attempt at calling these birds towards the treeline. No reaction.


The group of six birds were indeed heading my way, so I had to guess which
direction they were going to go to roost. They would either turn left and go
across the face of the little pond or turn right and find the well used trail
into the woods towards one of several roosting trees. At about 65 yards they
stalled, as if undecided about which route to take. Sadly they correctly (for
them) chose to turn left.......until the two jakes decided to swerve right.
Moving into shotgun range I had to shift position in my poison ivy jungle to be
ready for my chance. Do I decide to lay off shooting, as it is "just a jake"? I
had been debating this question ever since the first bump occurred. The lead
jake turned on a dime and headed back away from me. He was nervous about
something, probably magically catching me bringing my shotgun up to shoot as I
had decided that a jake today would have been a good thing. Bump #4

These six birds moved away with some purpose, some birds nervous, some not nervous.
Once they disappeared around the corner of the trees I threw caution to the wind
and moved to try and cut off these birds on their way to the roost, only to hear
the panic putt call and see more turkey butts running away from me at top speed.
Final and bump #5 for the day.

Bumping birds and sneaking through the
underbrush,trying to grind out a jake. A magical Kansas afternoon.
 

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kansasdad

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So I think I have found several groups of pawpaw trees deep in the underbrush of a watercourse woodland. Any HuntTalkers able to confirm based on the leaf and flowering pattern??

Pawpaws are supposed to be the largest of the native fruits of North America, and a cousin to cherimoya fruit. I have had a few cherimoya from when we lived in East Africa, and loved them. The local outdoors writer usually mentions pawpaw being eaten during early deer archery season, so if these really are pawpaw, I will need to remember come September to visit these trees again.
 

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kansasdad

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Julia's turn

So it was 22 degrees cooler today compared to the last time Julia and I went out after a spring turkey last year, and it was 82 degrees today. We want out to the public hunting area for an evening try at Julia's first turkey. She has twice before shot at turkeys, with feathers and good times to show for our efforts.

Walking towards our intended sitting spot for the evening, we kicked up an unexpected brace of quail. Never will I ever not be amazed at how that gets the heart rate instantaneously doubled.

Birds were seen, conversations had, and a fantastic evening with a wonderful young lady was enjoyed by this kansasdad.
 

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Southwind

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I think those are paw paws, my mother in law has three in her back yard I will have to take a closer look.

I always used to run into a covey at that little pond right before you go into the back fields along Durechen creek.

Have you ever hunted around Council Grove?
 

kansasdad

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I think those are paw paws, my mother in law has three in her back yard I will have to take a closer look.

I always used to run into a covey at that little pond right before you go into the back fields along Durechen creek.

Have you ever hunted around Council Grove?

I haven't visited Durechen area yet this year. We are further north and west.

I have hiked Council Grove wildlife areas but not with a shotgun on my shoulder. I imagine that with the rain predicted for the next three day the morels up there may be really on full blast?
 

Southwind

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North and west is good, there was a frontier trading post there called Chelsea.

Council Grove should be ripe with morels this week if we get the rain, problem is everyone knows what a hot bed that is for them too.

Good luck keep us posted. Now that I'm tagged out I am on the honey do list before it gets too hot.
 

kansasdad

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Sunday kansasson and I went up to the hayfield to see if the turkeys were wanting to play with us. The south wind was cooking right along, so I thought that we could only count on birds downwind hearing us. And if they did hear us calling, and they responded, we may not be able to hear them until they had closed quite a bit of the distance. A second reason to go was to collect the trail camera card, and in doing so we would get a better idea how many birds were using our hayfield.

We set up so that we had a good view of the treeline along the creek, and the opposite hedgerow that marked our property boundary. It was very warm, and Aaron was finishing up resetting his clock from India to Central Daylight Savings Time. We had a very unproductive nap in the shade of an osage orange tree, with me nearly falling off my stool several times.

When it was time to head back to home, I asked Aaron to trek across the field to collect the memory card, and I would call on the box call, slate and mouth call, to get a clearer idea of how far the sound might carry on such a windy day. As he was walking downwind to get to the camera, I would hit a call every 30-40 yards, with a "thumbs-up" indicating he was hearing me over the wind. The range finder shows the treeline at just under 300 yards. Aaron could hear me all the way, but when he got to the treeline, in the area of decreased wind velocity the volume seemed to decrease quite a bit. Walking back to me, I watched a full grown man walking towards me. Aaron is taller than me, and sadly for me weighs quite a bit less than I do. He graduated with high honors in Chemical Engineering at KState last year, and has spent a year of his life immersed in New Delhi culture, meeting Indian kids and influencing their lives in a "cultural exchange" program.
 

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kansasdad

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I know it can't really be true, but after a bit of reflecting on my turkey season so far, the attached photo might accurately sum up what the turkeys of Kansas think about my attempts to bring one of their numbers home with me.
 

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