It has been a fairly hectic week. I have a group of friends from Canada who come to spend a week hunting turkeys with traditional archery. It is funny to watch spectacular hunters who successfully hunt moose, caribou, elk, deer, bear and other big game with their long bows and recurves get the “shakes” over a turkey. There is high tension when gobblers are 10-15 yards from the blind and gobbling or just looking over the blind and decoys for a reason to be nervous or vacate the place. Their eyesight is so good, and their hearing is so sensitive--it takes precise preparation and performance to successfully harvest a turkey in Kansas. These are some of our best hunting adventures.
My alarm goes off at 4:00 and I get the coffee and breakfast bars going. The guys arrive at the door about 4:30 and we check the weather for temperature and wind. Wind direction is not important-- turkeys don’t use their ability to smell as a defense mechanism like deer. Wind speed IS important-- we stake down our popup blinds, but a 30 mile-per-hour wind can put our little blinds in Nebraska or Oklahoma. Turkeys are also sensitive to wind and are more nervous when they can’t hear effectively. Temperature is important to me-- if it is below 45 degrees I usually get a headache and skip that hunt. Canadians are absolutely immune to cold weather. It must be a congenital defect.
After coffee, we head out to the shelter belts where the turkeys roost. The sounds, smells and sights of rural Kansas in the early morning take our breath. I can sense and share the reverence of these guys for the quiet peacefulness of the early morning in the dark. We use a hoot owl call to locate the birds on their roost. If they hear a owl- they gobble in a knee-jerk response. We set up our popup blind within a hundred yards of the birds roosting in the trees. We are all dressed in black clothing. The inside of our blinds is black. We wear a black hood and face mask. We wear a black glove on the hand holding the bow. We move everything out of the way to be able to draw and shoot through the “see-through” netting that supposedly prevents turkeys from seeing us in the blind. If your face is not covered, or the hand holding the bow is bare, or if your arrows have bright fletchings-- turkeys will see you and leave. Squirrels and other birds cannot see through that netting, but turkeys can. When it is so quiet that you can hear fish swimming in the nearby ponds-- turkeys hear everything. We use mouth, box, or slate calls to make turkey sounds to attract the turkeys. Some use home-made calls constructed from wing bones of turkeys. The turkeys are breeding at this time of year, and a “lonesome hen” call will usually attract a tom or jake to come take a peek and give us a shot. Lots of turkeys have been harvested in this manner. A lot of turkeys have heard clothing rustle, a bow bump a stool or tent support, a cough or just a sudden breath--and have departed so quickly that a shot is impossible. It requires concentrated attention to small details to harvest a turkey with a long bow. That makes for a great hunt.
These visits and hunts are part of the fabric of our life in rurual Kansas. Turkeys seem to be increasing in numbers throughout the state, so the resource is replenishing itself. We have been sharing these hunts for several years now--I can hardly wait for their return next year!