ALAN'S FIRST TURKEY
By: DA aka David McNeal
Gene Perret (writer for the Carroll Burnett show) once wrote, "Grandchildren are the only people who can get more out of you than the IRS." I don't know if that's completely true anymore in lieu of our current economy but my grandson Alan Grimes can get me to get up on a cold, wet, and overcast morning and tromp through a rain-soaked forest just to set on a cold wet ground under a rain-laden tree trying to persuade a fall turkey to come within gun range. It's all part of being "DA" my grandchildren's name for me.
Alan and I managed to get to our chosen location around 7:30 a.m. The sun wasn't quite up yet but it was light enough for us to see our gear and get ourselves headed down the road to a spot we had discussed the night before.
We were hunting one of the many opened areas on Fort Riley, Kansas. Fort Riley has 75,000 acres open for hunting on most days and a huge number of Rio Grand, Eastern, and Hybrids. Alan and I had busted up a flock of turkeys in this spot a week ago and so we knew the area had birds. Our guess was that they being creatures of habit would probably be in that same area at around the same time.
We left Mattie (my German Wirehair Pointer) in the truck (we would use her later) much to her dismay and total lack of canine understanding and she raucously let us know how unhappy she was at being left behind until we were out of site.
After setting up and waiting for the forest to get quiet I gave a few soft kee kee calls paused then a few hen locator calls and waited. It was an hour before I got a response but the bird was trying to find us and actually came within forty yards but remained unseen. Just when I thought that our quest would end early a huge convoy of track vehicles (one of those many unique experiences associated with hunting Fort Riley) came rumbling down the road in route to maneuvers and as it disappeared on the horizon, so did our turkey.
Two hours invested we decided to move to another location. I wanted to take Alan to a spot that we had tried to hunt the week before but couldn't get into because some deer hunters had beaten us to it. I am a firm believer that if someone beats you to a spot then you go somewhere else. I don't want to ruin someone else's hunt but most importantly I don't want to get shot. Today however we had the spot to ourselves and this time I put Mattie on the ground and let her run to her heart's content. It would prove to be a bad decision on my part. Mattie isn't a turkey dog, she's a quail dog but my old turkey dog (a Labrador) is getting too old to hunt anymore; so you do with what you got.
While we were moving through the woods along an antiquated; dense road Alan spotted some turkeys running through the trees ahead of Mattie who didn't have a clue they were anywhere near by. We started chasing after them trying to get them to bust but instead they rose in unison (except for two that flew in the opposite direction) and flew across a deep creek. Our prospects didn't look promising but never the less we set up, let things get quiet again and I tried calling. Much to my surprise one of the birds that had broken in the opposite direction answered and began moving in toward us. Alan was positioned under a tree where he could look down the road. Mattie and I were located a few yards further back.
I had Mattie lying next to me and I have to give her credit for the most part her behavior was excellent until it counted most. In order to save some space here I'll just say that the wayward turkey bought it all and came in obediently but unfortunately due to a dip in the road, a drop off to Alan's right and the fact that he thought that all the calling was me and didn't realize we had a bird coming in, the bird was able to get behind me within fifteen yards and both Mattie and I caught site of it at the same time. The bird caught site of us too and lifted in flight. I could have harvested it if Mattie had just stayed down but she got between us and I never had a shot. As for the turkey it flew across the creek to join the others.
It was now pushing noon and time for lunch. On our way back to the truck we flushed what must have been the other half of the flock we had run into down in the woods and they headed for the end of a food plot and the area where Alan and I had started. We decided to go to lunch, let things clam down, come in from a different direction and see if we could get some of those birds to come in.
Lunch was at Ed's Dog house in Ogden, Kansas about a ten minute drive from where we were hunting. Not that it's important or that it contributes one iota to the story but Alan had a Big Red One dog (the official name of the First Infantry Division) and I had a Chicago Dog in memory of my spouse (who's from Chicago) and happened to be out of town for the day. After consuming our future digestive heart burns, a coke and half a Corona (I call better after half a Corona) we headed back to our site.
Once again at the site, where we had flushed the remaining birds prior to lunch and leaving Mattie in the truck, we sat up and I began calling but after some forty minutes with no response and with our hunting time rapidly disappearing I suggested that we move and come in from behind where the birds had landed and see if we could get one to answer us.
Relocated I was just about to make a call on my box call when Alan said, "Listen Da I think I heard something." Sure enough it was a young bird trying to locate the flock. I made one call and he answer right back so we quickly got set up placing Alan in the only avenue of approach the bird could take to get to us. Now there were other birds calling but we were closer and Alan soon caught site of him coming through the grass. He whispered, "Call again Da he's looking for you." I did and he came within thirty-five yards where Alan took him with one shot. The bird was a first year Jake at about eight or nine pounds.
Success! It never gets old. High fives all around; back at the truck, pictures taken, Alan had harvested his first turkey but I am sure it will not be his last. The IRS may have a hard time getting any money out of me but Alan can get me to go turkey hunting with him anytime he wants to go.