We drove through sun, rain, and wind. As we arrived, the national weather service issued a sever thunderstorm watch for the area. We quickly unloaded and headed out to the farm where I had shot my two birds the year before. The area we set up in had a couple well used roost trees where we hoped a big gobbler would head towards late in the day.
When trying to screw on the fan of our tom decoy, the 40 mile per hour wind snapped the holder in half and our week of hunting was off to a rough start. Just minutes after our decoy incident, the skies turned dark and opened up. The wind whipped, rain blew sideways, and we endured pea-sized hail. Welcome to Kansas! The storm didn't last long and the sun quickly came out, but the wind kept howling. Our evening ended uneventfully except for a monster non-typical 7 point shed on our walk out.
The next morning we headed to an 80 acre piece of public ground that we had spotted some birds on during our trip out the day before. We let out an owl hoot, and the corner of a wheat stubble field erupted with gobbles. With the wind still blowing, we fought setting up the blind quietly just 50 yards from the roosted birds. We locked the blind down with 8 stakes and crawled into it. Every tree yelp was answered with a thundering gobble. As the sun began to rise, the first bird left her overnight perch. She flew just over the top of the blind and landed just 30 yards away. When her outstretched wings calmed, she sprinted nearly 200 yards across the field away from us. No big deal, just one bird right? Just second after, the sky turned black with over 50 birds either flying all the way across the field to her or pitching nearing us and hitting the ground springing away. Talk about frustration and disappointment! We expected the birds to pitch into the field they were along, and they did, but we never expected them to act like Olympic sprinters. The birds quickly vacated the field and headed up the hill into a pasture.
That afternoon, we set up near the same roost. Birds that are flocked up this early in the season are usually patternable and tend to do the same thing day after day. We expected them to enter the field late in the afternoon and head to their trees just before dark. Just as we expected, the birds came down out of the pasture shortly after we got set up. The started right towards us but just as they were closing in, they began to make a large circle around our blind and disappear around a point that extended into the field we were in. Yelps and gobblers constantly filled the air until just minutes before dark. That evening, we heard more than 30 birds fly up to roost 200 yards from where they were the previous morning. We didn't know if it was the decoys they didn't like, or the blinds, but this was the second hunt that something seemed wrong.
We knew approximately where the birds were as we headed out the next morning. After back-to-back hunts of being school by a big flock of Rio Grands, we decided to go without decoys and let the birds do their own thing. Gobbles exploded from the corner of the field we had heard the birds roost the night before. We set the blind in the middle of the field 60 yards from the edge where the birds were located. Just like the morning before, the first bird pitched shortly before the sun started to peek over the horizon. This time, the first hen went to the complete opposite direction of us. A few others followed her into a wheat field, while the rest either pitched down into the draw next to the field, or flew up the hill directly into the pasture. 0/4!
These birds were unpredictable and smart. We were now beginning to thing the decoys weren't the problem, but maybe it was the blinds. I’ve always read that bow hunting turkeys can be done in a blind set without a tree in site. As long as you watch your silhouette and wear black inside, the turkeys could care less.
The next day was just like the days before. The birds roosted in another location and pitched away from us. Anytime a few would break off and head our direction, they would either circle around us, or turn away from our blind. Apparently, we were hunting turkeys that are unlike any others that have ever been hunted before. The blind in the open was definitely not working!
Luckily, we had a backup plan…the Benellis! Our final day was the opening day of gun season. We had birds located the night before and we set up within 100 yards of the roost. Just as the previous 3 days, they didn't pitch to our setup and wouldn't respond to the calls. With only a couple hours of hunting left in our trip, we had no choice but to put on a stalk. The terrain was rolling and filled with knee to waist tall switchgrass and cedar trees. It was perfect for what we had to do to cut these birds off. After 200 yards and an hour of belly crawling, hiding behind trees, and hand signals we broke a tom away from the flock and he was headed up the hill where we were positioned. In typical turkey fashion, the bird made a last second move and turned to the opposite side of the cedar we were hiding on. Instead of him heading to the side my buddy was on, he was now headed to my side. Like I said earlier, my goal for this trip was to get my buddy his Rio. I didn't want to shoot the bird, but it didn't appear like I was going to have a choice since the bird was going to be 20 yards from me in clear view. Luckily, Josh was able to quietly part some cedar branches and prepared for a shot through a tiny opening in the tree. The gobbler finally peaked his head above the hill and the Benelli barked. The bird dropped in his tracks and our hunt was a success! Hunt after hunt of bad luck and bad weather was quickly forgotten as we stood over a gorgeous 20+ lbs bird.
This was by far and away the toughest series of hunts I have ever been on. Nearly every hunt took place with the wind blowing over 40mph and gusting to nearly 60. Temperatures ranged from 11 degrees to 71 degrees. We had rain, hail, and snow, but our persistence paid off. Our quest for the two man grand slam can continue next year with a trip to Florida!