Laid-back side of turkey hunting

There was a time when I absolutely attacked spring turkey hunting. Unable to draw permits in Kansas for several years I got my start deep in the Missouri Ozarks, walking and calling from ridge to ridge from before daylight until shooting hours ended at noon.

I covered much more ground on all day hunts in places like the New Mexico mountains, the Black Hills , Florida swamps and the big canyon country of western Oklahoma in following years.

Wednesday I barely covered a mile of real estate, including the walk in to where I actually called. Less time marching meant more time relaxing. The gobbler I walked out with was just as dead and will be just as delicious as any from the aggressive hunts from the past.

I was up vising friends in Mitchell County to enjoy some different scenery for the opening of turkey season.

Birds they have plenty of, places to hide an approach or sitting hunter…not so much.

My favored way to set-up has always been simply sitting with my back against a tree and trying to call an ol’ longbeard to within 15 or so yards at open, eyeball level. Since trees sprouted too far down the very steep creek bank I had to carry in a pop-up blind.

In the morning I’d dueled with four longbeards that wouldn’t cross to my side of the creek. As they walked off gobbling I figured they may have been intimidated by my aggressive calling and/or a full-strut decoy.

I returned from another direction at 3 p.m. and set-up about 200 yards from the morning’s hunt. Decoys were just a plain hen and a jake I’d placed in a horizontal, non-threatening pose.

The first gobbles came from the southwest at about 4:30. A few years ago I’d have baled out of the blind and headed in that direction and hit the birds with aggressive cutting and long strings of yelps. Yesterday I gave a few yelps. When the toms gobbled a reply I tossed out some mild cutting (quick, excited yelps) and relaxed.

I only called when they gobbled. At 5 they came into sight from the northwest. It took them 15 minutes to come the final 50 yards.

For the sake of nostalgia I was carrying the same Remington 870 I used with my first Missouri bird back in 1980. Wednesday’s three-year-old tom was about 22 yards. His beard was about 9 1/2 inches. The spurs were an even inch and I’d guess he weighed 18-20 pounds. Just a nice, mature Kansas Rio Grande.

There was a time when I’d rushed the bird to the truck and headed to town to show-off. Wednesday I sat down and slowly ate an orange and finished off a bottle of water before the haul-out.

I drove around to scout some new areas and found a flock headed towards an easy set-up spot where a hay meadow funneled them past a flowering wild plum thicket.  Unlike in the past I wasn’t even tempted to stash the truck and take a second gobbler.

At my friend’s place I cleaned the bird while sipping a Corona. I had another while we ate snacks for dinner and talked outside until well after dark.

Except for hunts with my kids, I can’t say I’ve had many turkey hunting days end with more satisfaction.