Update April 27th 2016
This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Kansas with my dad and brother (Jim) in order to pursue Rio Grande turkeys. We left Friday afternoon and drove over 600 miles to reach our hotel in north Central Kansas. After about 3 short hours of sleep we were up and heading to a Walk in Access hunting spot. Considering the fact that none of us had ever been to Kansas, we were not sure what to expect. As soon as we left the hotel we were faced with the first of many unexpected challenges, dirt roads! After 15 miles of dirt and gravel roads we reached our destination. Based on the fact that there were no fresh car tracks on the road, we were sure this area had not been highly pressured with hunters.
Saturday morning turned out to be almost perfect. We heard toms gobbling immediately, so we set up the blind as close as we could get without spooking them. At daylight about 20 turkeys flew down in front of us and started moving in our direction. We were all in awe of the beautiful coloration of the four strutting Rio Grande toms that were within 50 yards of our blind and seemed to be moving closer. Then, without much warning the entire flock turned and moved up the hill and out of sight. We hunted the rest of the day without seeing another tom, but had plenty of chances at jakes. After sitting a full day in 25-40 mph winds we were happy to see Sunday’s forecast called for far less wind.
Sunday morning Jim and dad hunted the same property and same group of birds. I decided to check another property as I thought splitting up would give us a better chance at success. Unfortunately the toms did not roost with the rest of the birds and once again Jim and dad only had jakes and hens come in range. I was about 1.5 miles away and called in 4 jakes fresh off the roost. I then decided to move. As I started working my way up a pastured ravine I was lucky enough to stumble upon two toms that were gobbling at a group of crows that were mobbing a hawk in the tree above them. I tried calling, but the toms were not interested in my calls. So I used the terrain to get into position. By crawling up a washout I made my way to the top of the hill. As I peeked my head over the top of the hill I found myself face to face with a hen. Looking past her I saw two big red heads moving in my direction. All three of the birds saw the top of my hat in the grass and came to investigate. They were all within 5 yards of me for a very long time. The ordeal seemed to go on forever, and I bet it took me 5 minutes of looking through the tall grass to identify both of the red headed birds as toms. At that point I raised my gun and filled my tags!
After tagging my birds and getting a few photos I went back to get Jim and my dad. This new property had a lot of birds and I wanted to help Dad and Jim fill their tags as well. When we started back out, Jim went on his own and I went with Dad. Dad only has one lung so doing a lot of running through the fields and woods is not an option. We took our time and slowly worked the terrain until we found some scratching in the woods. Then just ahead of us three jake Rios stood up and started walking away. Dad raised his gun and killed the first bird.
For the next two days we tried our best to fill the rest of our tags, but we just never got another opportunity. In the beginning we passed on several chances at jakes, but in the end when a jake would have been just fine to shoot, we just couldn’t seem to find one.
In addition to the dirt roads, the biggest surprises to us were the lack of people living (and hunting) in the area and the daily habits of the turkeys. Prior to heading to Kansas I read many articles that stated many of the farmers see turkeys as pests, so if you see birds in the field stop and ask for permission to hunt. The problem with this is there are no farmers! It seemed like no one lived there. We would drive for 5 miles or more at times and never see a house. When we did, it seemed like there were no good woods in the area to hunt anyway and we had no idea who owned what land. And we never once saw turkeys in a field. In order to find birds we had to get out of the car and go look for them in the wooded ravines, and very rarely did we ever see a bird or any sign of bird other than when they were near the roost at the beginning or end of the day. We started calling the birds the daytime Houdinis as they would disappear all day long, only to reappear at dusk. I can’t even begin to explain how many thousands of acres I covered looking for birds and I just could not find them. We still can’t figure out where they went during the day, and besides the first morning, we never had a single bird respond positively to our calling.
When we headed down to Kansas we were hopeful that we could fill all six of our tags, but in the end we very happy to share the hunting experience and come home with three birds. My only regret is that Jim was never able to fire a shot. I’ll be honest, I will be glad to get out after some Eastern subspecies this week, as I feel I can find a tom just about any time of the day!
-Mike VerslandClick to get previous reports!