Like everyone else who submitted a tag application for Nevada’s spring turkey hunt, Kensen Lee anxiously awaited the results of the draw. But when they finally were posted, he was a little disappointed. Not because he didn’t draw a tag, but because he had.
As it turned out, Lee had drawn a tag for the last of three weeklong seasons to take place in the Moapa Valley area. While that was the very place Lee was looking forward to hunting, he was concerned that pressure associated with the first and second seasons could make his third-season experience less than he had hoped for. At one point Lee, even considered turning in his tag. Luckily, he didn’t hold that thought for long.
Lee drew his first spring turkey tag for Moapa Valley in 1995 and his second in 2009. This was his third, but he also has spent considerable time helping other hunters fill their tags, something he has done in 18 of the past 20 years.
“Everyone I’ve helped has harvested a bird,” said Lee, who estimates that 75 percent of the people who hunt Moapa Valley get their birds in one day. “Only 25 percent of the time it takes two days to get a bird out there.”
So what is it about turkey hunting that keeps someone coming back year after year, even when they have to help someone else to have that in-the-field experience?
“It’s a big rush,” Lee explained as he began to describe the second day of his 2015 hunt.
“Sunday morning I had close to 15 different gobblers come into my setup. Three different groups. The only thing was they were veering off at about 75 yards and I could never get a shot off. They just wouldn’t come all the way into my setup.”
Turkey hunters often use decoys in combination with calling techniques to attract mature toms within shooting distance. That setup often includes a hen or two along with an immature tom designed to take advantage of a mature gobbler’s strong dislike for a lesser bird.
In addition to a single hen, Lee’s setup included a decoy he found at the Mojo booth during the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show this year, but he wondered if this new decoy was just too much.
“I don’t know whether my decoy was too overpowering, and they were afraid to come in or what,” Lee said. “It actually rotates left and right, and its fan tail goes up and down. I don’t know if that was too overbearing, and these turkeys hung up and wouldn’t come in all the way or what.”
The same thing had happened the day before in another area, and Lee began to grow a little uneasy about his prospects. Though he was finding birds, it was getting them to come within shooting distance that proved to be the challenge.
Lee altered his tactics and began to look for stalking opportunities. He found what he described as a “pretty good flock of toms” moving toward the center of a field on the land he was hunting.
“I knew exactly where I thought they were going to be, so I snuck in as quietly as I could,” Lee said. “And when I jumped a ditch, there they were, and they busted me!”
As the birds began to make a hasty exit, Lee fired twice at a gobbler but missed on both attempts. Then to Lee’s surprise, his shots were followed by two more. And it was then he realized that another hunter had been working the same group of birds.
Knowing that only one other person had permission to hunt that field, Lee called out, “Hey Kevin, is that you?”
This is the first of a two-part column. Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.