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As all of us converged upon the lodge of Misty Morning Outfitters in Alden, Kansas, we were chomping at the bit to get in the fields hunting some birds. When we were sitting around the fire pit the first evening, we found out we would be hunting by a method none of us had ever experienced….FANNING aka REAPING, a term the Turkey Reapers had coined for this style of hunting through their hunting tactics. I was excited about the challenge, however I was also somewhat nervous. My Beretta Xtreme was set up to be effective for extended range shots, not rushed close range shots.
Our first morning started off a traditional turkey hunt with locating a bird that our guide had roosted the evening prior. Mister stepped out of the truck and let out a owl hoot and the silent, moisture thick air was cut with a hard gobble in return. We all scrambled! Troy, our guide, was gathering up decoys from the back of his truck and was headed about 80 yards into the field just off the road to set up decoys. Mister grabbed his backpack, video camera, tripod and chair as Rebecca and I loaded our shotguns, slung on our turkey vests and followed in right behind Mister. We quickly found us some trees to nest up against.
Troy and the gobbler rallied back in forth for the next hour, but the tom never did commit to coming into the field in front of us. The tom stayed on the property behind us at about 80-100 yards…property we did not have permission to hunt. We finally called the hunt in this spot, pulled up the decoys, gathered our gear and headed back to the truck. As we drove by the field that was behind us, we had the opportunity to see this tom and his hens. This would not be the last time one of the Ladies in Camo hunters would tangle with this bird; read Rebecca Gicewicz’s guest post to see how she saw this bird up close and personal.
After riding around for several hours we did spot some toms in a field and tried our skill at “Reaping” but because there were four of us, one fan and a lot of cow pasture to cover, we were not successful. I did get a taste of what to expect for the rest of the hunt: staying low, single file, crawling, kneeling, peeking and waiting.
Unlike any turkey hunting I have ever experienced, Reaping is an intense and aggressive hunt. A lead person holds a full strut tom decoy that has been altered with a handle and stake so that the person can easily hold the decoy in front of them as they crouch their head below the full tail fan and peek through the fan. The crawling, crouching, long shuffles to cover the distance to where the toms will see your lifelike decoy and take an interest is exhausting at times. Add to that, we were hunting in hilly terrain that I was not accustom to. The excitement and rush make all the effort worth every minute of the challenge–I was hooked.
After lunch, our group was split up and I was hunting with Matt as my guide and Mister behind the camera. We rode around for several hours glassing birds but most were in areas we did not have access too. We finally found a tom in an alfalfa field and we strategically closed the ground on him to get within 80 yards of him. I was on the edge of the field on a downward slope and Matt was behind the decoy working the tom closer to us. The tom had a hen with him and came within 70 yards of us but lost interest and walked back to the hen. We backed out once the bird was out of sight and decided we would come back later in the afternoon and see if this tom circled back through there. He didn’t, so we decided this would be the perfect spot for a morning hunt.
We returned to that field the next morning but never heard or saw a bird. After sitting in that spot until 8:30 a.m. we called the hunt and rode around a while seeking other birds. Several hours passed and we were on our drive back to the lodge when we saw a tom and several jakes in a small cutover ag field. Matt wheeled into the long driveway and spoke with the farmer who granted us permission to hunt the birds on his property that was on both sides of the road. We drove half the distance of the driveway and attempted a stalk on these birds by taking advantage of three short silos. Once we got to the silos, Matt crawled out on his knees just after telling me to stay tight to the silo, be ready and when he said shoot step out and be prepared to acquire my target and shoot. As he crawled out, the adrenaline I was feeling sneaking up the drive had my heartbeat blaring loudly in my ears. I heard Matt say, “They are coming. They are coming. Be ready!” I clicked my safety off. I didn’t know if two or all were coming, nor did I know if the Tom was in tow…phew, it was an intense moment as I played my role over in my head…step out, acquire target quickly and shoot!
As luck would have it, only two jakes came into the trickery of the bobbing and spinning decoy and didn’t even come straight to the decoy. They cut to the left and decided to come from behind the silos into the tom. Matt whispered to me that they were circling around so I quickly turned and repositioned myself for the shot in that direction. I caught a glimpse of one bird and it was a jake. The second bird came in and bumped the first so I had a pretty good idea that this was also a jake. We were able to back out from those birds and get back to the truck without spooking them.
