Turkey seasons begin Monday…check out these spurs

A lot of hunters judge a tom’s trophy quality by the length of its beard, but most longtime, well-travel sportsmen, know it’s a bird’s spurs that best bespeak its age and dominance.

Any turkey hunter worth his best box call has been counting the days until Monday for several months. April 1 is the traditional opener for youth, disabled and archery turkey hunters. Shotgun season begins April 10, always the second Wednesday of the month, and both seasons end May 31.

Most people think bird numbers are up over much of the state, though some regions are still rebuilding after several bad hatches beginning about six years ago. Around the Wichita area a lot of outdoors folks have reported seeing a lot of yearling jakes. Though many hunters prefer to reserve their tags for an older longbeard, the mobs of jakes this spring gives added promise for next season when the birds are hard-gobbling, call-charging two-year-olds.

There are certainly some trophy-class birds waiting to be called or decoyed. I photographed a great tom with spurs as long as golf tees but as wicked as shark’s teeth, Wednesday morning in Butler County. To the hardcore gobaholic such birds are called limbhangers, meaning the spurs are good enough to suspend the bird upside-down from a tree limb.

On and off winter weather of the past few weeks seems to have confused the birds a bit but only a few days of warm weather will get toms and hens moving out and about. Kansas annually produces some of the best turkey hunting in the nation, and the annual success rate usually above 50 percent is almost always  near the top for all 49 states with spring seasons.

A flock of young jake turkeys strut in a snowy field in Chase County Wednesday morning. Biologists think recent cold and snow may have the birds still lingering in winter patterns.