Lately I’ve found myself daydreaming about turkey hunting. This time of year stirs something in me as the world comes out of hibernation. The spring peep frogs start peeping, the early spring flowers start flashing their vibrant colors, and the turkeys start to gobble. As I’m gearing up for the opening of spring turkey season in Missouri, my mind wanders back to last year’s hunt.
For two weeks I hunted in the same corner of our farm, to no avail. The turkeys were roosting in that corner, but they were either roosted on the other side of the fence or they flew down to hens on the other side. I guess the hens over there were more alluring, although I was confident in my calling skills.
My morning hunts were cut short by a little problem called “the day job,” so I was unable to wait until the gobblers broke free of the hens. Finally, I called my neighbor to see if she would allow me to hunt on her side of the fence. I obtained her permission and headed out for new territory the next morning. As luck would have it, I didn’t hear a single turkey. They weren’t answering to anything.
I scouted the area I would hunt the following morning and located what appeared to be the perfect set-up, on an old fence row lined with some scraggly cedar trees, facing out toward a field. I’d have another field to my back and woods to my left and right. Shivering with excitement, I scurried back to the house in high anticipation of the upcoming morning’s hunt.
I had a fitful sleep that night, worrying I might not hear the alarm. By the time the alarm sounded, I was exhausted, but a cup of stout coffee energized me and I dressed quickly.
Arriving at my destination, I got situated comfortably and started digging through my turkey vest for my new favorite, the Commando Pro Staff slate call and my old raspy hen mouth call. I had my trusty Mossberg 835 Ulti-mag, shells, calls and face mask. I was set.
It seemed like hours before the woods started waking up, but in reality it wasn’t more than 30 minutes. The first bird of the dawning morn was a cardinal, cheering me on for a successful hunt. Shortly after the cardinal’s song, there was a gobble. My heart started thumping.
The gobbler was in the woods to my right, so I thought things were going to play out like clockwork. The tom replied numerous times to my calls, building my calling confidence with each stroke of the striker. I could tell when the big boy flew down, because of a difference in his gobbling. We exchanged calls time and again, but he wasn’t budging. From the sounds of his gobbles, he was moving back and forth through the woods, not coming my way. I decided to move down the fence row toward the woods, which were rumbling with gobbles. The low-hanging cedar branches provided good cover for my scrambling down the fence row. When I realized I had left my turkey call back at my first spot, I decided to sit it out and see what this tom was going to do next.
The gobbles started sounding like he was moving farther away instead of coming in to me, so I scuttled back to grab my call. With call rescued and in hand, I returned to the corner of the field at the edge of the woods where the gobbler had been hung up all morning. He was gobbling a little less frequently, and sounded like he had moved to the far end of the woods. The next thundering gobble came from out in the field I had been facing originally. He was angling up toward where I had just left.
Then my neighbor’s cattle came into the same field. One of the younger calves started jumping and romping about. I hadn’t caught a glimpse yet of the gobbler in the field, but suddenly the calf took off at a run and chased the gobbler, his long neck stretched out, running like an Olympic champ, back into the woods.
I just sat tight, unsure whether to laugh or cry. I remained motionless. Within a few minutes, I saw the tom’s white head in the woods, he was making his way straight to me. He looked as though he was cautiously choosing his steps. Everything went into slow motion. When he went behind a large oak tree, I got my shotgun up and clicked the safety off. I was ready for him as he stepped from behind it. I could see so vividly the fiber optic sights, making sure they were perfectly lined up with my target. As I squeezed the trigger, I was confident it was going to be a good shot. The tom dropped in his tracks. Immediately I jumped up and ran to the turkey. I was shocked, amazed, thankful, happy and excited. He was definitely a fine bird, weighing in at 23 pounds, with an 11 1/4 inch beard and 1 3/8 inch spurs.