Gobbler Down!


By Brittany Boddington

After my first turkey fail, I was anxious to get back out and try again.

This time I headed to Kansas and hunted with Dan Bell of Bell Wildlife Specialties (785-589-2321; huntingkansaswhitetails.com). I was a little nervous since my first try for turkey was so unsuccessful in Texas (California Sportsman, June 2016), but Bell assured me we’d get the job done.

I arrived at midday and we immediately went on the computer and got my hunting license and turkey tag printed out. We had to wait for the rest of our group to arrive, but by the time they got there I was in my camo, ready to head out and redeem myself.

The view from Brittany’s blind usually included turkeys, but in many cases they were just hens or small jakes. The author wasn’t sure a mature tom would show up before her hunt wrapped up. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

THE FIRST AFTERNOON WAS pretty exciting. Bell thought that we should try sitting in a cool little grassy area with trees and a little creek bed running through it.

Boddington was dressed for turkey success, but she was going to have to work for this bird. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

We hid ourselves in a spot with some taller grass and bushes and brushed ourselves in as best we could. We sat as still as possible and Bell tried doing some calling on his slate. The sun was at that magical angle where everything looks golden when Bell made a little sound to let us know there was a turkey creeping in from behind us. I was so excited I struggled to stay still.

After what seemed like forever, a jake finally popped out from the creek bed and stood about 20 yards from me next to a tree. It was dead still while looking around, and I knew instinctively that this was not a big enough bird to shoot. Still, I was excited to see it anyways and wanted to let the guys know that it was around.

They were at a different angle and couldn’t see the young male turkey yet. I moved just a bit to signal to them that the jake was out, but it must have spotted me because it took off and was gone.

The next morning we went out long before daylight and climbed into a blind that overlooked a big field. There was water down below and a tree line that wrapped around us. We set out some decoys, did some calling and waited. It wasn’t long before the first hen arrived. She made her way along the tree line, heading toward the water below, and was followed by a few more hens. We settled in, called a little and waited. A little while later the same hen emerged from the trees closest to us and made her way over to the decoy. The other hens followed and circled around for a bit before they wandered away.

Besides guiding hunts for whitetail, pheasants and turkey in the Harveyville, Kan., area, Brittany’s friend Dan Bell is also a taxidermist there. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

As the morning progressed two coyotes crossed the field in front of us, but unfortunately I didn’t have a rifle with me and they never came in shotgun range.

That afternoon we tried another spot, which overlooked an old cornfield that was out of use. Bell had heard that the turkeys were roosting nearby, so we hoped to catch them headed in for the night. This time we didn’t sit long before the first one arrived. It was a jake, so we watched him circle around for a while.

To our right a hen popped out; as we watched her, two big longbeards came walking in right behind her. We all got pretty excited – probably too excited and I ended up rushing my shot and shooting right over the top of them. Things weren’t going as well as I’d hoped.

I ONLY HAD TWO days to hunt and I had ruined my first chance, so I was not very happy with myself. But I didn’t give up either.

The next morning we tried the same spot again and had the same result, except the coyotes didn’t show up. In the afternoon we tried a new spot tucked in a corner of a grassy opening surrounded by trees. We did some calling and heard some rustling in the brush but never got a turkey to come out.
That should have been my last chance. I had to leave for the airport around 8:30 a.m. the next morning, but we decided to squeeze in one last hunt before I left.

Finding a tom to wander into shooting range took patience. Eventually a big enough bird was within range. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)
Finding a tom to wander into shooting range took patience. Eventually a big enough bird was within range. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

We got up and out extra early and drove further than we had before. We settled into a blind on a tree line overlooking two big empty fields. As light started to break through the trees, a hen appeared. She slowly worked her way past us and across the field into the trees on the other side. We could hear more turkeys coming down from a roost nearby, and sure enough, one by one they crossed in front of us as they made their way out for the day.

The clock was ticking and no big toms had appeared. I started to consider shooting a jake just so that we would have a turkey to take home. I didn’t want to, but given my streak, desperation was becoming a factor. I second-guessed myself a few times after passing on a few birds.

Urban Huntress 6I knew we had to pull the plug on the morning hunt in about 30 minutes and was praying something would arrive before that. I looked down and when I looked up there were two big longbeards walking toward me. I got so excited I fumbled trying to get myself in position, but thankfully the toms were looking at a hen and didn’t notice. I waited for a good shot. When the turkey stopped I took it, and thank goodness the bird didn’t fly away this time! I had my very first eastern turkey and it was gorgeous!

Finally, success! Brittany was running out of time and staring at the reality of ending another hunt without filling her gobbler tag, but this nice tom cooperated for her and guide Dan Bell, allowing her to notch her first tag. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

Just before I shot it had started to drizzle, and when I pulled the trigger it seemed to open up the skies. By the time I got to the turkey it was pouring rain. We gathered up our gear and got out of there just in time to head to the airport.

Just when I thought all hope was lost, it ended up being a successful hunt, and definitely one that I will not forget. Now it’s time to hit the range and work on my shotgun skills for the next turkey season! CS

Editor’s note: Brittany Boddington is a Los Angeles-based journalist, hunter and adventurer. Like her at facebook.com/brittanyboddington and follow at instagram.com/brittanyboddington