Turkey Bonus: Border Patrol for Two-State Gobblers

Turkey hunting Josh Dahlke border1

Kansas and Missouri are loaded with gangs of aggressive turkeys. The dominant males sport long beards and carry sharp spurs, and every spring they’re looking for a fight. My posse wanted a piece of the action, so we joined a camp on the state line to patrol the border.

Going after gobblers in familiar territory is always part of my annual spring turkey trek, but heading out of town to explore new ground is what really keeps me on my toes. Whether it’s DIY hunting on a budget or setting up shop with an outfitter, I prefer to make the most of my time and money on the road. One efficient way to do this is to hunt two states during one trip. My first experience with double-dipping took place along the border of Missouri and Kansas.

The Show Me State is a destination with plenty to show a traveling turkey hunter. Missouri routinely boasts a spring gobbler harvest that ranks among the best in the country. The appeal of this high-odds hunt is amplified by over-the-counter license availability and widely accessible public hunting land. From the 1.5-million-acre Mark Twain National Forest in the south, to abundant state Conservation Areas spread throughout the entire state, there’s no shortage of places to pitch a tent and chase turkeys in Missouri.

Go west to the Sunflower State of Kansas and you’ll find more solid opportunities to bust beaks. Hunters in Kansas don’t kill as many turkeys as those in Missouri, and public ground isn’t as plentiful, but that doesn’t mean the horizons aren’t bright for a spring adventure. Study the 1 million acres of private property enrolled in the Kansas Walk-In Hunting Area (WIHA) program for a run of the state’s roost.

Of course, if you’re willing to drop some extra coin, these Midwestern states also are full of reputable hunting operations, with keys to premium chunks of private land on both sides of the border. My friends and I were invited to roll with one such operation, Twin Chimneys Outfitters, with tags for both states in our pockets.

Morning Mission
Hardcore turkey hunters consistently notch their tags by patterning birds during the pre-season, and the Twin Chimneys crew doesn’t take this task lightly. Old-fashioned scouting is always priceless, so they put boots on the ground and glass daily before opening day to identify known gobbler haunts. But they also employ newfangled technology, such as Bushnell’s Trophy Cam HD Wireless – a scouting camera that snaps images of game activity and instantly sends thumbnails to your cell phone. These deadly recon efforts sealed the fate of one sneaky tom during the first morning of our hunt.

Muzzleloader gobblers on the border make for an exciting hunt, especially if you can hunt two states in the same day!

Muzzleloader gobblers on the border make for an exciting hunt, especially if you can hunt two states in the same day!

My friend, Justin Leesmann, and I met Twin Chimneys guide Kevin “Tug” Mick before dawn. Mick escorted us to a known turkey travel corridor on his family’s property. We popped up a Browning ground blind and melted into the darkness, listening intently for a foolish gobbler to break the silence. Distant gobbling finally met the rising sun, but it was muted when the sky cracked open and released a pounding spring rain. The ground blind sheltered us from the storm, allowing us to focus on our objective and maintain our post during the downpour. A while later, a lone hen materialized, softly clucking and yelp- ing in an attempt to make conversation with our lifelike Avian-X hen decoy. Surprisingly, no strutters were on her tail. The single gal soon lost interest and strolled into the unknown.

Six hours passed before our three- man team agreed it might be time to abort the morning mission. Having been taunted by countless pack-up birds in the past, I suggested we wait 10 more minutes. Our collective patience paid off … as I nodded off, making up for a turkey season full of sleep depri- vation, minute by groggy minute. Thankfully, Mick was at full attention and spotted a waterlogged longbeard approaching our setup. The veteran gobbler disappeared behind a subtle roll in the land. Finally, he extended his periscope to investigate the scene, and somehow detected our ruse. It was too late, though. Soon, he hung by his spurs alongside two other gobblers taken by our posse before noon.

Afternoon Ambush
With my Missouri gobbler already on ice, our team regrouped to hunt the second half of the day in Kansas. It was like déjà vu as we jumped out of Mick’s pickup truck after lunch in the same spot where we had parked that morning. As luck would have it, his family’s driveway literally marks the dividing line between Missouri and Kansas, and the Mick farm abounds with opportunities to tango with border birds.

We were loading our battle gear into a 4×4 UTV when I realized my turkey gun wasn’t in the mix. Rookie mistake: I had forgotten it back at camp. Justin cordially offered me his gun, but I knew he was eager to collect the bounty on a bird of his own. He would be the primary shooter for this afternoon ambush.

Rain greeted us again as we settled into position at a promising waypoint along a pasture fence line. The spot didn’t appear to have much structure, but Mick’s scouting proved birds were frequenting the area. Again, the ground blind put a comfortable roof over our heads, but it also offered much-needed concealment among the scant cover of the open pasture.

The all-too-familiar figures outside the blind windows began to lose defi- nition as the sky grew dim. A faraway stump soon resembled a strutter, but the evening illusions were all we saw. It was time to fold, but we decided to test the charm of “10 more minutes.” We struck some desperate calls and quietly began plotting the next day’s border patrol, when suddenly … birds! All hell broke loose as we struggled to reposition in the blind and open a side window for Justin to bust a flanking longbeard. Seconds later, a Kansas boss was dead.

Building a Border Hunt
Several neighboring states sell nonresident spring turkey tags over the counter, with no need to hinge your season around the luck of winning a lottery: Montana and Wyoming; Nebraska and South Dakota (Black Hills); Oklahoma and Texas; Kentucky and Tennessee; New York and Pennsylvania; Alabama and Florida – are all excellent examples. Other popular lottery states, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, generally have nonresident surplus tags available over the counter later in the season.

If you’re planning a two-state turkey hunt, don’t be deceived by the language that many states use to
describe their licensing procedures. Read between the lines while conducting your research. The
words “drawing” or “application” might stand out in turkey season information for many states, but oftentimes this only means “lottery” for very specific zones. The Black Hills region of South Dakota is a prime example: You need to “apply” for a spring Black Hills turkey permit, but you’re guaranteed to get it.

Get your posse together and put a border hunt on the calendar. It’s a fruitful way to squeeze every bit of juice out of your spring turkey season.

Get More Great Turkey Hunting Tips

Click the cover to learn more ...

Click the cover to learn more …

Whether you’re hunting on public land near home or in different states or working on improving your private land, check out this selection of turkey hunting information. Habitat management, strategy, hunting tips, calling and much more is available here.