The hens, jakes and one tom headed across the road and we were strategizing how to get into that pasture in front of them. We drove up the road to a higher advantage point where we were able to glass the birds and find out where they were going. Mister stayed at the truck as Matt and I went over the fence, into the pasture after this tom. Matt was carrying the reaping decoy and we were able to quickly get to the vicinity of the birds and we were lucky to have several cedars and some trees to use to our advantage. As I looked back toward the vehicle, I watched as Mister was scanning the pasture above us. I saw him look in my direction through the binoculars and when he saw that I was looking back at him, he made a sign for us to go back down low and around a little pond, he was seeing birds there, no doubt.
We had two jakes come into Matt’s calling and they didn’t commit when they saw the decoy…I had no plans on shooting a jake so we let them walk back into the woods without further pursuing. We heard a good mature tom gobble up above the pond so we quickly got up and took off in that direction. We were in a bottom and Matt made some yelps and on the terrace above another good mature gobble shook the air. We quickly climbed the hill, Matt with the decoy and fan in front of him and me glued directly behind him as if we were one unit, we were able to get to the top of the terrace when Matt saw the tom.
Being a turkey hunter, I have to be honest and tell you staying directly behind the decoy person, not being able to look around and size up the tom for myself was the hardest thing to do. I tried a few times and Matt caught me, growling under his breath, “BE STILL!” I did get a peek at the bird as it turned to walk in another direction and I saw beard…long beard. I could not tell if it were five inches or 10 inches but at this point I committed myself to take a shot at this bird.
Matt asked, “You ready?” I kneeled on my knees with my butt on my heels, clicked my safety off, shouldered my gun with the barrel pointed at the ground and said, “Yes!” I could only imagine this is what a bull rider feels like when the gate man asks that question…I had NO CLUE what was about to unfold, but I knew that this performance was up to me. Matt ducked and rolled to the left as I shot up onto my knees, quickly acquired where that tom was and I placed the bead midway down his neck and squeezed off my gun, expecting to follow up with a second shot. The first flipped the bird and he didn’t flop. I said, “GOT HIM!” as I stood up. Matt finally unfolded from his half fetal position on the ground and got up and said, “Oh yeah! Awesome!”
What a rush! I can’t tell you what part of that moment made it more exciting, not seeing the bird until the fan was moved, having to quickly acquire my target and shoot or the fact that we were slipping around in the wide open in stealth mode behind this decoy completely fooling the keen eyesight of this tom. My second Rio Grande was in the bag! I danced in the Land of Oz and I was now one bird away from my second Grand Slam.
For me, this hasn’t been a very successful turkey season. With spending the least amount of time ever spent spring turkey hunting in the woods, my lack of success was to be expected. As I scroll through social media and see all the successful harvests at each of the outfitters that we are traveling more than 15 hours to hunt with, I have high hopes that my luck will change at the two Ladies in Camo turkey hunts we are about to spend the next seven days hunting. Six ladies from four different states are converging upon Misty Morning Outfitters in Kansas to hunt Rio Grand turkey, and four are traveling on to The Roost in Nebraska to hunt Merriam’s turkey.
Rebecca, from Florida, is traveling with us…asleep in the back seat of Cletus as I type this entry. Kim and Marla are traveling together from Illinois. Sherry and Connie are traveling together from Michigan. None of us “NEW” to turkey hunting, however, this is Connie’s first guided outfitter hunt; this will be Rebecca’s 2nd and 3rd bird and species as she recently harvested her first turkey, an Eastern in Alabama; and Kim and Marla were just in the woods turkey hunting this past weekend.
I have been fortunate enough to have hunted some place at a point in time with each of these women, except Connie. I am looking forward to gaining a new hunting friend. It has been nearly eight years since I have hunted with Sherry, who attended my very first hunt I organized. It has been nearly four years since I have hunted with Marla and just last September that I hunted with Rebecca and Kim. I feel blessed to be able to call these ladies friends.
My plan is to share as much of this hunt with all of my blog followers and subscribers, as well as my social media friends and followers. I will post some contributed blog entries and photos from the ladies attending this hunt if they wish to contribute. Look for stories of our travels, our good times at the lodge, photos and tales from the hunt, and of course, all the shenanigans. Check out the Ladies in Camo and Life in Camo Facebook page, search the hashtags #LICMMO16 and #LICTheRoost16 in social media to keep up with posts from the Ladies in Camo Kansas and Nebraska turkey hunts.
As we are rolling through north central Oklahoma, crossing over into Kansas, with just two more hours of travel, my mind is already on the turkey hunt…wishing these ladies the best of luck in the coming days.
I hope we ALL have the opportunity to “dance with a fist full of feathers!”
What a fun time had by all this past weekend at the 2nd Annual Ladies in Camo Rio Grande Turkey Hunt in Okemah, Oklahoma. D and Carlee Magness were our gracious hosts for this hunt and Shug Smith, Todd Magness and Hunter Magness were nice enough to volunteer as guides for some of the women.
