April 17, 2009: As instructed, we packed our bags with a change of hunting clothes waiting on top and our hunting boots and gear readily accessible; we were going to hunt as soon as we met with our guide in Salina, Kansas. After we quickly changed and pulled our gear together we headed out to a leased farm place about 30 minutes North of Salina. Richard and I were put out at one end of the property and Wendy and our guide went to the opposite side. As soon as we pulled into the property we spotted several Toms and a couple hens; one of them strutting. We tried to back out quickly and pull up out of sight so there was a possibility that they would just cross the creek and that would put them on the leased land we were hunting making it an advantage for us. Richard and I quickly got out of the truck pushing the doors too quietly and gathering up our gear. I would be the only one carrying a gun this afternoon. Our Guide gave us a quick “point and whisper” of his property boundary line and a clue as to where the birds usually roosted. We were off across the fence.
We snuck over the first bank of the creek and looked out across the field and saw that the toms had made their way into the field. We decided to go through the creek to the other side and set out a decoy just at the edge of the field of planted wheat. We both grabbed a seat at the base of two trees and Richard made a few soft yelps; no response. We waited about 20 minutes and Richard hit the calls again a little more aggressively; nothing. We waited and finally we got a gobble from the field we were sitting on. The wind was blowing in our face and away from the toms so this made it really hard for Richard’s calling to reach these birds even with a loud call. There were a total of six toms in the field with a couple hens. We decided to pack up the decoy and our gear and walk the tree line on the opposite of the field that the turkeys were in trying to get upwind of them where they could hear Richard’s calling. We spent the next hour creeping just short of a mile up that tree line to the back of the property. We kept our eyes on the toms as we traveled in stealth mode and noticed that some of the toms were working their way across the field toward a thick area of woods.
Once we got to the property line we decided to cross the field and get back into the creek bed to make it easier to slip around. We were finding some really great signs and it was evident that this area was a popular roosting area as the guide had told us. We stopped for a minute trying to come up with a game plan. We decided to sneak out to a point and place a decoy below a terrace staying out of sight of the toms on the field. Richard made a few calls. We had jakes from a field behind us answer. We were sitting there about 25 minutes when Richard slipped up to the top of the terrace and spotted a tom about 300 yards across the field from our location. He made a few calls and the tom headed our way in a pretty good trot and all of the sudden the stopped for no apparent reason. Richard called and he didn’t budge. We noticed two toms coming from the left. Then Richard saw a big tom on the right of the field coming from a point of woods. Richard called and the big tom gobbled. As we were watching to see which direction the big bird was planning on going, I looked over my left shoulder and there were two more toms headed to the first tom that we seen still frozen in the field where he had stopped. It was obvious to see who the dominant tom was as the bird to our right approached the other five birds. I raised my gun up on my shooting stick so I could rest the weight of it because I knew it was going to take a while for these birds to be anywhere near shooting distance and I didn’t want to take the chance of getting busted by raising it when they were closer; there were a lot of eyes headed our way. Richard hit the call a few more times and the dominant tom gobbled. All five birds were perfectly still in the field until that big tom got within 20 yards then the birds went to grazing. Richard called but the toms just were not coming into the decoy. They were about 150-200 yards in the field. Eventually they started walking in different directions and away from us.
When we no longer could see toms in the field we decided to get up and move back down the tree line toward the first spot we set up at. Some of the toms we were just watching went through the tree line into the adjacent field so we thought we might be able to slip up on them. We started our trek in that direction, slowly and meticulously making sure that we traveled as unnoticed as possible. We came to a small open area with planted wheat and made our way quickly across. We started up the tree line making sure not to step on any branches, twigs or knock any low hanging branches; quietly working our way up the tree line. Richard stopped me at an area that was not real dense with brush and told me he was going to sneak out to the edge to see what he could. A few seconds later he motioned for me to come up slowly. There were 14 turkeys out in the pasture at about 100 yards. We made our way back on the other side of the tree line and walked to the first opening in the trees. We knelt and watched turkeys feed and one or two toms strutting. Richard watched 6 of the toms as they made their way to a drainage ditch. Once we were out of the bird’s sight, blocked by the row of trees, we took off running in a bent over fashion to where the trees started to get thick again. Richard was standing at the edge of some trees and I was kneeling down when two toms and a hen walked along the other side of the fence from us. One of the birds let of the birds let out a putt and Richard told me not to move. When the birds got out of sight Richard motioned for me to quickly set up at the base of a small tree because he felt sure that the birds that were just behind us were going to cross through the drainage ditch.
This is where the calamity all begins. One lone tom popped his head around the corner at the head of that ditch. He was walking slowly on other side of the ditch on the high terrace at about 50 yards. Richard said he might be a little too far. He stopped. I noticed he was dark so I was trying to ask if Richard thought he was an Eastern instead of a Rio, but I don’t think he ever heard me. He asked, “Do you want to shoot him.” I asked, “Do you think I should?” Richard said, “Shoot him.” Then as I put the bead on him he started walking again and Richard said, “Wait.” Then Richard let out a putt. The tom stopped, I had the bead lined up just right and I squeezed the trigger. The tom jumped two feet in the air, fell on the ground, started flapping his wing, and running with his legs on air out to the side. I said, “I got him.” Richard said, “Good shot” and took out toward the bird. I stood up walked about 5 yards and looked down to put my gun on safety and I heard Richard say “Son of a Buck”. As I looked up, I watched what unfolded in slow motion something I have never witnessed and for a split second I almost didn’t comprehend.
Richard was high stepping and the next thing I seen was the tom standing up, Richard chasing after it. The bird started to take flight and Richard did the Superman. In the air horizontal to the ground at about two feet, arms outstretched as if he was catching a winning pass in the Superbowl; his fingers just grazing the tail and rump feathers of this tom, feathers flying. Richard hit the ground in a belly-flop manner letting out an “umph”! The bird circled back and took flight. Richard yelled “SHOOT”, but at that precise moment I didn’t feel comfortable shooting so close to where Richard lay flat on the ground. When the bird was about 6 feet above the ground and 15 yards from Richard, I shot. Unfortunately, not thinking in that rushed state, I shot AT the bird instead of shooting a lead on him; the shot totally missed him. I couldn’t take the second shot because he was already over the trees, hitting the ground running in the other pasture. Richard quickly came to the row of trees at the property line and I ran over, reloading the gun the entire time. We knelt down and watched the bird that had gained about 100 yards or better. The tom circled around at over a hundred yards and we watched as he went over a hill and out of sight at about 600 yards.
This was no-doubt disappointing, more so because I hate to know I wounded a turkey. Judging the way he had no problems taking flight and walking without any staggering I felt sure he was going to be fine. What an experience this was and a lesson well learned… “Don’t ever assume a turkey is dead until you have the bird dead in your hands.”
© Nancy Jo Adams 2009