Three States in Eleven Days

I just got back from my annual springtime turkey hunting trip to the midwest.  My dad and I, along with a few others, hit Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.  The following pictures are the high spots of the trip.  I’ll post more and a few videos as I get them sorted out.

My dad was the first to draw blood in Oklahoma.  He killed this pair of gobblers immediately after fly down when they decided to land in the wrong place…right in front of his gun barrel.

Our good friend from back home, Stephen Young killed these two longbeards the first morning not far from where I was hunting.  The report of his shot made a turkey gobble right behind me.

Around 9:30, during a thunderstorm, I intercepted this gobbler sneaking up a row of cedars.  I had been surrounded by a group of gobbling jakes not long before this guy came out.  He was really being cautious and was on the look out for the band of gobbling marauders.

oklahoma turkeyI killed my second bird the second evening of the hunt.  He came in gobbling hard and got up on a bluff behind me.  I even saw him peeking over the edge of the bluff trying to locate the hen he heard.  Realizing he overshot his target he hopped of the bluff right in front of me where I had to make a quick shot.  I’ve always heard you couldn’t call them downhill, but nobody every said anything about calling them off a cliff.

armadilloI did see a couple armadillos in Oklahoma.  I’m sure people who see them every day don’t think much of it, but they’re quite a novelty to an East Coaster.

rio grande turkeyThey’re all beautiful in their own way, but there is something about the buff color on the base of a Rio’s tail.

 

IMG_7539After we all tagged out in Oklahoma, we set our sights on southeast Kansas where it was my dad again who scored first on the morning of the shotgun opener.  This bird weighed almost 25 pounds.

stevenyoung                                                    Stephen also killed a great bird opening morning.

kansas turkeyAfter not hearing much the opening day, I managed to get this big double bearded bird into shotgun range.  He had a big paintbrush main beard with a 7.5 inch second beard.

longspurI didn’t get a chance to measure them, but this bird definitely had some hooks on him.  They were at least 1.5 inches long.  He’s my best Kansas turkey to date and I was happy to get him.

robstoneMy good friend from back home, Rob Stone with a great Kansas bird.  Rob had been in Kansas doing video work and guiding and found a little time to hunt.  He called three in one evening and filled his second tag.  He killed another great one a week before with his Mathews NoCam.  We had a close call together the day before shotgun season opened when we had an old gobbler come to us.  I watched the footage on my tv and I can say he with about 99% confidence he has a 12 inch beard.  You don’t see many of those.  He was about 1o yards short of Rob sticking an arrow in him before a hen took him away.

IMG_7590While everyone else struggled to hear a gobbling bird, Dad found a willing participant and called him into shotgun range the next morning.  After three days of hard hunting, we parted ways with our buddy Stephen and headed to Missouri but not before we found a bunch of Morels which we thoroughly enjoyed.  Leftovers don’t exist with these things.

morel mushroomsFor Missouri, we hunted Stateline Trophy Hunters in Mulberry Kansas with our longtime friend Rusty Willis who runs the outfit.   Conveniently located 300 yards from the Missouri border, Stateline offers a unique opportunity to hunt two states from one spot.  I hunted the Kansas side hard for a day and half trying to fill my second tag.  Kansas had been pretty slow in terms of gobbling, but I did manage to get on one.  He came in behind me and I rushed the shot and missed him at 10 yards.  He isn’t the first one and won’t be the last but it doesn’t make it any easier to take.  There are few feelings worse than boogering a turkey.

turkeyThe opening morning of Missouri season, we hunted a farm Rusty had just leased a few weeks prior.  It was loaded with strutting toms.  Before daylight of the opening morning, Dad and I positioned ourselves in the corner of a secluded pasture where we had made a nest in the brush the previous evening.  Birds had been strutting in this pasture for days and we figured this was a likely ambush spot for the henned up gobblers.  We had this big rehearsed plan that if two birds came out together we would shoot on the count of 3.  That very thing happened, except my bird was the only one who fell.  I think I shot a little early and made Dad flinch.  For the record, the whole shoot on 3 thing is tougher to pull off in practice than it is in theory.  I wound up with a 24 pound double bearded tom, and Dad got a funny story to tell.