Saturday mornings weather was much milder than Friday. The wind had died down considerably and the morning started off around 30 degrees; burning off quickly to a mild high 70s. The morning was rather quiet and Richard and I had not heard a turkey in any direction our entire hunt. Checking in with everyone, that seemed to be the consensus. Richard and I finally decided to walk some of the property scouting for signs.
I had one of the scariest moments I have experienced while scouting for turkey; short of the timber rattler that I came within 2″ of stepping on in Alabama pre-season two years ago. Richard was going to the edge of a field to glass the field: having to walk down through a creek bottom and up the other side. I stayed behind with the camera and other gear. I set my turkey stool up and sat down on it giving my shoulders a rest from my heavy turkey vest that was carrying some extra gear and setting my shotgun across my lap to rest my shoulder. I had just taken a drink from my water bottle when I caught movement and heard rustling leaves about 30 yards to the right of me on the edge of the other bank.
As my eyes finally settled in on the movement I realized it was a coyote; a very fat one. I watched the coyote as it picked its path down to the edge of the water in the creek bottom. It had not yet crossed my mind that it was going to come across on the same path that Richard took to walk across the creek and up the embankment on the other side. But that, my friends is exactly what this coyote decided to do.
The trail led directly to me, in fact, I was sitting smack dab in the middle of this trail on my turkey stool. The coyote jumped the stream of water, trotted up the embankment and at the exact moment that I realized I was about to come nose to nose with this coyote as soon as it came over the embankment, I hurried to my knees and raised my arms in the air making a noise. The coyote came to an abrupt stop at exact eye level with me and 15 feet from me. The coyote jumped to the right quickly and ran back down to the water and shot up the creek, never to be seen or heard again. As the coyote jumped broadside, it dawned on me then that this was a pregnant coyote.
Of course shooting it never crossed my mind, one because I did not have my ESP ear protection in and two, for a more personal reason–I don’t eat coyote. This would have been the perfect coyote for a predator hunter to have taken because she was pretty close to birthing some pups from the looks of her swollen belly and ample milk supply. Had this coyote threatened me or had me cornered, I would not have had a problem shooting her regardless. Whew, that was scary and too close for comfort. On our way back into town after our hunt we found a cow and calf wandering aimlessly on the dirt roads…of course I had to make Richard stop and get them in a fence.
While he was cattle rustling, I found the cutest set of bird prints in the road that looked like miniature turkey tracks, so of course, I had to have a picture of it.
After our morning hunt, the women started congregating at the Kellogg’s Cafe aka K-Bar Cafe. As we were placing orders, I asked if anyone had heard from Pat and Tammie and nobody had. Tommie Lea returned to the table and asked if I had heard from Pat and I said no. A big smile crept over Tommie Lea’s face and she asked “so you don’t know that she got her one?” I said “NO! Did she really?” Tommie Lea affirmed that. I was so excited. This meant that Pat only needed ONE MORE bird for her TRIPLE WORLD SLAM. One Osceola is all she lacked. I could not wait to hug her neck.
After eating brunch at K-Bar some of us returned to the hotel to retire for a while. The plans were to take some photos at 2:30 p.m. then everyone was going to head to the woods for an afternoon hunt.
Richard and I were going to be hunting some new ground for my afternoon hunt. Actually a huge hill, a power line and pasture land. The birds were tight-lipped and we didn’t see much sign so we called the hunt early and went back to the hotel to prepare some things for the evenings wild game cookout.
When everyone returned from the hunt we congregated at Okemah Lake for a dinner of grilled bacon wrapped red stag, Wild Turkey marinated bacon wrapped duck breast, gator/pork sausage, venison sausage, bratwurst, and cream cheese stuffed jalapeño peppers. We also had potato salad, grilled potatoes, onions, bell peppers, venison summer sausage, crackers, various chips, a veggie tray, cookies, homemade chocolate-toffee saltine candy, and red velvet cupcakes. Everything was absolutely divine, I just wish I could have eaten another plate…
Several of the women were going out to hunt a short hunt on Sunday morning before the drive home. Richard and I had decided to sleep the extra 2 hours and then hit the road early since we had plans to stop in West Memphis for a late lunch with a new hunting friend. We had the best time with this group during the weekend and the volunteer guides were fantastic. A big thanks to D and Carlee Magness for hosting this hunt again this year and to all the great guides and land owners for making our hunt another great event. One bird was harvested this year and several were seen but the fellowship was priceless and more memories were made. I can’t wait for the next hunt to have the opportunity to be with this group again.