My husband and I turned right and headed down the dusty dirt road toward Angie and Troy Kjellberg’s home in Mitchell County, Kansas, hosts of the 2nd Annual WomenHunters Turkey Hunt. We were all excited about this year’s hunt as several WomenHunters staffers from all over the United States were expected as well as the Executive Director, Sue Burch, and her husband Danny. Little did we know, as the thermometer crept toward 90 degrees, that this afternoon’s hunt would be the coolest day of our four-day hunt.
Extremely warm temperatures over the next several days, with forecasters predicting temps into the 90’s and winds from 30 to 40 mph, presented problems. In addition, turkey season had opened several weeks before our arrival and we’d been informed the birds we’d be hunting had been pursued, called to and even shot at. This hunt was sure to be a challenge.
Our first morning out, we setup early on the east side of a creek bed between two wheat fields. We placed three Montana Decoys in the field (two jakes and a full strut Tom) in hopes of infuriating the Boss Tom and drawing him in closer to inspect the situation. At dawn we realized our first error – the turkeys were gobbling from the west side of the creek bed opposite our position, quickly ignoring our yelps and moving further west and away from us. We adapted by instantly grabbing our decoys and heading south along the creek bed, choosing to cross roughly 100 yards away in hopes of re-locating the turkeys on the west side.
Our plan worked, however our hearts sank as we observed the Boss of the field parading about encircled by five hens. We setup and called, but to no avail. The winds were blowing into our faces, carrying our desperate calls behind us, and the Boss was content right where he was anyway. We watched, hoping to pattern them for later.
We returned in the afternoon to the same field and spotted several hens. I had a close two-foot face-to-face encounter with one old hen and we enjoyed observing several others, but no Toms.
We setup the second morning, sure we’d intercept the "Boss". Unfortunately we spent the morning observing once again as the turkeys traveled north instead of south like they had the previous day. Never had we spent so much time in the turkey woods glassing and patiently observing. We realized glassing would be key to our success this year, whereas last year we used effective calling and decoying. Taking into account the hot and windy weather and the educated birds we pursued, we simply altered our tactics. This year a combination of glassing, patterning and setting up a good ambush were crucial. After two full days spent watching, we agreed on a plan for our final morning.
We arrived in the dark and crept along the fence line mid-field to a point we’d seen the turkeys travel past each of the two previous mornings. We quickly setup, myself positioned furthest south, and my husband behind me to the north ready to capture the hunt on video.
As if on cue, the sky brightened and a big ‘ol "Garobble, obble,obble" erupted directly across the field from us. We smiled! My heart began beating in anxious anticipation. I loaded my Thompson Center Encore 12-gauge with Winchester Supreme 3-inch 6’s…the same shells I used the previous year on both my trophies. Moments later, we heard a fly-down, then another and many more. We shot questioning glances at one another; curious to see just how many would emerge from the creek bed. Our eyes grew wide as the Boss emerged, followed by ten, yes ten, hens. They headed directly to the middle of the wheat field, and then turned slightly south, skirting us by 75 yards. Suddenly we spotted two more gobblers and one hen across the field. They joined the others, and all the hens fed, the Toms strutted and two of them bred. We patiently watched and filmed, certain we’d picked a spot that would guarantee a shot…eventually.
Several hens moved closer to within 50 yards and fed some more. One Tom (not the Boss, but still a nice mature bird) headed in our direction strutting along the field edge. At 30 yards, my heart thumping wildly in my chest, I cocked my Encore 12-gauge and placed the bead at the base of his flaming red neck. I followed him along, mentally checking off the yardages as he moved closer. At 25 yards, he stopped and popped up his head and I fired my Encore.
Down he went as I simultaneously jumped up and ran to him. YES! I’d hunted hard and patiently waited for my reward, which finally came on my last day of hunting, just hours before heading home to Wisconsin.
I’d shot my 2nd Rio, another 2 year old bird, but this one with an 8-inch beard, ¾" spurs and weight of 18 lbs.
© May 2004