Mike

...I had not spring turkey hunted in 10 years, but have started to get interested again and wanted to try out west...

The wheat field where I hunted.

I went and did some road scouting of the farm I was going to hunt. I had never been on it before and needed to check it out. As I was driving by that evening, I saw 3 gobblers going across a wheat field apparently heading to the roost. I kept driving as to not alert them. The next morning I arrived late as the gobbling had already commenced, did I mention that I had not spring turkey hunted in a decade? I was not a good turkey hunter then, and this made it obvious that I had not improved. As I was heading along the edge of the wheat field, trying to get to where I wanted to set-up, I spotted a large turkey already on the ground, so much for sneaking in in the darkness. I remained motionless as the bird walked out down the wheat field to my right. I could hear a number of birds putting and cutting, but I could not see them. After the bird I saw, and the birds I heard moved sufficiently away from me to the right, I sneaked over to the edge of the field where the turkeys had been. I sat down with a small elm tree for support about 5 yards into the woods with a small cedar tree right next to the wheat and a little to my left. I could hear two or three hens yelping ferociously just beyond a rise in the wheat field to my right, I supposed that is where the birds I saw in the field upon my late arrival had walked.

After listening to the hens yelp for a while, I started yelping as furiously as those hens just over the rise in the wheat field were yelping. Nothing, just more yelping over the rise. So I yelped some more. Nothing, and then for some reason I am not aware of, the emergency sirens in a nearby town went off and a number of toms started gobbling right over the rise in the wheat field. Then more yelping. So, I yelped right along until they quit. After about ten minutes of silence, here came four hens across the rise with a tom in tow. They headed right for me and stopped about 20 yards out to look around. As the tom moved in behind the cedar tree in front of me, I raised my shotgun and waited for him to reappear. When he did, I shot and he went down. I am excited again about turkey hunting.

Mike

The QS Gobbler and Turkey Psyche

Went after my second Kansas gobbler last week; beautiful spring weather although, the hunt started off unseasonably cold. I was hunting a quarter section (QS) of land that was in CRP and is planted in brome, not my favorite grass, but better than no grass at all. I had hunted this QS before for upland birds, but have never turkey hunted the land. This year, when I scouted it out two weeks earlier, the owners had burned off the grass and it had come back looking like a perfectly manicured lawn. During the earlier scouting trip, there were a number of turkey tracks coming off the QS and crossing over the mud road to the land to the east which is posted, no it is very seriously posted: NO TRESSPASSING (NT). My thoughts, after the scouting trip, were that the turkeys roost in the old cottonwoods in the draw that intersects the northwest corner of the QS. My strategy was to set up between where I thought the turkeys roost in the northwest corner of the QS, and where I saw the tracks crossing the mud road on the east edge of the QS.

The initial morning hunting the QS was cold; my truck registered 30 degrees on the digital temperature display as I drove to the set up. At day break, I had my Jake and hen decoy set up and I was sitting with my back to a fence post with plenty of natural cover between me and any potential decoy suitor. Even though it was chilly, the morning was coming alive with birds looking for mates. Pheasants, quail, cardinals, meadowlarks, and many other birds were calling as the first light of the morning broke the horizon. No gobbles yet. As I sat there and soaked in all the sounds of the morning, I heard a gobble far off to the northwest. Then a few far off north of the QS, these guys most likely roosted in the Black Vermillion River bottoms a couple miles north of me. As the day became even livelier, a gobbler broke loose east of me on NT. Then a few more gobbles over on NT. Then all hell broke loose over on NT with no less than five gobblers, and up to eight fighting each other to be heard. My first thought was that it was still early and the QS gobblers will start any minute in the cottonwoods to my right, where I thought they must be roosting.

When hunting turkeys, one can become a good turkey hunter by gaining experience from a seasoned good turkey hunter and also gaining experience on solo hunts using the gained knowledge from your turkey hunting mentor. But, because the psyche of the wild turkey is unknowable to the turkey hunter, there will never be excellent turkey hunters; becoming a good turkey hunter is the pinnacle.

While sitting there looking at my lonely decoys, and a civilization of turkeys gobbling, clucking and chuckling at me just out of sight over a slight rise in the CRP to the east, I heard one lone Tom gobble west of me way beyond the cottonwoods that I had believed would hold the suitors for my decoys.

Time for a new strategy; I would try and call the suitors from across the mud road from NT. The hens on the NT were yelping and soliciting gobbles, so why can’t I? And so I commenced yelping and instantly got responses from the NT gobblers. Did I mention that they were over a rise and could not see my decoys? After a period of time, it sounded as though the turkey civilization that resides on NT was making its way across the mud road and just might peek over the ridge and look at the lovely decoys. My eyes were peeled at the rise off to the east looking for those little knobby heads that hold the little beady eyes looking for my lovely decoys to breed them. Suddenly, off to the west toward the cottonwoods that were supposed to be where the QS suitors roost, a lone gobble. My first thought was, oh boy I have birds coming in from two different directions. My second thought was; your first thought was a novice turkey hunter’s thought, a good turkey hunter would realize that most likely, no suitor would want to try and breed your decoys today. I stuck with my first thought and I called for the suitors to come here and breed my decoys. The result was that the civilization that resides on NT fervently and repeatedly answered my call to breed as they walked away, never having seen my lovely decoys. The lone gobbler to the west, did see them, coming within 200 yards, not gobbling as I saw him peek his little knobby head over a rise and focus his little beady eye on the lovely decoys and walk back to the cottonwoods, un-attracted. By this time, the thrill of the chase had worn off and the chill of the morning took over and in full shiver, I picked the lovely decoys up and headed back to the truck for warm coffee and reflection on the mornings hunt. As I walked out, I heard a lek of Prairie Chickens booming over on NT and smiled.

