On a warm April evening, there was a celebrity sighting in this little town in northeast Kansas.
As a tanned man with wavy hair walked into Nelson’s Landing Restaurant, heads turned and patrons whispered.
Finally, a man with a white beard dressed in bib overalls and an orange shirt approached the table.
“You’re Roland Martin, aren’t you?” he said.
Martin, a legend in the outdoors world, smiled and acknowledged his fan.
Even in the boonies, Martin’s face and reputation make him instantly recognizable. Longtime professional fisherman, host of a popular outdoors television show, Florida fishing guide, nationally known hunter — Martin has done it all.
“What in the world are you doing out here?” his fan asked.
“Well, I’m going turkey hunting, and I’m going to try to find some morels,” Martin said. “And I’ve heard this is the place to go.”
In other words, Martin traveled from his home in Naples, Fla., to Kansas to chase spring.
The seed for the trip was planted this winter at a sport show when Martin visited with Rick Dykstra, who was manning a booth to promote Acorns Resort on Milford Lake and Geary County in general.
Martin saw photos of turkeys and morels that Dykstra had taken and was displaying, and Martin was hooked.
They agreed on a time for Martin to visit, and Dykstra set up arrangements, including using Acorns as a base camp and visiting country cafes with down-home cooking.
Nelson’s Landing fit that bill. It wasn’t the first time customers have spotted celebrities there. The mother of Jordy Nelson, the Green Bay Packers standout wide receiver who was a star at K-State, owns the restaurant and her son occasionally stops in.
But this was different. When Martin came to town, it was big news.
And it didn’t take long for Martin to fall in love with the area. Before sunrise the next day, he was following his guide, Kenny Bammes of Manhattan, along the edge of the timber on land in eastern Geary County.
Soon, turkeys gobbled from the roost and the hunters waited. As the gray began to lift, the birds pitched down into a field and Martin began calling. As one of the gobblers started to turn, Martin issued a loud call on his mouth call and the tom immediately answered.
It puffed up, then started strutting toward the decoys. When it came with 20 yards of the spot where Martin and Bammes hid, Martin fired a shot and hit his target.
Standing over the bird he shot, Martin said, “This is perfect turkey country. The valleys, the grain, the roost trees, the clearings, the water — they have everything they need right here. I’ve been hunting turkeys for a long time, but this is some of the best land I’ve seen.”
Martin got a second taste the next day when he accompanied Eric Coffman to another tract. The result was the same. Martin called in another bird and shot that one, too.
The quest for morels wasn’t as successful. The region had been dry before the recent rain and morels were few and far between.
Still, Martin, 76, gushed about his trip to Kansas. He didn’t have time to fish, but he was impressed with Milford Lake and promised to return.
“People recognize me for my bass fishing, but I love to hunt turkeys almost as much as I like to go after bass,” he said. “I’ve probably hunted 25 states.
“I got serious about it in 1980, and when I was at my peak, I would take 25 turkeys in 15 states in one year alone. I’ve slowed down now. But I still go after them. This spring I will hunt, Kansas, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama.
“As long as I can get around, I’ll be out here hunting.”