Gear Up For A Killer Kansas Spring Turkey Hunt

Lots of birds. Killer habitat. Cutting-edge gear. When all come together in Kansas, plenty of turkey hunting memories are made.  

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

Lots of birds. Killer habitat. Cutting-edge gear. When all come together in Kansas, plenty of turkey hunting memories are made.  MarkTurk1 900

For a long-awaited spring turkey hunt, this one was beginning a bit strangely. We’d arrived about midday after making the long drive from still-chilly Minneapolis to our quaint camp in sunny east-central Kansas, and after a brief sight-in session—both our Savage shotguns and a couple compound bows—there was time for a quick evening hunt. Nothing unusual there, but once in the blind with a pair of hens and a jake decoy out front, things kind of took a turn toward the weird.

MarkTurk8 900Our Primos Double Bull blind was nestled at the edge of a smallish forest clearing heavily laden with deer sign, and about a half-hour before dark two does—mama and yearling—emerged from our right, their coal-black eyes fixated on our decoys. The ultra-cautious Kansas


whitetails inched closer till they were just a few steps away…then both the lead mature doe and her yearling stretched forward—and licked the nearest hen decoys. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things during my time in the turkey woods, but this was a new one.

MarkTurks12 900Thankfully, on this hunt the local Kansas gobblers would find our hen decoys just as tasty, but our group of veteran turkey hunters would have to work for our encounters. Luckily, we were outfitted for the challenge. One of the primary objectives of this hunt was to test some of the latest new turkey gear, including the Primos Rocker Turkey Vest, every bit as comfortable and gear-toting useful as it appears in the image above, and a stellar performer for the type of run-and-gun approach that dominated much of our hunt.MarkTurk5 900The next morning I was again paired with local turkey fanatic Jim Mersman, and we headed to one of his favorite spots known as the Church property. After about a half-mile hike in darkness


through dew-drenched knee-high grass, a gobbler sounded off on the roost, somewhere to our left along the edge of the huge field we had just crossed. Soon we were ducking into the woods and setting up in a shallow dry creekbed. The 15-foot-wide depression appeared to be a sweet natural funnel off the field.MarkTurk7 900While waiting for first light several more booming gobbles broke the stillness, no doubt from the same fired-up bird we’d left on the field, and at least three more from somewhere behind us—from three separate birds. Things were looking good. After fly down the trio behind us fell silent but we played with the field bird, at one point thinking he was definitely headed in. Then Jim whispered that he could hear drumming and soon after, I could clearly hear turkey footsteps very close … as well as the yelps of his hens somewhere in front of us. But nothing showed. We guessed that field-edge gobbler got a glimpse of our fake jake and for whatever reason exited stage left. A lover not a fighter? MarkTurk3 900While we sat there Jim glassed what he thought was a large shed antler lying on the forest floor somewhat behind us, and he was right. We picked up the large but badly rodent-chewed 8-point shed as we moved on to a higher wooded ridge, and it wasn’t long before we heard another gobble, this one from far below us.3rdDegree900“Sounds like that bird is on the field,” Jim hissed, explaining the area held a mid-sized food plot on the valley floor surrounded by dense timber. We began sneaking downhill instantly, and after some 400 or 500 hundred yards we realized Jim’s guess proved accurate. Still 200 yards from the valley-floor field but on a raised wooded bench some 50 feet higher, I snuck ahead to front the trunk of a large tree while Jim backed up and began calling; through my Bushnell Trophy 8×42 bino I could see the gobbler respond but come only to a half-strut posture, then immediately break out.MarkTurk14 900Instantly seeing our advantage with this apparent love-sick (and lonely) gobbler, I motioned to Jim that I was creeping ahead. I’d need to cover maybe 250 yards to get a shot, but a corridor of thick brush to the left of the plot would at least make it possible … if I could sneak silently and catch a break or two. The crossing of a deep but mostly dry creekbed made things a little testy, but once within 80 yards or so of the bird’s last strut, the woods went silent. Sure enough, on closer inspection, the tom had vanished.HookHunterHero2 900More excitement was on its way, though, and soon. As Jim and I made our way slowly back to the truck we talked intermittently in low whispers, until we came to a spot that to me just screamed “turkeys.” As we walked I let out a loud and raspy/raucous cutting sequence using the new Primos Hook Hunter diaphragm call that I’d instantly liked the very first time I’d run it. GOBBLE-OBBLE-OBBLE-OBBLE! came the reply so loud and so close that both Jim and I jumped. Or at least I did. We scrambled quickly in opposite directions looking for cover; in a panic I settled for a smallish tree and piled up at its base. Another loud gobble and we knew the tom was coming. But from where? The area’s steep rut- and brush-laden terrain not only limited visibility but created a strange echo-chamber effect that had us guessing.  MarkTurks10 900Suddenly, I caught a flash of a bright blue-red gobbler head and then its long black beard, but just briefly. I strained but the steep uphill angle was wrong, and needed him to come just 8 more feet for a “gimme” 20-yard shot. I pointed my Savage 110 custom 12-gauge and got ready but it was not to be. Instead of continuing downhill the tom, shielded just enough by a small rise, must have turned and walked up. Another disappearing act. Regardless, I’d found a new favorite diaphragm call, and then, just a minute or so after the encounter, a consolation prize: the day’s second trophy-class whitetail shed (image above) that had me salivating for fall. MarkTurk9 900The next morning Jim and I would set up in darkness on the same valley-floor field (setup shown above) where we’d spooked the gobbler the previous day, and just after fly-down my Savage 110 bolt-action and Federal 3rd Degree loads worked their deadly magic. The big tom suddenly materialized in full strut, statue-like, along the field edge directly to my left. He was displaying for our lone hen decoy some 20 yards out front of our trusty Primos Double Bull blind. The big bird didn’t know what hit him. A stunning (and well-earned) Kansas Eastern gobbler. MarkTurk2 900For those looking for a new turkey challenge or maybe some cool new terrain, the Jayhawk State and its two-bird limit comes highly recommended. Start your search for ideal habitat with help from the National Wild Turkey Federation’s informative website, where you’ll find everything from seasons and regs for every turkey-hunting state, to helpful and informative how-to hunting articles, upcoming events and conservation projects, and how you can become a NWTF member. For 2018 Kansas is offering a turkey archery season that runs April 9-17; the state’s 2018 regular spring season runs April 18 to May 31.



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