Day two of the hunt for a QS gobbler started off warmer, the digital temperature displayed forty-three, warmer than the thirty the previous morning. The revised QS gobbler strategy was to set up in a location that the NT gobblers would be able to see my lovely decoys as they either gobbled on the roost, or as they made their morning walk after coming off the roost. The location for the second set up was right across the mud road from NT and in the lowest part of the QS where a creek cut through the southeast corner. The lovely decoys would be on display just past where the creek exited the QS and entered the NT. The NT gobblers roosted on day one along the creek as it flowed to the northwest from where in enters the NT. If the NT gobblers roosted in the same location, my lovely decoys would be seen by the NT gobblers for potential breeding.

After setting the decoys and getting settled in thirty yards away along the creek edge where the brush and trees would provide natural cover for me, I relaxed and again took in the splendor of the morning’s daybreak. This morning, most likely because of the warmth, many more quail were whistling and many more Prairie Chickens were booming. And, the NT gobblers were roosted perfectly. Everything was the same as the previous morning; many gobblers were gobbling along the creek to my northwest on NT. My first thought was that I may be the first excellent turkey hunter in man kind’s history. My second thought was that you might be a good turkey hunter and the morning was very early. I did not hear the gobblers leave their roosts, but felt confident that they had seen my lovely decoys. No hens yelping on the NT this morning. As I called, and was answered by the NT gobblers, which sounded to be about 100 to 200 yards away and on the ground, again the thought of excellent turkey hunter entered my mind. The first sight of the NT gobblers was a picture of three gobblers strutting toward me along the creek edge about 100 yards away on NT. Each time I called, all three gobblers would cut me off and gobble and strut. It was at this point, as I looked though the picture framed by the trees between me and the gobblers, in plain view of my lovely decoys, they hung up. I called and they gobbled and strutted in a pseudo-stalemate of turkey breeding passion for twenty minutes. Finally, after twenty minutes of self questioning my excellent turkey hunting status, the gobblers very slowly, still cutting off my yelps and in full strut, left the woods framed picture and were slowly heading west to my decoys. At various times, because of the trees and brush between the NT gobblers and the excellent turkey hunter, I could not see them. When the very passionately hot gobblers that were answering the excellent turkey hunters calls did come into full view, they were at the NT fence line gobbling and strutting trying to lure the lovely decoys across the mud road. The excellent turkey hunter was only forty yards from the NT gobblers as they strutted and gobbled to every call I made.

Many good turkey hunters run into this situation frequently when gobblers hang up either too far away, or in a location where the hunter does not have a shot. I was in the second group as the gobblers were in range, but they were across a mud road on NT.

Suddenly, without any notice of where they came from, two hens appeared between the gobblers at the fence line on NT, and my decoys right in front of me. My first thought was, alright, two live decoys will seal the deal for this excellent turkey hunter. My second thought was that I could not call anymore because the hens were so close and I did not have any brush or limbs between the decoys and myself so as to not interfere with any shooting, the hens could clearly see any of my movements, including the use of my slate call. So, the excellent turkey hunter stayed motionless as the hens inspected my lonely decoys. They seemed to have passed inspection as the hens took up feeding in the new shoots of tender brome. But, the NT gobblers at the fence line were not impressed and quite gobbling and strutting and turned back to where they had came from. This was a perfect example of the wild turkey psyche; the NT gobblers were interested in my calling and decoys, but the introduction of live hens turned them off.

It was time for me to take some risk and I started calling to see if I could get the NT gobblers interested again. The risk was that the hens would see my movement and bust me. I took the risk and they did see my movements as I used my slate call. Again, turkey psyche: The hens did not bust me; instead they came right to me stopping ten yards away, but out of view of the NT gobblers. As the hens watched me calling, and out of view of the NT gobblers, I told the hens, in very foul language to leave. And, the hens left, they walked back to the hens and started purring and putting. After a few minutes of unsuccessful persuasion, the NT gobblers slowly retreated back to their original strutting location, 100 yards from the good turkey hunter, gobbling and strutting as I called.

Normally, a novice turkey hunter at this point in the confrontation might consider repositioning and getting closer to the gobbling and strutting NT gobblers 100 yards away. But for two reasons I knew that this was out of the question. For one, the NT gobblers were still on NT. And, a good turkey hunter would realize that any movement now would be seen by someone that resides in the NT turkey community and would alert all community members to the novice turkey hunter’s location.

While not having any confidence that the strutting and gobbling NT gobblers would change their pea sized minds and come over and try and breed my lovely decoys, I still continued to call and they continued to answer. Off about a quarter mile away to the north on the NT, another Tom was answering my call. I kept calling and the four gobblers kept answering; the three off to the northeast that I had been working most of the morning, and a possible new suitor off to the north. The suitor to the north appeared to be making his way to my set-up and I could see the three Toms gobbling and strutting 100 yards away. The two hens were still feeding, purring and putting as they ambled off from the decoys a few yards when as I turned my head to check on the three amigos that would not cross the road, the suitor from the north made an appearance in front of me coming to the lovely decoys. Turkey psyche, don’t you just love it.

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