IMG_7883The second day of Missouri season, I sat at a distance and watched birds filter out into the main pasture field after fly down.  Four gobblers and their respective group of hens aimlessly meandered through the field for at least 2 hours before the hens broke off to do whatever it is they do.  Knowing my dad was positioned somewhere in the field edge, I watched intently through my binoculars trying to locate him but to no avail.  I watched a lone tom strut up the left side of the pasture close to where I thought Dad would be hiding.  I heard the familiar sound of his box call and the gobbler responded.  The turkey turned and marched back up the tree line almost 150 yards gobbling the whole way toward the sound of the hen.  Out of nowhere, Dad’s Browning Maxus roared and the gobbler was reduced to a flopping heap.  Dad had crawled through the weeds to get in position and when he called, the gobbler came in like he was on a string.  It was really cool to watch the whole thing play out.

We parted ways on Tuesday evening and I came home to go back to work.  I’ve got a lot of fishing trips to do the next six days but hopefully I’ll get a chance to get back home to West Virginia for their first week coming up.  I went up today and checked one of my Pennsylvania spots where I’m guiding a client on  opening day May 1.  A little breather is definitely needed, although I’m chomping at the bit to get back after it.  This truly is my favorite time of year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Days Until Feathers Fly

takenI saw this on Facebook today and it reminded me that I leave for Alabama in 6 days and season starts in 8.  It can’t come fast enough.

 

Two More Missouri Bruisers Hit the Ground

Chuck Tate from Oklahoma Killed this buck here with Rusty at State Line yesterday.  Congratulations Chuck.

Chuck Tate from Oklahoma Killed this buck here with Rusty at State Line yesterday. Congratulations Chuck.

My friend Brian Vliem from Michigan killed this monster yesterday in Northern Missouri where we've hunted together in years past.

My friend Brian Vliem from Michigan killed this monster yesterday in Northern Missouri where we’ve hunted together in years past.

Missouri Rifle Opener

The Missouri gun season opened this yesterday morning and as usual, it did not disappoint.  With a cold, crisp morning and the rut in full swing, the deer were on the move.  Usually gun hunting in northern Missouri, my dad and I hunted with our good friend Rusty Willis at State Line Trophy Hunters in southern Missouri.  We’ve known Rusty for a lot of years and know how good his turkey hunting ground is so this year we decided to check out the deer hunting.  We were fortunate to tag out the first day and now we are sitting back and enjoying some good food and time away from home and work.  Thanks Rusty, you run a top notch operation.  Go over to Facebook and give Rusty a like.  LINK

20141112_151840_zpse96fnbvq

IMG_20141115_100732_zps4vvjoo5r

IMG_9608207956141-1_zpse8wv9brv

 

Kansas Paydirt

Kansas WhitetailI just got home from a week of muzzleloader hunting in Southeast Kansas and as usual, it did not disappoint.  My wife was nice enough to let me leave to go hunting on our first wedding anniversary too so I feel confident in saying that I’ve found myself a keeper.

The early muzzleloader season in Kansas is a unique hunt.  Bucks are still coming out in the crops every evening to feed before the cold weather sets in and there is a good opportunity to kill a good deer out in the open.  The bucks are still in their bachelor groups for the most part, and it is very cool to get to see a bunch of deer filter out into the bean fields.  Weather is the deciding factor of this hunt and if it is hot, as Kansas sometimes is this time of year, the good bucks will stay bedded and will not come to feed until it gets dark.  This was one of the big issues on this trip.  One evening when we went to our stand, it was 94 degrees.

My buddy Rob Stone did me a solid and came with me to run a camera to document the trip.  I’m working on getting the footage together now and will post the final edit as soon as I get it finished.

