June 11, 2021
My first time setting foot in the Midwest was graced with thunder chickens screaming from the tops of hardwood trees. Not being one to get overly excited about spring turkey hunts, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and little did I know that these wily Easterns were going to turn me into a lifelong turkey hunter.
The little town of Tennessee, Illinois was very welcoming—albeit there wasn’t much there. The lodge at Performance Outdoors was quaint, the old farmhouse that had seen its time of family-run farm work had been converted into a comfortable lodge for whitetail hunters. Although the walls of the lodge were graced with mounts of the elegant beasts, we were there for a much different quarry, one feather instead of furred. I spent the next several days chasing gobbles.
This wasn’t a typically outfitted hunt that you may think of when you hear about lodges and guides. This was one of a different sort where we were given gear and equipment, then turned loose on the land to try our hand at the big birds in the area.
The QuietKat E-Bike
One of the pieces of gear that made this hunt doable was the QuietKat Apex E-Bike. At first, I was unsure of using the bike. But I was quickly converted into a believer when I put the Apex bike to work in the field.
The electric motor is completely enclosed in the inner workings of the bike along with the battery. The design makes for a very stout machine that is easy to operate, is always reliable, and comfortable to ride.
The Apex shares many of the same attributes as most hard-tail mountain bikes on the market. The frame is rigid, allowing the bike to carry plenty of weight on the fat tires both front and rear—load capacity is 325 lbs. The front fork features QK 150mm Inverted Air Suspension for a smooth ride, while the solid rear frame relies on the sidewall of the tire for the majority of the suspension, this helps the bike stay rigid while carrying a load.
Like all e-bikes, the motor engages once you start pedaling. You can set your desired sped via a remote on the handlebars which controls your desired amount of engine support. The Apex offers five different speeds in both ECO and Sport modes. As the names so aptly promote, ECO mode uses less power and ensures the battery lasts for your entire hunt, Sport mode kicks the bike into overdrive and allows you to cover ground quickly, even over the toughest obstacles.
One thing that sets the QuietKat apart from other e-bikes is the thumb throttle. This throttle allows you to engage the engine independently of pedaling. This is a great tool to get your momentum up when you need to make through thick mud or up a steep hill, thus giving your legs a bit of a break.
The Apex comes in several different frame sizes to fit a variety of riders—at 6’5”, the 19-inch large frame fit me just right and was a comfortable ride. You can also choose between battery sizes—1000W and 1500W—to make sure you get exactly the ride you’re looking for. Different models of the QuietKats exist as well to help fit your price range and riding style. The company even partnered with Jeep to create a full-suspension bike to allow riders to traverse the nastiest terrain.
Transporting gear can be difficult via bike, but QuietKat offers a great variety of waterproof panniers and cargo bags to store gear while riding into or out of the field. What’s more, the company offers trailers that attach to the bike. These trailers can haul all your necessities with ease, and surprisingly little effect on the actual functionality of the bike.
After using this bike in the field to chase gobbling birds, I'm a believer. These bikes are an effective and efficient tool that allows you to cover ground quickly, comfortably, and—most importantly—quietly.
The first morning of the hunt, Thacher Stone and I hopped on the QuietKats and rode into our hunting spot via a handlebar-mounted flashlight. With the red-light feature on, we were able to not spook game on the ride in. Crossing the water-logged, rough field was a breeze—and I say this begrudgingly because I am not one to shy away from hiking in on my hunts.
The area we were hunting in had just been hit with a big storm that caused immense flooding in the surrounding fields and river bottoms. With the QuietKats, we were able to cross without getting our feet wet and being uncomfortable for the rest of the hunt.
Once we reached our hunting area, we were graced with birds gobbling in the trees—we were in the right spot. The light was barely starting to make an appearance, so we hurried to get in position before our presence was made known to all the turkeys in the area.
As birds started to leave the roost, we began our succulent hen calls—these probably sounded more like dying squirrels than turkeys, but we gave it our best—hoping to entice a tom in for a morning liaison. Our calling, no matter how poor, was seemingly working and a tom made a break for us—gobbling the entire way. The set was working perfectly and as he cleared the last bit of brush at thirty yards, a coyote came running in and chased him off. Unfortunately, no shots were fired at the coyote either.
Being mere minutes after first light, we were confident that we would be able to work some more birds and find success. Boy, were we wrong. We spent the rest of the day—until 2 p.m., the time when turkey hunting closes in Illinois—covering ground looking for birds. We called excessively trying to get a response but none gobbled back.
The next morning, we took to the field with renewed spirits and were hearing gobbles. This time, Thacher and I were joined by our friend Alex Robinson of Outdoor Life. Alex had filled his tag the day before, so he rode in with us to help call. This time the calls were actually a succulent enticement for the toms. After the birds came off the roost and decided to go their own way, though. After a quick search of the surrounding area, we heard some distant gobbles and decided to make a move.
We set up on the birds and Alex worked his calling magic and brought them right in, strutting and spitting all the way. At 30 yards, I let the Franchi Affinity 12 gauge—with Federal Premium TSS turkey loads—sing, and the tom met his fate. Just before eight in the morning, I walked up on the dead bird, successful on my first Midwest hunt.
The hunt wasn’t over, though. We got the bird back to the bikes and continued to cover ground with hopes of finding Thacher a bird before our early afternoon deadline. We tried different patches of woods and fields hoping to find a lone gobbler ripe for the picking but they all alluded us. That was until we checked one last small section of woods where a bird fired off out of nowhere. We worked quickly to get into position and tried to stay silent as we got settled in the brush and thorn bushes.
The bird came in fast but he moved off before a shot could be fired and held up around 85 yards. The classic setup quickly turned into a run-and-gun situation as we began crawling through the brush. Eventually, we were able to get close enough for a shot. At just over 40 yards, Thacher put the tom down with a buzzer-beater shot at 1:30 p.m.
The hunt was successful, and the Midwest offered a great opportunity to find strutting turkeys. The Ace we had to play came in the form of the QuietKat Apex. These bikes allowed us to cover ground and locate birds easily and comfortably.