Above: Brandon Butler poses with a gobbler taken on a recent trip to Parsons, Kansas. Photo: Author
Ending the early spring turkey season without taking a gobbler didn’t bother me. Not turkey hunting anymore did. So I packed up and headed to Kansas, where the season stays open a few weeks longer.
Jim Zaleski is the Labette County Convention and Visitors Bureau director, and a good friend of mine. He’s been telling me for years that I needed to come down and turkey hunt with him around Parsons, where he lives. Labette County is in the southeast corner of Kansas, so it is an easy drive from Indiana. Plus, it’s real close to Springfield, Missouri, the home of Bass Pro Shops. The original Bass Pro Shops is worthy of a trip all its own just to see the museums and wildlife displays.
Kansas has great public land and the state’s Walk-in Hunting Access Program is a model for how to provide hunters access to private lands. The state has over one-million acres of private land enrolled in the Walk-in Program, making these private lands available to hunters. Even though I was hunting on a friend’s place, we explored a few public properties in the area. There are a lot of turkeys on those lands.
My hunt started off by looking at a map. I picked a spot where I thought turkeys might be and headed out. At 5:15 in the morning, I stepped into scrubby woods filled with Osage orange trees. Almost immediately, I heard a gobble in the distance. I hightailed it in his direction. It’s amazing how fast one can move through a dense, dark forest when lured by the thunder of a gobbling tom.
As I neared the roost tree, I could hear distinct hen yelps. I knew the big boy was going to follow wherever they flew, and they were on the other side of a swollen creek. I was stuck. My only hope was calling the hens across. I laid out a few soft yelps and a most enticing purr, but to no avail. They pitched into a green field about 150 yards away.
I walked the creek bank until I found a large tree lying across it. I used the natural bridge and made my way to the edge of the woods directly in front of where the boss gobbler was strutting. He had a band of jakes in tow that were doing their best to imitate him. I’d call and they’d all gobble. They were only 60 yards away. I was just messing with them. It was one of those moments I’ll never forget.
There was no hope of calling the gobbler to me, so before he had a chance to get away, I belly crawled out to the flock through soaking wet, three-foot tall grass, until I reached the small bare area they were congregated in. From the prone position, I put the gobbler in my crosshairs and pulled the trigger.
In Kansas, you can kill two turkeys in the same day and I had two tags. The jakes frantically danced around trying to figure out what just happened. I could have rolled one easily and had the first double of my life. But truthfully, shooting again never dawned on me. I was in the moment, and didn’t recall the difference in regulations.
My first turkey hunt in Kansas was great. Now that I know how good the hunting is down by Parsons, Jim is going to have a hard time keeping me away this time each year. And I’m going to apply for a deer license down there next year. You should see some of the bucks in those parts.
As a nonresident, I purchased a Combination Hunt & Fish license for $112.50. I wanted to fish, too, but didn’t get around to it. You must also purchase a turkey permit, which is valid for one bearded turkey for $32.50. Any hunter with a spring turkey permit is eligible to purchase one spring turkey game tag valid only in units 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. A spring turkey game tag costs $22.50 and is valid for one additional bearded turkey.
See you down the trail…