The outdoors has special meaning to me. I caught my first fish at age 4 and shot my first duck at age 9. Nearly four decades later I still get excited when I get to spend any time outdoors. A lot has changed during that time but the anticipation and experiences are still similar and just as exciting. It’s a great place to be....Read More

Friday, April 17, 2015


Hurry up, Dad, these things are heavy!
For many youngsters Easter is a time for hunting hidden Easter eggs filled with chocolate goodies.  My kids are old enough now where that's not all that appealing, although they're all about the chocolate gifts they still get from Mom as a substitute for the standard Eastern egg hunt.  So knowing Cody had that in that bag he was game-on for an Easter morning turkey hunt.

Cody's first outing a couple days prior was a bust.  I consider it a good day if we can at least hear turkeys on the roost, see a few and if we get to work a bird that's a bonus, even if we don't kill it.  We had none of that his first hunt but Sunday would make up for it.

We eased up to the blind and were barely inside when we heard the first gobble of the morning.  It would be followed by dozens and dozens more until it got light.  The gobblers sounded off, occasionally, once they hit the ground but it was apparent they had the real-deal girlfriends in their midst. 

Undaunted, Cody and I both kept calling.  It wasn't long and we got the attention of a raucous, rowdy hen, possibly the most audible one I've ever heard.  She yelped, non-stop and LOUD, from a couple hundred yards all the way into our blind location.  It was fun to watch and cool to listen to her before she flew across the creek. 

A short time later we heard something fly back across to our side of the creek.  I assumed it was her as she'd gone silent, but we heard another fly across followed by others.  I called softly and got a thunderous gobble just to our left.  I peaked out the window and saw four longbeards and two jakes in full-strut and a few hens just out of range.  Unfortunately, the hens were feeding away from us and the gobblers followed.
Wow, that was a poke!  Two, actually!

The two jakes were content to stay mostly in one spot wondering if they should come check out our lone hen decoy.  It didn't take any convincing for them to come do battle with five more jakes, none of which were colored up or strutting, that were headed to our decoy from the other direction.  Unfortunately, on their first pass they didn't venture by close enough for a shot.   

After the dust-up, the two jakes, still strutting, eased back towards their group and skirted our decoy.  I asked Cody if he wanted to shoot one and he said, "YES!"  He got lined up and he shot a bird in full strut and it dropped in its tracks.
The other one jumped in the air, ran a few yards and stopped and looked back.  I told Cody to shoot that one, too, if he wanted and the words barely left my lips and his 12 gauge barked again with the same result.

"Awesome!" he hollered.

This is better than an Easter egg hunt!
As I looked out of the blind I was a bit taken aback as to how far the birds actually were when he shot.  The first bird was 40 yards and the second one was 53 yards!  I've patterned that gun numerous times and it's a killer out to 50 yards for sure.  The results were perfect and I couldn't have asked for anything better.   

That turkey hunt will be Cody's last as an official "youth" as next year he'll be too old.  The youth season for turkeys and other species has created more wonderful memories than I ever could have imagined.  Each and every hunt was as magical as finding an Easter egg filled completely with M&M's!        

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Anyone that lives in Kansas knows the saying if you don't like the weather just wait 15 minutes and it will change.  That's particularly true at this time of year and the change is sometimes dramatic as evidenced by the recent bout of bad storms that hit south-central Kansas early last Friday morning.

My boys were off of school that day and Cody was game for an early morning turkey hunt as this is the last year he qualifies as a "youth."  However, I would start second-guessing our plans in the middle of the night when the storm came rolling through.  Wind gusts of 80-90 mph and hail the size of quarters found me nearly waking all of my family to head to the basement.  But a couple of them heard the racket (while two slept through the entire event) and we checked the radar and didn't see any warnings. 

The storm moved through fairly quickly.  The only damage I could see was about five sections of privacy fence leveled in my backyard and we lost power.  I woke up a few hours later and we had power back but the wind was still howling.  I woke Cody up and we headed out.  Much of my side of town was without power and we saw light and power poles snapped in two.  Trees and debris littered the roadsides.  I nearly turned around a few minutes outside of town.  I could barely keep my 3/4-ton truck on the road and gripped the steering wheel tightly with both hands as the wind pummeled us.  I wondered aloud if the ground blind would even still be in the same county where it was put up 45 minutes to our east. 

Undaunted, we arrived to find the wind still howling, but actually not too bad in the blind's location and it was indeed still standing.  However, after three hours of calling, hearing nary a peep, we were about ready to leave when Cody spied a couple birds off in the distance.  Confirming them as hens we picked up and chalked one up to next time.

But by afternoon the Kansas weather had moderated and turned into a wonderful spring day.  I was scheduled to assist with our KDWPT youth turkey hunt in Hutchinson and the evening promised to be a good one. 

I was guiding an 11-year-old youngster named Jaggar.  He had participated in the KDWPT youth deer hunt in Harper County last fall and I was with him then when he killed a nice doe, his first deer ever.  This would be his first turkey hunt, too.

We arrived at our blind location to the sounds and sights of turkeys.  Jaggar's eyes were wide as we sneaked into position and got into our blind unseen.  A few calls and less than 5 minutes later we had turkeys headed our way. 

The first one was a bearded hen, followed by another hen, sans the "facial" hair.  I told Jaggar to try
and get on the bearded bird and when he did and was ready he fired.  The bird dropped and others just out of sight ran in front of us.  Several jakes stood around and Jaggar got lined up on one of those and tried his luck again.  A clean miss sent the flock scattering and putting.

It wasn't too long and more hens came by.  Jaggar kept asking if any of them had beards and I told him that wasn't too likely as his first bird, the bearded hen, was somewhat unique.  But a group of hens this time of year doesn't stay lonely long and a tom came over the hill from our left and sidled up to the quintet of hens. 

Jaggar got repositioned to shoot left and he would have to shoot through the blind's mesh.  Once he got in position and ready he shot.

"I got him!" Jaggar hollered.

The big bird flopped a couple times and was still.  We had been in the blind less than 90 minutes and Jaggar had a hunt many kids, or adults for that matter, could only dream of. 

Knowing we'd likely have other youngsters in the same blind the next morning we quietly snuck out and shot a few photos.  On the way back to meet the others from the hunt Jaggar borrowed my cell phone and couldn't wait to call his mother, grandmother and his neighbors that lived across the street to tell them of his good fortunes.  He even promised the latter he'd share the turkey meat with them since he had two birds. 

The two hunts I got to witness that day were night and day different.  It just goes to show you that you have to be in the woods for anything good to happen.  And if it doesn't go according to plan, it makes those times when it does all that much more memorable and that was certainly the case this day.