The hay field was awash in morning dew, making me glad I’d worn my rubber boots. I knew there would be a gobbler roosted somewhere on the far side of the field, but lack of proper scouting left me guessing where. All was unusually quiet and calm for a Kansas morning, allowing me to hear plainly the waking sounds of songbirds punctuated by the occasionally “bob-white” of a quail. When Mr. Gobbler finally made his presence known, I was much too close, a problem I often have when hunting turkeys in the morning. It took me back to a morning turkey hunt years ago.
Everyone knows wild turkeys MUST be hunted from the ground. Sitting on the ground or on a five gallon bucket until your butt and both legs are numb is just part of the turkey hunting experience, and NOT to do so would certainly be as un-American as eating pizza without potato chips, or owning a corvette with an automatic transmission. Yet here I stood, gazing longingly up the ladder of the landowners tree stand thinking what a perfect spot it would be to call-in the gobbler that roamed this wood lot. But I must persevere and not break turkey hunting protocol!
In the blackness of the morning I scaled the ladder up and into the stand, all the while remembering the gobbler and his tiny harem that had shunned me here the night before. This tree stood barely three feet into the woodlot from the edge of the crop field; if I fell out, I’d land in the bean stubble. I figured the gobbler to be roosted at the end of the crop field and along the river, some distance away. Usually you can hear a gobbler even in the dark, as he’ll often gobble at every barking dog or hooting owl, but this morning the woods was unusually quiet. Perhaps that wasn’t good; perhaps I had misdiagnosed where he roosted and would be left high and dry. Trying not to shatter yet another turkey hunting rule of “calling very sparingly while the turkeys are still roosted,” I watched and waited as daylight slowly poured itself across the landscape around me. I yelped softly with the box call and a gobble erupted beside me along the river probably seventy yards away; the rascal was roosting where I had not even considered. For thirty minutes he gobbled away, and I tried to find a good balance between calling back to let him know I was still interested and playing hard to get to make him come find me. For those thirty minutes he seemed not to move, and suddenly he was silent. I called softly a couple times but heard nothing in return. My heart dropped to my toes; what had I done wrong or not done right?
As I tossed the situation around in my mind, a gobble broke the stillness again, this time directly in front of me not far away; he had snuck quietly through the trees and was in the bean stubble where I knew he would see my plastic decoy “jezebels.” Soon I saw him strutting his way toward me in the open field. I put the call aside and brought the shotgun around into position. He got so close I heard him spit each time he fanned out, and could hear the scratching noise as each wingtip drug across the ground. I could see him well, but too many tree limbs were in the way for a sure shot. Like a target in an arcade he marched back and forth but would not come any closer. I had just read an article where the author warned about placing decoys too close and creating just such a situation. It became another standoff as he remained behind too many limbs for a safe killing shot. I decided it was time for a plan “B”; if he would just step a little closer to the edge of the trees during his little show, he would momentarily be in a small clear spot for a shot. Finally he appeared to stray a little closer to the trees, so as his back was toward me as he turned, I swung the shotgun around and leaned out around the tree trunk in front of me. He saw or heard me move and immediately dropped his tail feathers to run, but the twelve gauge nailed him to the ground before he could take more than a couple steps.
If I’ve left some of you turkey hunting purists shaking your heads, I apologize. I’ve never been one to worry much about protocol. Maybe more of you have shot turkeys from tree stands than I know, but if not and the situation presents itself, give it a try. If you try it, access your shooting lanes and place your decoys appropriately to draw the gobbler past you and to put him in a position for a clear shot if he hangs up a ways out. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]