We hunted a bean field that I’ve killed 2 bucks out of before and sat in a box blind overlooking the east edge with a half section of bedding area behind us.  I’m not much on playing musical stands if I know there’s good deer around, so we made the decision to sit tight all week and see how it played out.

Our view to the north.

Our view to the north.

The weather was hotter than normal and the deer movement was definitely impacted somewhat negatively but we dutifully stood our post seeing a few small bucks and several does.  The second evening right before dark, two big bucks (150 inches or bigger) appeared on the south end of the bean field.  At 250 yards with the shooting light quickly disappearing, they were beyond my comfortable range with the Encore .50 so we watched darkness swallow them up, hoping they would reappear later in the week.

As the week progressed, we faced several challenges from 100 degree box blinds, ravenous mosquitos, and shifting unfavorable wind.   Worst of all, the two giants we saw early in the week never appeared and the biggest buck we encountered was a 60 inch 8 point.  But we were having fun and that’s why we were there.

With darkness coming fast on the final evening of the hunt I had come to the realization that I might be eating a tag sandwich, but around 7:30 Rob said the words I’d waited to hear all week.  “A deer just walked out.  Good buck.”  Standing where the two big bucks were a few evenings before, we swapped seats giving me a better shooting position.  Knowing I had about 20 minutes of shooting light left, I opted to wait and see if he ventured our way.  If he got to 200 yards and wouldn’t come any closer, I was going to send one at him, but for once in the week, luck was on our side.  We had the wind in our face and after a few minutes, the buck started working his way toward us.  It soon became apparent, that he was coming quick and would be on top us in minutes.

When he got to 100 yards, I went to cock the rifle when disaster struck.  The hammer would not move.  At all.  Panic stuck.  Here I am with my gun out the window of a box blind with a buck facing me and closing fast and I can’t shoot him.  I tried everything.  I had adrenaline enhanced strength and still couldn’t budge the hammer.  All those hours of getting toasted in that oven of a box blind and getting devoured by mosquitos only to have a shooter buck walk within feet of us with a gun that wouldn’t work conjured up one of the sickest feelings I’ve ever felt.  Calm as could be, Rob told me to slide the rifle back through the window.  He fiddled with it for a little bit and after opening it and slamming it shut a couple times, he got the hammer cocked.  I got the gun back out the window somehow without being spotted.  I found the deer in the scope at 40 yards, and Rob got the camera back on him.  “Kill him,” he said.  The Encore roared, and the buck dropped stone dead at 33 yards.

I’ve been on some exciting hunts over the years, but I’ve never had something like this happen.  The feeling of utter despair being replaced by absolute elation was almost too much to handle.  I got extremely lucky that night and it’s a hunting memory I won’t soon forget.  We were patient that week and while it almost got screwed up by my rifle, we got rewarded.  I’ve already got the Encore receiver stripped and I’m going to tear into it this week to make sure this won’t happen again.  Check back later in the week to see the video of how it all went down.  I don’t have a whole lot of editing to do, but it’s safe to say I have a lot of four letter words to bleep out.

 

 

Flashback Friday

Colorado AntelopeOf all the hunting I’ve done over the years, few hunts stand out in my mind as much as the pronghorn hunt I went on last August.  It was so many things in one it’s almost hard to describe.  It was hot, uncomfortable, frustrating, dirty, tiring, and at some points, just downright shitty.  It also turned into one of the coolest things I’ve ever done afield.

Summer of 2012, my dad and his friends did this hunt with some of his friends from Missouri.  They had pretty good success and in general, enjoyed the trip.  It sounded pretty straight forward.  Sit in a blind by a water hole and when a buck came for a drink, shoot him in the ribs.  Yeah, sounds simple enough.  Sign me up.

By the time we landed in Colorado Springs, I knew shit was about to get weird.  Our flight had been cancelled, re-scheduled, and then delayed.  Dad’s bags didn’t show up at baggage claim.  We were late getting in camp and by the time we arrived, everyone was in bed.  The next morning, when everyone hit the prairie, we were standing around, thumbs firmly in our asses, waiting for the store to open at 8 so we could buy our license.  I’m somewhat superstitious, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned.

