For over 20 years, my friends and I have been hunting wild turkey on a farm in north central Kansas. While each year is different from the last, there is one tradition that always stays the same—the “Turkey Tree.” What was once a bare branch in the woods now bears the blood-stained ties used to hang up and clean the harvested birds—48 to be exact—and each year the Turkey Tree gains another set of ties to signify our group’s success.
The crisp, cool air of that 2015, Kansas opening-day morning settled over us as we waited for the sun to rise over the emerald green alfalfa grass. I relished in the calm quiet morning, away from my office, no cell phone to alert me to an email. This hunt wasn’t just about getting a gobbler, but a day of disconnecting from the demands of my job some 300 miles away.
As the light of morning began, the turkeys woke up and their gobbles thundered through the morning air—directly above us. How was it possible that we made it to our set, placed our decoys and got settled without disturbing those birds? At least 20 gobblers were up there thundering away and they didn’t even know we were there.
Before we left camp that morning, I said to my friends, “Alright, guys, it’s opening day, let’s see what runs into our guns. Drop ‘em and flop ‘em!” Boy did those turkeys go after those turkey decoys. Two toms hopped off the roosting tree directly above us and made a beeline for our set which consisted of a jake close to a submissive hen and one other hen placed a few yards away. Laying down in the prone position, I needed to shed my turkey vest to provide the range of motion to take the shot while staying out of sight from the thundering toms.
My hunting buddy, Zach Dodgen, had his compound bow with him, and I had my trusted 12 gauge shotgun. Both aiming at 40-yard shots, we took aim and discharged our weapon of choice at the same time. Zach dropped a tom with a 9.5-inch beard while I snagged a 10-inch longbeard. This hunt was especially meaningful to Zach, as it was his first turkey and his first kill with a bow. Across the field, my friend of 20 years, Josh Bliss, was watching this all take place. When we met in the middle of the field around 6 a.m., he said, “Couldn’t have asked for a better opening day scenario, good shootin’ boss.”
Later that day, just down the tree line, Josh took his nice tom to bring opening day 2015 to a excellent close.
Each spring at turkey camp means a new campfire to share with good friends, new memories to make, a new fan to mount on the wall, and always another tie on the “Turkey Tree.”