It sounds impossible — six mature tom turkeys harvested in six states in roughly 12 hours — but it happened. And while turkey nut Gary Odenbaugh broke no game laws accomplishing this crazy mission, we are sure he shattered a few speed limits.
by Jace Bauserman
After talking with Gary Odenbaugh on the phone for only a few minutes, a personality feature jumped out at me; it’s a trait I believe helps in the hunting woods and life.
Odenbaugh was super calm. His voice was low, and as he told the story of his remarkable tale, I’m not sure his pulse rate went up a single time. I had nothing to do with this fantastic turkey run, and my heart was thundering the entire time.
Of course, I have no doubt Odenbaugh is a remarkable turkey hunter; you don’t do what he did and not be, but being able to remain calm and process everything from logistics to truck breakdowns to landowner permission to drive time behind the wheel, you need to be a calm, patient person.
During my talk with Odenbaugh, he became a turkey thug like most of us, he only needed to glimpse one of these gorgeous birds, and he was hooked.
Growing up in Colorado along the South Platte River, however, catching glimpses of the wild turkey was rare. That is until the CDOW (Colorado Divison of Wildlife) released a flock in the area.
“Growing up south of Greeley on the South Platte River, I’d never seen a turkey, and then one day, around the age of 10, we found a little bunch along the river. It became kind of a tradition to go find that little flock of birds and watch them roost, and the more I watched them, the more I fell in love with them.”
That love quickly turned into an obsession. Like all starting-out turkey hunters, Odenbaugh admits to being what he called “green” but was willing to learn, and learn he did.
“I love a good challenge and seeing the birds gobble and strut. Becoming addicted to turkeys isn’t hard to do, and I can’t imagine anyone being around them and not falling in love with them.”
As many turkey hunters do, Odenbaugh began expanding his horizons and finding honey holes in bordering states. He told me about a particular year when he was guiding turkey hunters in South Dakota and recalled that he killed his two birds after the clients killed their birds, and that’s when things really got crazy for the first time.
“They left for the airport,” said Odenbaugh, “and I left for home, which took me through Nebraska. It was only about noon when I got into Nebraska, and I saw a couple of strutters. I had my tags and got permission, and I killed one of those two toms.”
Odenbaugh didn’t stop there. Full of piss and vinegar, he decided to push the gas pedal down a little deeper and make a run for Wyoming.
“I was tired but excited,” Odenbaugh said. “I called my buddy at Burris Optics, Todd Fulton, and he had hunted Wyoming earlier in the year. It was getting pretty late in the day when I got there, and the landowner told me he hadn’t seen any birds in a while, but I was welcome to try.”
Try was all Odenbaugh needed to do. He seems to be a turkey magnet, and after a long hike, he bumped into a small flock of Wyoming turkeys and was able to get between the birds and where he believed their roost to be. His chosen spot was a good one, and before legal shooting light expired, Gary Odenbaugh had killed his fourth bird in three states in one day.
Odenbaugh didn’t stop there. He planned, schemed, and embarked on a five-state, five-bird mission the following spring. Once again, he was successful and put down birds in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Five birds in five states between sunrise and sun set hours seems impossible, but then, Odenbaugh decided to up the stakes and tack on another state the following year.
“I had only done Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming but decided to add Montana. Montana would be difficult because it would increase my time on the road, but I figured it was worth a shot.”
The first year Odenbaugh attempted his six birds in six states run, his truck broke down in Kansas, and the quest was over. The following year, though, this was his schedule:
Colorado: Bird was on the ground by 5:45 a.m.
Nebraska: Bird was on the ground by 6:20 a.m.
Kansas: Bird was on the ground by 6:57 a.m.
Mileage: On the road to South Dakota by 7:05 a.m.
Harvested Birds: Placed in a large cooler with ice.
South Dakota: Bird was on the ground by 12:07 p.m.
Mileage: Drive time to Montana was over 3 hours.
Montana: Bird on the ground by 3:37 p.m.
Wyoming: Bird on the ground by 6:09 p.m.
As mentioned, no game laws were broken (speeding laws were), and each bird was cleaned and consumed.
Some may ask, “Why go on such a turkey run, and why try doing all of it in a single day?”
Odenbaguh said it perfectly.
“I just wanted to do it for myself. It was an excellent way to spend a bunch of money and burn a lot of gas in one day, but it was incredible. My dad rode along with me, which made the hunt all the more special.”
Turkey hunting is a passion for many, and if you haven’t hit the spring woods with some calls, decoys, and your weapon of choice, you don’t know what you’re missing. Turkeys can be hunted in 49 of the 50 states, and while non-resident tags have gone up in most states, you can string together your turkey tour for less than you’d spend on a single out-of-state elk hunt — just food for thought.
Gary admits not to being a big-time gear guy but did want to point out some of the gear that helped him on his crazy turkey adventure.