Intent is to remove as much habitat mystery as is possible by pictures. These habitat snapshots should make boots on ground time easier.
As a do it yourself hunter organization we do emphasize first we will assist with getting every hunter to a good spot to park his truck to step out to scout or hunt. Or, good habitat. That is easy. Remainder is where all challenges come in. We know a spring tom rarely falls into a hunter's lap. We administer all land to insure pressure is not an issue. Knowing what good habitat looks like is just one step.
Some have expressed concern about insuring they do not cross property lines. This pictures is of a 240 acre Kansas farm. All property lines are easily visible. It happens to have been over years of owners been divided into three 80 acre spots by addition of fence lines clearly visible in its aerial. A good example of habitat to be sought. Combination of grass, grain crop, woody.
Through as many such aerial and ground level snap shots as we can illustrate we hope an idea of Kansas turkey habitat comes through.
A jake strutting to a mouth call.
Notice his background thin woody cover. Typical of what we recommend to many as a spring season spot. No better proof than live pictures such as these to show habitat.
Below. Kansas turkey habitat in winter.
Its value is illustrating just how thin and small wood lots are where flocks occupy. This wood lot is a good sized one in Kansas at less than 10 acres. A point we find required to repeatedly present as many big woods hunter who travel out our way become concerned about lack of woody habitat. One contrast which does come through is after after harvest when a big woods hunter picks up his open crop ground tom finding its weight immediately identifiable as greater than what he has taken before. Grain land toms by some accounts are around 5 pounds heavier than a northern woods state bird.
Just two toms along a small wood lot edge shown above in this middle afternoon picture series. Bleak, but productive habitat.
This picture also shows just how easy it is to deer then turkey hunt or scout some same spots. Notice all are out in an open field, not in their nearby (roost) wood lot.
This pictures does well to show how late into winter a grain field holds waste grain. Sufficient to bring in both deer and turkey. In this case a soybean field. A second point of value is it shows typical winter snow ground cover. Common to have snow ground cover as long as up to 2 weeks before a melt off. All added together to make a greater understanding of Kansas turkey habitat. It is more about food than cover.
Not Just A Hunt - Years Of Kansas Turkey Hunting
Another aspect we emphasize is attitude. Hunters his first season is setting himself up for years of field days to come. Turkey or otherwise.
This second aspect of years of field days to come does not mean a first or current hunt will not be good. It means rather hunts yet to come will get better. Difference being experience with specific private leases derived from multiple visits.
What has been observed is one price must be paid and paid directly by hunters alone. A price of ground time both scouting then hunting. This observation continues in regard to our recommendations to every hunter's own scouting.
No matter how good any recommendations to any hunter of where to start or, of his own scouting his first season, by his third season he will be on entirely different ground. Typically, by his third season few hunters hunt their first season properties. Most have found spots they like better with every trip. Soon all get to a point of cutting off future new land scouting focusing entirely on hunting. Later, adventure of discovery of new land gains hold. His land knowledge process starts a new.
Tracking flocks year round helps to know where they will be come spring.
When we recommend someone to a lease it is not an accident. If we recommend a farm and no tom harvested we will call it a bad day. If a same hunter does not get a tom on come a second recommended farm then we will suspect something other than a lack of birds.
This picture shows just how bleak ground cover is at opening week of Kansas's long spring season. Some would call it poor habitat if not for seeing birds on it.
By Kansas' last week of spring season green up is well along.
What typically happens is hunters breaks-in his first season. He returns to spring turkey hunt or any of preferred fall seasons. He begins to expand out. Covering more ground. In general half of any leases he looks at will disappoint him. Another half will be of habitat meeting perspective of what good ground should be. Another half will be ignored only to be discover later as good spots once time on land is gained. This third half soon becomes more important as it is concluded Mr. Whitetail or Mr. Tom Turkey know better where they want to be than hunters are at picking it from aerials. Time on land thing again. Paid by hunters only. No way around it. If not willing to pay it a guided operation is more suitable.
After a few trips most have direct knowledge of more leases than time to hunt. A point which begins a priority according to first hunting interest, second habitat quality to third branching out into secondary interests. Soon a tranquility arises of having plenty of choices free from others. This grows into removal of frustration and growing satisfaction come any trips end of having hunted enough.
By this time a hunter has become a true self guided hunter. He is planning his own hunts simply uses MAHA to make reservations.
That last point about reservations is sometimes misunderstood. Motivation to make a reservation is its means by which we know where he is. We do not let anyone else hunt there at one time. Out on land without competition is one aspect which brings many back over years to come.
Our reservation system also ensures no one turkey flock gets so much hunter pressure it become difficult to hunt. We close down spots if any gets too much pressure. Contrast this with a lodge that often uses bait to keep high pressure flocks retuning to give eyes-on over multiple hunters. What we do is advise of other spots of fresh birds.
Operation Since 1965 Gives Value
Through many land runs we gain a good idea of leases which have roosts. As spring season hunters ourselves we develop a good idea of numbers of hunters who will hunt each spring. We spread those folks around. Our system has been tested since 1965. It has been refined to work satisfying most. Not all will fit in. We never say we are a good choice to all. Before payment we have a discussion to see if we can work together. Working together is centered on compliance to published rules of conduct. If we can agree Association rules are good then most find their best hunting of a lifetime.
Where problems arise.
A hunter's ideal would be one to three properties with roosts dedicated to him. Him alone covering an entire season. If those three properties were a half section of 320 acres, a quarter of 160 acres and an 80 acre lease all total acreage would be 560 acres. Say we were lucky and were able to lease all that ground at $2 an acre, or $1,120. (There is not any $2 acre land worth leasing. Plan on spending more.) Costs of a dedicated lease will exceed that of Association hunter fee. Through our Association everyone has more choices. Or, a greater chance of getting on turkeys. No one hunts as much as they think they do. Most spring trips are a long five day weekend. That 560 acres may see three hunters spread across our entire spring season of eight weeks. If any consider that amount of presence adverse pressure they may need to re-assess.
Add to this example above each of those properties had three roosts and we had three hunters hunt over a course of eight weeks. Cost of that land at $1,120 is now paid by three hunters. If their dues were a $1,000 each means the Association has a budget of $3,000 to pay that 560 acre lease. Meaning more and for better deer and turkey ground. Why more land? It comes that success is from covering ground to find what is after. The opposed idea is to have just one spot and hope what is wanted is there the days hunted. It all comes down to getting a rewarding hunt rather than just enjoying nature.
Of all the annual dues paid by our hunters we program a budget of a 30/70 split. Seventy percent going to land costs. Of that $3,000 stated above that gives us $2,100 for leases, $900 for overhead. In this example we have a surplus of funds for land of $980 that then can be applied to lease additional properties. And, all hunter gets to hunt without the costs of tracking down landowners to solicit for a lease, enforce lease agreements. No small points to get what is paid for. Those who have leased land themselves know full well many pitfalls which occur. Any who have not yet leased their own land are encouraged to do so. Doing such is often the last straw to calling us and giving our Association a try.
What is the point to all this discussion is to recognize nothing is for free. To evaluate what is gained by costs paid. In our case lease private land for self guided hunters seeking wild turkey hunts having done so since 1965. We have had a long time to refine our system. Our goal is a quality hunting experience. That ensures hunter annual renewal. We are not the right answer for all. Those who do try us frequently say they have not found anything better.
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