I am what most would call new to turkey hunting. Even though I grew up in an area that had several giant groups of turkey consistently hanging around, I didn’t begin to dabble into the world of turkey hunting until about four years ago. It only took one spring season for me to be hooked and now I can’t wait for winter to melt away into spring so I can get out there and start looking for big toms. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as much time to dedicate to turkey hunting this spring as I was hoping and was left with a few unfilled tags. This season was, however, the most interesting and educational season I have spent chasing turkey thus far.
By the time early spring rolled around I was so eager for turkey season to kick off I almost couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to set aside a few days and give southwest Nebraska a quick try. I was able to find lots of really good public land. The wind seems to follow me on every hunt and a new state made no difference as the wind was screaming and the turkey were hiding in deep and thick pockets of brush and cottonwood trees. I managed to call a big tom out of his comfort zone but, unfortunately, he came up the opposite side of a row of cedar trees and busted me through a small gap and vanished. I didn’t get a shot off in Nebraska but I hope to go back next spring with a little more time and a plan now that I know the area a bit. I also took a few days and went out to western Colorado to hunt with my buddy Matt Tezak. I had never been hunting in the high desert type terrain that part of the state offers so it was an interesting change of scenery. We found a nice group of turkey, however, they were more than content hanging out in a nice green farm in the middle of the high desert surrounded by private property signs. And as my luck usually has it, the wind came along for the ride to “help” us out. I still had a great time hunting with Matt and enjoying his amazing chef-ing skills! If you need any tips on how to make anything taste amazing, he is your guy.
The most interesting aspects of my spring turkey season happened in Kansas. The first night back in Kansas I simply setup to do some glassing on a high bluff with hopes of putting a group of turkey to bed. The group included two toms I would not hesitate to tag, a few jakes, several hens, and one additional tom that was probably the biggest beard-dragging beast I had ever witnessed in person. As I looked down on the group feeding through I wheat stubble field as the sun was starting to settle, I saw an adult owl and a few of its young ones fly low across the field and right over the turkey. This split the group down the middle, with the hens running south and roosting in a small group of cottonwoods and the toms and jakes sprinting about 500 yards north to a different group of trees. This gave me what would have been the perfect morning setup to bring to toms to me without any hen interference, or so I thought.
I got up the next morning a few hours before sunrise with a great feeling and a plan, until I stepped outside and the wind was steady at 35 mph and gusting higher….in the wrong direction for my planned setup. This left me a plan B, which was setting up near where the hens roosted (due to the wind direction). I setup in a group of round corn bales that were situated in such a way that I could move through the rows in tight lanes with multiple shooting lanes out all sides. As the sun came up, so did the wind. After calling for quite some time I somehow heard, from down wind, a nice sized tom gobbling back at my calls. He was a few hundred yards away and was definitely interested, however, every time he stepped out of cover into the wind he blew up like a feathered hot air balloon. It seems he wasn’t really happy with this feeling and immediately moved back to cover. He tried a few times to come to me but couldn’t convince himself that having his feathers blown in the wrong direction was worth the effort. He eventually lost interest and disappeared. I was just about to pack up and leave as I hadn’t seen any sign of the group I was originally looking for when I spotted them running across the field right towards the bales. I saw the big tom I wanted was third back in line and they were moving to the left side of the bales where I had my Heads Up Decoy sticking out from the bales. I found a thin shooting lane out that side, drew back, and watched a hen pass by, then a jake, and I knew the big tom was next as I held steady and completely still. Just as his head moved into the opening I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a hen about one foot above my head on top of the bale starring down at me. It took about a half second for her to warn the others and the whole group went to full spring and headed west. The tom turned and ran before I could even get his head in my peep sight. I have been busted by hens before, but never by one that was close enough to strangle and on top of a group of bales! I’m pretty sure this hen was a reincarnation of Floppy Ears, the doe that always ousted me while chasing muley.
A few weeks later I returned to Kansas and took my wife, Michelle, with me. She was hoping to fill her first turkey tag with a shotgun and I was hoping to set her up to do so. I once again found myself trying to make a move on the same group of turkey. It was getting pretty late in the season and for the most part the turkey didn’t have a lot of interest in the calls. The first night Michelle and I setup in a thick group of cottonwoods where turkey have been roosting as far back as I can remember. I put us in a spot where I felt we could put them to bed from a distance in order to come up with a good morning game plan. What actually happened was us being surrounded by so many turkeys that we could not move without being seen as they were completely spread out throughout the entire area. About thirty minutes before dark I had Michelle lay down to avoid being seen by one hen that walked by. Michelle ended up being stuck laying down in the tall grass until dark because the birds were walking, running, and jumping up to roost all around us. Once the toms hit the tree tops they began gobbling back and forth nonstop and were louder than I had ever heard. That is an evening of turkey hunting I will never forget. During all that I did see where the big tom roosted and knew we could setup in a spot where he was likely to drop down in the morning. The next morning his luck continued as he dropped out of roost almost right on top of me, so close that I could not get a good sight on him as he ran past and disappeared behind a tree row in the blink of an eye. He was close enough that I could have clotheslined him. Unfortunately, I didn’t setup Michelle in the spot I was in with her shotgun or this story would have a different ending.
I imagine that most people new to turkey hunting would find it quite challenging and frustrating. My experiences have shown me that there are many more failures than successes, at least as it applies to filling the tag. However, spring time in Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska is simply an amazing time to be out in nature. There is nothing I enjoy more than being in the field at sunrise on a cool spring morning. Whether I am hunting, helping my wife or a friend try to fill a tag, or being outside just because, there is no place I would rather be and no time I would rather be there. If you don’t spring turkey hunt, you are missing nature at its finest.