"Dances With Cows" 2003 Kansas Spring Turkey Hunt

As I lay face down in the mud with rain pouring down on my back, I sputtered a sigh of relief and wiped a trickle of blood off my cheek with my soggy glove. I had just jettisoned under a barbwire fence to avoid being trampled. The barbs caught my rain gear, and as I did the crappie flop trying to get untangled, I had cut my face. Catching my breath, I cranked my head around to look up. There, staring down at me from five feet away, were dozens of curious black faces, who mere seconds ago had been stampeding in my direction. Much to my chagrin, this Black Angus herd had decided earlier that my Double Bull blind was their dinner, and at this moment, they all wanted me to be their pal. Having spent summers on my grandparent's farm as a kid, I knew these critters meant no harm. But intent is a moot point when a beast outweighs you by a thousand pounds. I almost felt bad when the herd all dropped their heads in unison, turned and lumbered from whence they came. Shaking off like a wet dog, I put my turkey vest back on, picked up my shotgun and trudged through the muck back to my truck.

I was back in Kansas turkey hunting with friends Blaine and Terry, and their buddy Walt. I hunted with this group the previous year for the first time and shot my first gobbler under Blaine's tutelage, so I was excited to be back for an encore. This year, Terry bagged a nice gobbler the first day, and I had my own heart pounding experience that same day. We had set up my Double Bull blind on the edge of an open field, with a jake and hen decoy about 15 yards from the blind. We settled in with our gear, my Sony Handycam and enough turkey accoutrements for six people. I had originally intended to first hunt with my shotgun, but Blaine encouraged me to try my bow after he'd seen the action on some turkey hunting videos. Within an hour, our calling caught the attention of a gobbler, so I got my bow ready, and Blaine had his gun set as backup. As the bird came into view, my heart went into orbit. I had never seen a gobbler up close in full strut before. I didn't know want to expect. He puffed up the size of a beachball and fanned, confidently approaching the jake decoy. Having shot 3D's many times, I had systematically vitaled the turkey targets, but then, I didn't have fever pitch adrenalin at 3D targets. I went to full draw, thinking my window of opportunity would soon be gone, and I let the arrow fly. The bird flip-flopped, and then to my horror, recovered and flew off, arcing back down at 200 yards. I was certain I had a killing shot, but when I found my arrow, it was a pass through shot and a bit far back. We waited half an hour, and then spent the next three and a half hours searching the entire area, but not finding the bird. With the ravined meandering creek, countless drainage swales and thicket patches, that bird could have holed up and expired just about anywhere. As the sun was getting ready to set, I was sick about the loss and humbled at the realization of how much I had yet to learn about turkeys. It was an experience I will not soon forget, and hopefully, will not repeat.

The next day's hunting seemed to have the curse of the Sphinx upon it. I had a long walk to a new stand site in the morning, found it without a hitch, got my dekes set up and got settled in with a thermos of hot coffee and some breakfast kibble. A few gobbles and some hen's yelping at dawn got me hopeful. Then a dog started barking in the woods behind me. He barked and he barked. A big fracas erupted in the woods, and it sounded like the dog had made breakfast out of a turkey. A bunch of feathers blew by me in the wind, and later the dog went running by my decoys. I held tight till 11:30am, then called it quits.

The weather called for thunderstorms, so I decided to quickly relocate my T5 Double Bull Blind to another location, the spot where I shot my turkey last year. Driving to the new spot, I loaded up like a pack mule, climbed a barbwire fence, and began the quarter mile walk in. Some cattle half a mile away saw me, spooked and ran out of sight. The rain was starting to pick up. Arriving at my hunting spot, I set up the blind. Suddenly I heard noises and felt the presence of something behind me. This was a great little location consisting of a small grassy wooded plateau set down from the main field. Looking up, I saw a couple of Black Angus Cows on the hill above me. I waved my arms, lurched forward, and they ran off. As I got my gear ready, the sky opened up and rain started pounding on the roof of the blind, which thankfully was waterproof. No turkey in their right mind would be out in weather like this, but I was determined not to give up, so I started calling. Then I heard those noises again, even over the din of rain pummeling my blind. Peeking out a corner window, I saw not two, but at least THIRTY Black Angus cattle, all coming my way. It was then that I realized that my Double Bull Blind must have looked just like a round hay bale and that the cows were coming to have me for supper. I carefully took hold of the inner poles of the blind, and shook the thing like crazy. The cattle decided that this hay bale was a bit too frisky, and backed away slowly. I';d had enough of rain and cattle, so I gathered my gear to leave, assuming that my popping out of the blind suddenly would scare them away. But no. They were a curious bunch. So, I went "boo-ga-loo!" and danced my feet up and down, waving my arms. To my amazement, one of the cows stamped their hooves, cocked their heads curiously, and stepped closer. I rolled my eyes. I could not believe this was happening. I tried to look more menacing this time, stepping up the animation of my cow dance, but they just mimicked me again. Exasperated, I headed into some thick brush to lose them, but they walked parallel to keep up with me. This was getting comical. I put several large trees between them and me, and finally gave them the slip. Ever hopeful that the next morning's hunt would be cow-less, I marked my way out to the fence line with FireTape and started the long walk back to my truck. Not 50 yards along, I saw my herd of cattle buddies coming my way. Dang. I was busted again. This was turning into a bad dream. You know, those dreams you had as a kid where something is chasing you, but you could only run in slow motion? I walked faster, and as they broke into a full gallop, so did I, ripping off my turkey vest as I feverishly looked for a wide enough fence opening under which to hurl myself to safety.

On the last day, my set-up was in an area where I heard turkeys gobbling the previous day, and I decided to try my Featherflex Mating Jake and Hen decoys that my son bought me for Christmas. They were set at 25 yards and right after dawn, a large hen came snooping around the decoys. This was the same hen that had yelped seductively from the creek bottom the previous morning, luring a couple of strutting gobblers away from my decoy. Boss Hen circled, stood nearby feeding, scrutinizing and keeping a vigilant eye on the mating decoys for fully two hours! At one point she pecked the hen decoy as if to say "Move Along, Sister!". She was obviously waiting for her turn with the plastic jake. It was not until a couple of yellow lab farm dogs came screaming through the area that she boogied off. That same morning, Blaine shot two gobblers within an hour and a half. He had patterned the birds crossing a road and set up in their travel route through a pasture in front of a farmhouse.

I'll say one thing for turkey hunting. I cannot think of another hunting sport where there are so many extremes of agony and ecstasy. Right after killing my first turkey last year, I was so pumped that my legs were like noodles and I practically had to crawl to the bird afterwards. This year, my unfound bird goes down as one of the biggest disappointments of my hunting career. Also, I seem to be much more of a magnet for cows and dogs, than for turkeys, but I must keep in mind, this is only my second year turkey hunting. The group I hunted with had fifteen or so years experience and it will be a long time before I attain their expertise level. And, of course, I brought home one elusive wood tick, whose extraction required myriad contortions and a mirror to remove. Hopefully I won't get tick fever like last year. But this year I did learn how to dance with cows.

Linda's Five Star Rating for Equipment & Hunting with comments:
(note: The following are recommendations, not endorsements)

Kansas Turkey Hunting - Pringle Ranch, affordable self-guided hunts for turkey and deer on thousands of acres of private land. Please say you heard about them from this web site.

J. Richard Pringle
557 Hwy 75
Yates Center, KS 66783
620-625-2098

Double Bull Blinds - available at Cabelas and better hunting goods stores.
(Author has both the T2 and T5 blinds and likes both equally for different uses)

 

© May 2003