Editor’s Note: Hunter’s Specialties’ Pro Hunter, Steve Criner, is primarily known as a varmint hunter, but all his life he’s hunted anything that walks, crawls, slithers and/or swims.
There’s an area of Kansas where the Rio Grande turkey and the Eastern turkey have crossed, creating a new breed of turkey that’s locally known as the hybrid. Now, I’m not a turkey biologist, but historically these two subspecies of birds live in two different sections of the country. These two subspecies of turkeys usually don’t cross-breed, but there’s one little strip in Kansas where you’ll find these hybrids.
I had the opportunity to hunt in that area and take one of these birds. They actually look differently from both the Rio Grande turkey and the Eastern turkey. The ones I hunted acted more like Eastern turkeys than Rio Grande turkeys, which are more vocal than Eastern gobblers. But I considered the hybrids to be prettier than Easterns.
I was bowhunting with C&S Kansas Whitetails Outfitters for turkeys. One of the farms these outfitters had leased homed hybrids on it. Once we got set up in our blind, I used a Hunter’s Specialties Tech 3 Diaphragm Turkey Call with Infinity latex. We were hunting in early April. This region had had a weird spring with both hot and cold weather, so the turkeys were gobbling pretty well from the roost. However, when they hit the ground, they wouldn’t talk much. During this trip, we called-up several turkeys that wouldn’t gobble at all.
Chad Onek, one of the owners, told me that he’d been seeing these turkeys out in the field on his way to work every morning. We were hunting over a 7-acre soybean field that had been cut. This bean field was surrounded by deep ditches and a river on all sides, except for a highway at the front of the property. To be honest, I thought this was the worst field where I’d ever set up my H.S Strut Primetime Blind, because it didn’t look like the turkeys could come to it without flying. To make matters worse, the turkeys weren’t gobbling close to the field that morning, although we heard turkeys gobbling in the distance.
A couple of times that morning, I told my producer (Tony Glidewell), “I can’t stand this. I’m from the Ozarks, and there are no turkeys gobbling here or off in the distance. I think we need to get out of this blind and run and gun on those gobbling turkeys. We are going to move, but I’m going to call one more time before we leave.” When I yelped, several hens yelped back at me, and I told Tony, “There’s got to be a gobbler with those hens.”
About 2 minutes after I’d yelped, and the hens had answered me, I spotted a big gobbler coming into the field. When the tom came-in to my Hunter’s Specialties decoys, the Woody and the Jezebel, I drew my Mathews Z7 Xtreme bow and prepared to take the shot. Because the weather was dreary and overcast, we let the turkeys stay-in with the decoys longer than we normally would, to get better light for the video. However, when the turkey finally turned broadside, I aimed at the cup of the turkey’s wing and took the shot. I was shooting an NAP Spitfire Broadhead, and when that broadhead hit the turkey, the turkey hit the dirt.
When I walked out of the blind to pick up my turkey, I heard another turkey gobble across the road. So, I yelped to him, and before I could finish yelping, the turkey gobbled on top of my yelp and cut me off. I told Tony, “Let’s get back in the blind, and see if we can pull a double off.”
When I yelped once more, the gobbler across the road cut me off again. We sat there a little while. We called-in two gobblers that came across the paved road, and a third gobbler came across the ditch behind us. So, with that many turkeys out in front of my H.S Strut Primetime Blind, we made the decision to go ahead and take the second bird. When I looked at my watch, I realized that we’d taken two gobblers before 7:30 am.
I learned from this hunt, that when you’re hunting with an outfitter, and the outfitter puts you in a spot that he believes to be productive, you have to trust your outfitter and stay there until the turkeys appear. I never would have believed that a turkey would have walked across a paved road or flown across a ditch to reach the spot where we were hunting.