With the over expansion of youth sports, introducing kids to the outdoors is very difficult. We are as guilty as any parents by enrolling our kids in as many activities as possible. Competitive football and baseball can easily chew up 6 months out of a year. Getting time off from those activities to get in the outdoors with good weather conditions is a roll-of-the-dice.
A light April baseball schedule was helpful to allow us a couple weekends to get in the woods if Mother Nature would cooperate. We are fortunate to have some places that we can go with good numbers of deer and turkeys. Navigating school and baseball, we did our best to capitalize during the youth season, but a one close call was all we got. Fanning turkeys with a nine year old toting a gun that weighs as much as him was giving us a tussle, but we gave it a try.
As luck would have it, we spotted a good flock of birds. They were in a great position for the both of us to get in close and see if they would charge the Heads Up Turkey Decoy. As we positioned ourselves with the decoy in front, I whispered instructions and updates to Kaleb who was at my side. I let out a few hen calls. The toms, not far away, went into full strut. It was a calm quiet evening, so we could hear them spitting and drumming below our position. As the toms juked and jived, there actions made it difficult to see them from our location. We tried to remained patient, hoping we'd see a red head pop up from the grass in front of us.
Our patience...well...my patience began to waver and I decide we should move ahead and take a peek. As Kaleb and I moved ahead, I of course spotted 3 long beards coming up the slope. Unfortunately, they had worked to our left. It is hard to say how long they were there, but we quickly shifted our bodies to get an angle on the birds. As the toms stood wondering if they should strut or run, I asked Kaleb if he was on one and if so, SHOOT. BOOM!!! A single shot disrupted an otherwise perfectly still Kansas evening. All hell broke loose, turkeys flying everywhere. Not sure how so many could be so close without seeing them. As we stood and trotted in the toms' direction, we quickly realized we had a swing and a miss. No birds were harmed, but we certainly gave them a big scare.
Like any good dad, I told my dejected son that it was no big deal that he missed. Just because that tom had a 14 inch beard and 2 inch spurs, it was nothing to hang his head about. As we took turns jabbing each other about the miscue, he asked about the shells he was using because apparently, on the shot, it rolled him on his can. I confessed to slipping in a 3" mag instead of the agreed upon 2 3/4 lighter load.
A week to 10 days later, we had the weekend off from baseball. The weather was brutally windy, but we had turkey tags to fill. It was a Friday and after school we headed to a known location out of the wind where turkeys liked to frequent before their journey to the roost. We arrived in plenty of time. I placed the Heads Up Tom Turkey Decoy out in front of us using the ground stake and a couple low budget hen decoys as an accent. With the wind conditions and the lack of activity, boredom set in. Fresh out of optimistic encouragement, I gave in after several long series of complaining. I gathered our things and we headed to the truck.
Once back to the truck, I recommended not giving up on the evening. If we give up, we will not have a plan for the morning. Kaleb agreed and we went to have a peek at a small pasture with a dry creek running through it. As the season progresses, there are occasionally some birds using it. If we were lucky, there could be a chance for a morning roost hunt if we could put some birds to bed.
As luck would have it, we quickly located some turkeys. We sat and watched several toms strutting and bickering amongst each other...not a hen in sight. The wind was brutal. 30-40 with gusts close to 50. The birds were holding low and tight to the dry creek bed so when they were strutting they would not get toppled over by the wind. As the evening sun fell below the horizon, the birds, one by one, headed to roost. We took a couple mental notes and eased out full of hope for what the morning had to bring.
The wind was unrelenting throughout the night with no let up in the forecast and a full moon to boot. I felt the need to wake up extra early to give us plenty of time to find our ambush spot that provided wind protection for our decoys, but good visibility for the toms to see us once they pitched down. With the wind howling, there was little concern of being heard. The shadows and the protections of the many trees along the dry creek would provide ample cover as we sneaked into our spot. Our only true obstacle would be crossing the fence to get into the pasture.
This fence has gotten the better of me on several occasions during daylight hours. It's barbed, tight, and electric. It's charged me on two separate occasions. I am pretty sure that when it hits you, passers by could see your skeleton. My latest encounter, I am pretty sure I blacked out for an instant and I rolled down the ditch. Kaleb saw it and was like...Dad, you okay? Not knowing how I ended up on my back, I said yeah. I'm fine. Don't tell your mom.
The fence prove to be a non factor this morning. With all our gear, we sneaked down the dry creek bed towards the roosted birds hoping to find that ideal sweet spot that is close, but not too close. A place to set up the decoys and a place to hide. Having gotten as close as I felt comfortable, I sat my gear down to survey the perfect spot. A small bend in the creek opened up a low, but flat area with plenty of space with good visibility for us and an approaching tom. Many of the cottonwoods along the creek are huge. Throw in some small cedar trees and you have some great hiding.
Getting up extra early proved to be key, because I was not able to relocate my gear in the dark shadows of the trees. There were some tense moments until I tripped over my pack. Once all our gear was at our set up, I placed the Heads Up Tom Turkey Decoy on the ground stake facing the direction I anticipated the birds to be coming from. The wind was blocked just enough to provide movement to the decoy, but not send it to Nebraska. I also set up two low budget hen decoys for added enticing.
There was an enormous cottonwood with a comfy spot next to it. Kaleb sat between my legs. A perfectly placed deadfall was covering our front making a perfect gun rest. He was warm and comfortable. I was hopeful. We sat and chatted about possible scenarios, playing out an ideal approach of the birds or if they came from this or that angle what to do. Kaleb asked about the shell I put in the chamber and if it was one of the 2 3/4 inch shells he requested. Like any good dad, I said yes...but slipped in another 3 inch mag.
Morning roost hunts are as much about hearing the gobbling on the roost as anything. Unfortunately, the 30-40 mph winds pretty much muffled that. All we could hope for is to see them fly down and maybe see them out in the short pasture grass.
The morning light filled our setting. With the wind making it difficult to hear and our somewhat low position, we sat patiently hoping something would appear. The birds were not holding tight to the creek as I had hoped. Instead, they pitched far from the creek and worked there way up a high ridge in the pasture. I was fortunate to catch one of their red heads just on the backside of the ridge. I called to the best of my ability. They had heard my yelps and were gobbling like crazy. Back and forth they worked staying high on the ridge. I was not optimistic this hunt was going to work out.
As we watched them disappear, then reappear, then disappear again, I told Kaleb that I think they got the better of us this morning but we can sit for 15 more minutes just in case. Well, it did not take long and the 3 toms reappeared...and with a little more focus on our position. Now, I seldom nail a morning roost set up, but I think this one turned out to be one of those I got right. The birds could easily see the Heads Up Tom Turkey Decoy from the ridge. As they moved along the ridge the giant cottonwood tree we were using for cover blocked our view of the birds. They got quiet and I could not see them on either side of the tree. I told Kaleb to be ready. Sometimes when they get quiet, that means they are coming. Before I could finish my sentence, Kaleb whispered...THERE THEY ARE! They were close and they were charging in shoulder to shoulder. Down the creek bank they came. They crossed and the first tom cleared the brush at 8 steps and BOOM! A kids first turkey flopped in our spread. We were happy campers.