Since dad was in full street clothes mode with no bow, he sat that afternoon with me.  It was the only fun day I had.  We were together and were able to talk and we even saw one doe come to water while the rest of the harem and the giant buck guarding it stayed 200 yards away.  The next 2 days I saw exactly zero antelope.  None.  Zero.

At this point, I started questioning my outfitter’s judgement.  I’m a guide myself, and I know the rules of being a good client.  Rule #1 is don’t guide the guide.  I couldn’t help it.  No one in camp was having anything close to success.  They simply weren’t coming to water.  It was readily apparent that something needed to change.  But being the good client is sometimes hard, and I sucked it up and sat where I was put, hoping these guys knew what they were talking about.

The last day of the hunt started out a little later than usual and as we were driving in, our guide, Oscar spotted a lone buck bedded across the prairie.  He stopped and asked if I wanted to try and go kill him.  Hell yes.  Finally we were going to try and make something happen.  Even if this didn’t work, it beat the hell out of sitting in a hot blind all day with 4 million flies and no cell phone service.

Antelope Stalk

Oscar grabbed a decoy from the truck bed and we started our approach.  It is important to note here that the decoy we used was meant to be stuck in the dirt and left, not carried on spot and stalk mission.  It was similar to a 3d bow target and weighed about 20 pounds.  When we got half a mile or so from the bedded goat, the buck spotted the decoy and locked on to it.  Luckily, he failed to notice the absurdity of an antelope moving sideways across the open prairie with two grown men crouched behind it.  At the 200 yard mark, he stood and started toward us.

I watched him coming toward us with his head lowered and mane standing.  He walked with purpose across a small draw and up the other side.  At this point, I realized he was committed and a shot opportunity was close.  “When he gets to that cactus, you shoot him,”  Oscar said.  “It looks about 50 yards.  When I say draw, draw.”  As soon as my view was obscured by the decoy, I heard the magic word and cranked the Hoyt to full draw.  Oscar slid the decoy to the side and there was nothing between me and the antelope but air.  Deep breath, pin settled, and release.  I watched the arrow bury to the feathers right through his shoulder.  He made one big jump and fell right where I shot him.

Colorado Antelope2

Success!

 

I stood up kind of in awe of what just happened.  Did that really just go down?  Oscar and I exchanged a high five and I let it all set in.  The week started horribly and continued on just about the same.  The last day we tried something new and it paid off.  A weeks worth of 15 hour days sitting in that blind became totally worth the 30 exciting minutes of the stalk.  While I’m pretty sure I’ll never sit a water hole for an antelope again, I would absolutely jump at the chance to spot and stalk one.

Very rarely does something that starts as rough as this end up well.  I got lucky.  Very lucky.

Pennsylvania Turkey Season Wrap Up

Alright, enough with the excuses, here’s how my season ended.  Dave Poteat from Inside Outdoors TV and his camera man, Dusty came to my (adopted)  home turf to turkey hunt.  Accompanying them was Jennifer Lambert from Crosman Airguns.  I met Dave on a hunting trip several years ago and since, have shared camp with him on a number of occasions.  Last spring, he and his co-host Tim Anello came to southern WV to turkey hunt at my Mom and Dad’s.  This year he was with me in Southwestern Pennsylvania on the last 4 days of season.  Although he was aware of how hard it would be to get one shot, I was confident we could get one within range and let Jennifer take his head off.

The cool part about this hunt was that the owner of the company I work for was gracious enough to let us use his personal cabin as a turkey camp, although camp is a pretty loose definition of what this place is.  As far as the turkeys, I hadn’t heard a bird gobble in almost a week.  We were hunting on a good friend and coworker’s farm that is loaded with birds.  I set up a blind in a place birds cross by every day.  They’re done with spring breeding behavior and at this point its a straight up ambush.  No problem.

Not too shabby for a turkey camp.

