Thirteen-year-old Cael Austin and his dad Jason were hunting northwest of McPherson on the opening evening of Kansas youth turkey season, and had set up along one of several wheat fields, calling every few minutes hoping to attract the attention of roaming gobblers.
After a time, they moved, sat awhile and called some more, repeating that strategy twice more before finally hearing and spotting a small group of turkeys in a field of wheat and corn stalks. Slinking slowly through the trees surrounding the field, they eased into position, but the turkeys disappeared ahead of them and a dozen-and-a-half deer flooded onto the field instead (now where were they during deer season?) They called again, trying to convince the gobblers that some lonely little hen required their attention, and sure enough, as the deer spooked and ran for the trees, out came the small group of turkeys they had spotted before, consisting of a few hens and 2 strutting toms.
The hunters had a Scoot-N-Shoot turkey decoy, a very lifelike looking decoy that holds a real turkey fan for a tail and has wings that fold open, allowing a hunter to hold the decoy in front of them and actually move toward a group of turkeys. On hands and knees with the decoy in front of him, Cael inched across the stalks toward the 2 strutting toms, figuring they would be nervous about the new “intruder.”
Things changed in an instant though as both gobblers headed for Cael and the decoy on a dead run like a pair of linebackers rushing the quarterback. As he attempted to pull himself into a shooting position, the sling on his shotgun caught on his boot. So there he was, crouched behind the decoy with 2 angry gobblers bearing down on the decoy, probably intent on giving it a good thrashing, and unable to get his shotgun into shooting position. A final tug loosed the sling from his boot and he swung the shotgun into position to stop the biggest tom at about 5 yards as his buddy raced for cover.
Cael had 2 tags, so a week later, they were out again, this time northeast of McPherson. They parked on a mud road and after carefully navigating through a ravine filled with junk washers, dryers and rusting old car hulks, they again situated themselves along a cornstalk field. After a couple hours of calling and moving, the 2 hunters ended up behind a stack of irrigation pipe. While his dad sat there and called, Cael set out by himself and after another long walk, happened upon a lone gobbler munching on a pile of deer corn below him in a ravine along the river.
He tried placing the decoy on the ridge to get the gobblers attention so he could slip around beside him, a trick his brother Jared had shown him, but the wise old bird busted him and headed for a nearby stand of cottonwood trees. He watched the turkey disappear among the trees, and noticed a couple smaller saplings that had bent and grown across each other, forming a “cross” shape a couple feet above the ground. As he pondered the odd tree formation, the bright red head of the tom turkey that had just run from him suddenly appeared in the upper notch formed by the trees, much like a shooting game on the state fair midway.
Figuring it was now-or-never, he shot the turkey through the notch in the trees and again won his prize. As a side note to this adventure, when they got home they noticed the gobblers beard, a turkey hunters trophy as revered as a buck deer’s antlers was missing completely. The next day Cael’s dad and a friend searched over their lunch hour and found the missing 10 inch long beard at a place they had stopped for a rest on their way back to the truck. Evidently Cael had stood on it when hoisting the bird over his shoulder and unknowingly pulled the beard clean off the turkey. A successful father – son hunting trip, great adventures and fresh roasted wild turkey breast; what better ways to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve Gilliland, Inman, can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.