The first few months of my year was kicked off by traveling all around the country to various industry trade shows with Under Armour. After a few long months on the road, I am more than ready to get back into the woods to do some hunting. This year, I was fortunate enough to get invited by my good friend Chuck Griffin to go hunting with him in Kansas for Rio Grande turkeys.
|The Old Stafford Train Station.|
Venturing to south central Kansas took me back in time and to a place that felt like down home America, right down to the delicious homemade pies at the historic Curtis Café. Nestled between the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and the quaint town of Stafford, you will find a large diversity in habitat from salt marshes, woodlands, water management areas and land management areas that the Rio Grande turkey flourishes in year round.
I had two turkey tags and high expectations for this hunt, but Kansas decided to live up to her windy reputation on opening morning of turkey season with robust winds that blew steadily at 20-30 mph. My hopes of quickly filling both of my tags were quickly diminishing due to poor current and predicted weather conditions for the week ahead.
Opening morning, we set the decoys up on a known travel corridor between a wheat field and woodland roosting area with the hopes of calling in a gobbler after he hit the ground. I began an aggressive hen yelp without getting a response or hearing a gobble.
Due to the conditions, the sound from my call wasn’t carrying out the way I would ideally like, with that in mind we decided to put our optics to use and try our luck with good old spotting and stalking.
We quickly found a group of turkeys flocked together pecking around in the nearby wheat field. For fear of being spotted by the flock I chose not to set up decoys and instead set up immediately on the field’s edge under the cover of the woodlands. One young jake was tempted to come in to the sounds of my putts, purrs and yelps, but the hens that he was following quickly changed his mind when they fed off in the opposite direction. With the morning fading away and the weather not cooperating, we decided to back out of the area.
Later that afternoon, the temperatures climbed to 75 degrees and the wind faded to a soft breeze. We set out our decoys just down from where we had spotted the large flock earlier that morning in hopes that they would once again return to feed before heading to their roosting area.
The ground I was sitting on was transformed into a sea of movement before my eyes. What I had not anticipated was the hundreds of ticks that had also decided to get out and enjoy the warm change in the weather. The ticks were crawling everywhere and I thanked god for Under Armour base layer that is tick proof and kept me safe from literally being devoured by the small creatures.
Despite the infestation, I sat tight and let out a series of soft putts, purrs and yelps, a single hen came in with an eager tom on her tail. The hen literally walked 5 feet in front of my friend and fellow hunter whom we will call “Bill” in order to protect his identity. Bill had taken the gift of warm weather and used it for a nap instead of an opportunity to hunt.
|Set up and patiently waiting.|
Watching from 40 yards away, I was shocked that Bill could hold so completely still with the invasion of ticks and all of this action unfolding directly in front of him. The huge tom was staring at him when he let out a series of snores that spooked the keen hen causing her to take off with the tom in toe.
My only regret at this set up was not being able to capture Bill with the hen and huge tom only 5 feet away from him while he slept. To this day, I am not sure if Bill really believes what unfolded that afternoon.
Thanks to Hartz dog flea and tick shampoo, I was able to get a good night’s sleep and wake up rested for the following mornings hunt. Under the cover of darkness, we set up the decoys; the toms were gobbling from the roost tree before the sun had even crested the horizon. With the weather cooperating and the gobblers vocal, I was sure that our luck was about to change and had high hopes of calling in a nice tom.
When the birds hit the ground and the sound of the gobbles grew close, two nice toms quickly approached on the tail of a hen. Unfortunately for me, the trio did not cooperate and break out into the field where my decoys were set up, but instead chose to strut and display behind me in the cover of the woods leaving me no shot opportunities and no way of moving without being detected.
We spent the rest of the day trying to call in a fervent tom without luck. The gobblers that we had encountered were not willing to abandon the hens that they were flocked with. We didn’t even find any enthusiastic young jakes that were willing to strut around for us.
The next day, Kansas had decided to throw in a severe storm with winds gusting at 60 mph and pouring down rain. We decided to take the day off and drove to the small town of Great Bend Kansas in order to prepare to hunt in a new location when the weather eventually broke.
The following morning presented clear skies and temperatures dipping down to 34 degrees. It was cold but the toms were gobbling in the roosting trees from multiple directions. Once again under the cover of darkness, we snuck into position and set up on the edge of a new food plot that was near the roosting area. With the decoys in place only 20 yards in front of me I visualized success in finally being able to take that long awaited shot.
|Success in KS.|
The birds were just as anxious as I was to get moving after being relieved of the heavy storm that had ripped through the day before. I called for just over an hour letting out a couple series of soft yelps and purrs when an aggressive gobbler responded quickly coming in out of my north. Moments later I had several gobblers also respond and start coming in out of my south.
I was in the epicenter of eager gobbling toms. As quickly as the weather had changed, thankfully, so had my luck. A flock consisting of a jake and three mature toms emerged into the food plot out of the south and ran straight to my decoys. Without hesitation, I took aim and fired on the tom of my choice.
After three days of hunting, I was finally able to fill one of my turkey tags with a nice mature gobbler. Having to fly out the next afternoon, I knew I was growing short on time to fill my second tag, but I wasn’t going home without trying for another tom.
The evenings hunt was picture perfect with warm weather and windless skies. I had two hens come in behind me and peck around a pond; strangely enough they were without a gobbler. I left the field that night being thankful for the beautiful day and looking forward to one more morning to try and fill my second tag.
The morning gobbles were erupting nonstop out of the sand hills at first light. Eagerly, I slipped in silently on the flock just as I would on a screaming bull elk. I set up just out of sight and called sweetly in an attempt to lure the tom away from his hens. Just like a big bull elk, he wasn’t budging, so I stayed in position for awhile in hopes that a younger tom would come into me like an eager sate light bull during the rut.
After growing inpatient and short on time, I attempted to creep over the sand hills and get within range of the flock. There were two huge toms, several hens and a couple of jakes in the flock, a lot of eyes in open country that made it impossible to be stealthy enough for successful stalk. Getting within 70 yards of the giant toms made my trigger finger itch but unfortunately today was not my day for scratching it.
As time ran out, I headed to the airport thankful for my time in Kansas and the reminder that with each dawn lies a new beginning. On this trip I was humbly reminded that within but a single moments time your success in the field can change but you must always remain patient, persistent and thankful of the extraordinary gift of the great outdoors.
|Thanks for the great gear Under Armour, Swarovski Optik, Bugling Bull Game Calls & Eberlestock.|
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy
Base 2.0 Top
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
Bugling Bull Game Calls
One Arm Bandit Turkey Call
Turkey Strutter Box
Gobbler Getter Turkey Tone Top
Raspy Cutter Turkey Tone Top
Eberlestock Mini Me Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus