Kansas Turkey Hunting & Scouting Recap

By Justin ZarrApril 5, 2017

Hunting whitetails in Kansas has been a goal of mine for many years now.  Although the whitetail hunting in my home state of Illinois is arguably as good as anywhere else in the country, something about the Sunflower state has always intrigued me, in spite of Darron McDougal’s recent article on bowhunting Kansas.  So a few months ago I decided that 2017 was going to be my year to hit the road in pursuit of new bowhunting adventures.  After all – life is short and you better get to living while you can!  So I enlisted my buddy Matt Miller to accompany me on this journey, which is scheduled to be split into three parts.  The first of those was a combination deer scouting/turkey hunting mission that took place this last weekend.  The next two will be deer hunting trips to take place in October and November.

Saturday morning, April 1st, we packed up the truck and headed Southwest with high hopes of scouting some properties for deer sign before spring green-up while keeping an eye and and ear open for turkey.

welcome to kansas sign

A few hundred miles and several hours on the road we made our way into Kansas.

After checking into our hotel and changing into our hiking gear we headed out to the first piece of property that looked promising and we got to walking.

Kansas shed deer antler

Only 20 minutes into what would amount to 20+ miles of hiking over 2 days I picked up my first Kansas shed antler.  Not a bad way to kick things off!

To make a long story somewhat shorter, we spent the next day and a half walking our butts off across 5 or 6 pieces of ground and more than 1,200 acres.  As with most places we found some promising sign and some not-so-promising sign.  Our main focus was on travel corridors and pinch points, which are typically reliable ambush points year in and year out.  With crop rotations likely to change this fall it’s not unreasonable to think certain areas may dry up while others will see an increased amount of deer sign, which is why it’s always important to scout in season and make adjustments as necessary.  If nothing else we now know the lay of the land and have a dozen or so stand locations tentatively picked out.

Kansas countryside

The rolling countryside of Northern Kansas bears a lot of similarities to areas of Illinois and Wisconsin I’ve hunted through the years.

Monday April 3rd found our whitetail scouting adventure over and our turkey hunting adventure just beginning.  Having roosted several gobblers the evening before, we were confident that chances for success were high.  The morning brought with it quite a bit of rain which made for a relatively uncomfortable hunt, which was made tolerable only by having turkeys visible for the first six hours of the day.  Unfortunately none of them were interested in our calling or decoy setup and wouldn’t come close enough for a shot.  It seems that the turkeys aren’t quite broken up yet and their interest in fighting or breeding is just starting to pick up, which can make for some frustrating hunts.

Kansas turkeys in corn field

Day 1 brought more than 30 turkeys spotted from the blind including more than a dozen toms and jakes. Unfortunately no shot opportunities presented themselves.  How many birds can you spot in this photo?

Halfway through Day 1 the resident flock of turkeys finally cleared the field we were in, so Matt and I relocated the blind closer to where the birds had roosted the night before.  We were hoping to catch them that evening on their way back to roost.  As we suspected they showed up right on queue but never offered a shot as they all stayed 50-60 yards from the blind before flying to their roost trees for the night.  We waited for dark then quickly snuck out of the blind as discreetly as we could, which probably sounded like a small herd of cattle exiting the field.

Kansas turkey roosted in tree

We roosted this young jake the evening before, and found him in the same tree when daylight broke the following morning.

Day 2 arrived to cooler temps in the low 40’s and a stiff North breeze, but at least it wasn’t raining!  The birds we roosted the evening before began gobbling well before first light and we were able to enjoy their calls for a solid 1/2 hour before they pitched down into our field.  As fate would have it, not long after daylight a large tom took interest in our jake & hen decoy setup and came over to assert his dominance.  Unfortunately for him all he got in return was a Spitfire XXX to the throat and a ride back to Illinois in the back of my truck.  As with all of my successful turkey hunts these last few years it didn’t require any fancy calling on my part – the decoys did all the heavy lifting and I just had to pull the shot off.  I love those types of hunts.

Shortly after my bird hit the dirt a group of jakes came rushing into the decoys so Matt grabbed his bow and attempted to pull off a double.  Unfortunately we both misjudged the placement of the blind window and my ground blind was broken in with it’s first official body piercing while the birds escaped intact.  Doh!

Tom turkey strutting in cut corn field

This big guy went looking for love in all the wrong places.


NAP Spitfire XXX broadhead

A perfectly placed NAP Spitfire XXX stopped this bird in his tracks.


NAP Quikfletch Hellfire vanes

The brand-new NAP Quikfletch Hellfire vanes worked awesome, and looked pretty cool too.

Justin with Kansas Rio turkey

The fruits of a successful DIY public land turkey hunt in Kansas.  My first Rio Grande turkey and a heck of a memorable experience.  A big thank you to Matt Miller for joining in on this journey and for running the camera during the fateful hunt.

All in all I would say this was a pretty successful trip!  Matt and I had a blast checking out new spots to hunt, seeing some new countryside, telling a few tall tales and chasing Kansas gobblers around.  We can’t wait to see what October is going to bring.  After all, chasing dirty birds is fun but there’s nothing quite like chasing whitetails.

Be sure to look for this story and hunt on an upcoming episode of Bowhunt or Die, Season 8 which begins on April 14th, 2017.

Justin Zarr
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General Manager at Bowhunting.com
Justin has been bowhunting for more than 30 years and co-hosting the popular bowhunting show Bowhunt or Die since 2010.  He lives in the NW suburbs of Chicago with his wife, 3 children, and semi-smelly dog.
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