My 2011 Tom Turkey

Rick Cunningham, Special to The Hays Daily News
Rick Cunningham

One of my best friends (Junior) just loves to hear the story of the turkey I killed in 2011.  I’m sure he finds it very humorous.

I started opening day 10 miles northeast of Woodston.  The night before season, I had roosted seven long beards.  The boss tom was noticeably much bigger than the other six.  He spent most of his time running off the other toms anytime they got close to his hens.

It was a typical opening morning, starting out really cold but gradually warming up.  They all flew down, and just as the night before, the boss tom spent his time chasing the other toms away from the hens.

Being opening day, I decided to only shoot the boss.  If I didn’t get a shot, I would just go somewhere else.

Eventually, the whole flock moved west into a big wheat field.  I almost left, but decided to set up against a tree by the wheat field to call.  I called; nothing.  Then I saw a tom coming my way.  I figured it had to be one of the smaller toms.  Why would the boss leave his hens?  So I really didn’t get ready for the shot.

When he cleared the last terrace, I could see it was the boss.  He was moving fast, walking straight to me.  I had to shoot or he’d be too close.  I was laying on my back, but was able to twist my gun.  At the shot, I could tell I had hit him in his left breast.  He rolled and then took flight.  My second shot broke his right wing.  A wounded turkey – the worst thing that could happen.

As soon as he hit the ground, he took off running, going right through a barbed wire fence with ease.

I took off after him, through the fence.  He was in an open pasture.  I was about 70 yards behind him running as fast as I could, but gaining no ground on the wounded tom.

I had a lot of clothes on and a heavy turkey vest.  As I chased the turkey, he kept his distance, often looking back at me.  I ran until I couldn’t go any longer.  My lungs were burning.  My whole body hurt.  I had to stop; I couldn’t take another step.

I figured that when I stopped, he would keep running and I would just have to watch him, and hopefully he would dig in somewhere where I could go after him.  But instead, he started to walk just like me, looking back at me to see what I was doing.  After a few minutes I knew I had to try to run again. For some reason I was able to close the distance and finish him off.

I fell to the ground exhausted, looking up at the beautiful blue sky.  I thanked God and said to myself, “I’m getting way too old for this!”

He was a great turkey, making the Kansas Wildlife and Parks record book (24.5 lbs, 1.25” spurs, and 10” beard).

In closing, I still can’t figure out why the old tom had left his hens with the other toms and had come to check me out.  In all my years of turkey hunting, I have learned one thing for sure:  Always be ready for the unexpected, and give up trying to make sense of a turkey’s behavior.

May God bless you all.

Rick Cunningham is an avid outdoorsman from Ellis.