Not too shabby for a turkey camp.

The first morning they actually heard birds gobble!  Shocking.  They saw lots of birds including one longbeard that just stayed a little out of range.  They sat it out but unfortunately didn’t connect.  We took the afternoon off due to rain and caught up on some much needed rest.  The next day they were covered up with jakes but the longbeard again stayed just out of shotgun range when he followed some hens off in the distance.  A few passing hens that evening sealed up their second day.  Their third and final day started slow.  No gobbling and no birds, but around 9, they started to appear.  A group of shootable turkeys zigged and zagged around the blind and finally offered Jennifer a shot.  What happened?  I can’t tell you.  You’ll have to watch IOTV to find out.

Dave, Jennifer, and Dusty size up the situation.

Dave, Jennifer, and Dusty size up the situation.

Although I knew it would be a tough hunt, I was really happy they were able to come and have their first hunt in Pennsylvania with me.  They’re great company and I think they had a pretty good time.  I was happy to show them where I work and they even came over and shot some sporting clays at our clays course.  It was refreshing to see someone like Jennifer, who is new to hunting, show such enthusiasm for a sport I’m really passionate about.  She really had a baptism by fire.  Hunting late season in Pennsylvania is not easy and it’s not always fun.  She hunted her ass off and came back for more.  Good job, girl!  She’s truly a great lady and hopefully I’ll get another chance to hunt with her again.

Can't wait to put these bad boys to use.

Can’t wait to put these bad boys to use.

One of the most unexpected parts of the trip was when we parting ways Jennifer gave me two new Crosman rifles.  I had a chance to shoot these things in camp and couldn’t get over how cool they were.  Incredibly accurate and hard shooting, these things are the real deal.  On the left is the Benjamin Trail which just started shipping and the Marauder on the right which has a self contained air tank and a rotary magazine.  Very, very cool.  Thank you Jennifer!  I’ll do my best to burn the barrels out of these things.  I hope this is the start of a long partnership.  It is kind of cool because a few weeks before these folks showed up, I saw my Benjamin Sherridan .177 pellet rifle propped up in the corner of my parent’s garage.  I had some epic squirrel hunts with this thing in the woods surrounding my childhood home and that Benjamin rifle made me the marksman I am.  Looks like things have come full circle.

Missouri Success

Pops connects in Missouri this morning.  Use the flash  next time.

Pops connects in Missouri this morning. Use the flash next time.

Because my sister scheduled her wedding in the middle of turkey season like an asshole, it screwed up our hunting plans.  While I’m here in Wv trying to get a bird killed, my dad headed back to the midwest to hunt southern Missouri with a good friend of ours.  Between the storms and bad luck, he finally killed his first bird of the trip this morning.  He has to tomorrow to fill his second tag.  Good job Dad.

Flash Back Friday: The time I met Willie Robertson

408005_10100556480615439_1564654177_nMy wife and I got invited to the Golden Moose awards in 2012 by a friend of mine.  We watched the awards show and drank enough whiskey to float a battleship.  When the award show was over Zac Brown was going to play.  We were making our way toward the front for the Zac Brown show when Willie appeared.  I knew him from the duck men dvds and I’d watched Duck Commander on the outdoor channel.  Emboldened by the whiskey I asked if I could get a picture.  No problem at all.  He even gave me the moose to hold up.  And then we watched Zac Brown rip it for about and hour.  Not a bad evening from what I remember.

Oklahoma and Kansas photos

Dad with a nice Rio

Dad with a nice Rio

3 generations of the Smiths from Kentucky

Scott, Natalie, and Lang with some good Oklahoma Rios 

Mr. Burt and his son Lang

Mr. Burt and his son Lang

My first bird from the Kansas trip

My first bird from the Kansas trip

 

Bird number 2 from Kansas

Bird number 2 from Kansas

Both of Dads Kansas birds.  Glad I was able to be with him when he connected.

Both of Dads Kansas birds. Glad I was able to be with him when he connected.

Retro pants.

Retro pants.