Spring turkey season opened in Kansas on April 1. There are some other things that happen about this time every year also. The morel mushrooms start to appear and they are one of the finest delicacies in the world. A secret spot to collect those mushrooms is a treasure far beyond money. The other thing that happens is that the asparagus in my garden starts to push its head up through the crowns of last year. It is a gastronomical extravaganza that doesn’t last very long-- but it is elegant eating for a few weeks. Sandra makes a asparagus soup that is to die for.
Turkeys are unique and special birds. They are starting the breeding process, and it is legal only to harvest male birds. That is not exactly true-- a hen turkey with a beard is also legal. About 10% of hen turkeys have a visible beard. In the fall turkey season, birds of either sex can be taken.
I am always excited about this time of year. I have a group of Canadian friends that are traditional archery hunters who come to visit and hunt for a week or so. They are here now and we have had a terrific visit and hunt. They always remove their shoes when they come in the house. That is a tradition that I learned to respect when I visited them-- and something all of us should remember if we travel to Canada. Being civilized comes in many forms.
There are five species of wild turkeys in America. The Merriam, Rio Grande, Osceola (or Florida), Eastern, and Gould that is in the southwest and Mexico. Rio Grande is the main breed in the western 2/3 of Kansas, and eastern turkeys are in the eastern counties. The species inter-breed and there are a few counties with Rio/Eastern hybrids.
Archery has played an important role in the success of the turkey program in Kansas. The birds were re-introduced into Kansas in the 1960s. The first fall season was in 1979 and was a “archery only” season that lasted 16 days. It was estimated that 37 turkeys were harvested. The first firearm season was in 1981. It lasted 9 days and started right after the archery season. Now it is possible to get multiple permits and the seasons average about 100 days which is a huge testimonial to the vision and success of the stocking process. Our Wildlife/Parks people do a terrific job.
I have had to purchase a “senior citizen” lifetime hunting license. When that idea was first introduced, I was a bit angry since I had bought licenses all those years and had been exempt for a few. What this program does is make Kansas eligible for matching funds from the sale of guns and ammunition. That keeps the fees for our kids and grandkids at a lower rate-- and if facts be known, the most avid hunters and fishermen I know are senior citizens that have time to be out and about. It was a wise decision by the dept. and will make Kansas better for our younger hunters who have to struggle to find time and buy tags.
Nearly everyone sees turkeys all the time. They are a terrific bird and give us lots of fun and food. Get out and check them out!
Doc Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusia