Spring turkey hunters represent roughly 1.6 percent of Missouri’s total population. That being the case, it seems logical to assume that most people are blissfully ignorant of the good, the bad and the ugly things that are transpiring in the state’s hinterlands during the three weeks following the third Monday in April. I don’t really keep a blow-by-blow log of my turkey hunts, but if I did, what follows would be an accurate account of my April 25th hunt. (Note: I’ve chosen to use military time, not only because it makes more sense than civilian time, but also because being a turkey hunter can bear a disturbing resemblance to being a soldier.)
04:00. The alarm rings. Only the fact that it’s also my cell phone keeps me from slamming it through the far wall of my bedroom. Oh how I wish I’d gone to bed when I’d planned to.
04:35. I’ve donned my Permethrin treated cammies, added a pint thermos of freshly perked coffee to the back pocket of my turkey vest and am backing out of the driveway. Look out gobblers; here I come!
05:15. I’m sitting in a pre-positioned blind, complete with camp chair and a homemade shotgun rest. According to my handheld GPS–which I must admit guided me directly to the blind–I had traveled a little less than 750 yards from the parking lot. On the other hand, my shins–which have been around a lot longer than civilian GPS–insist I’ve walked at least twice that far.
05:55. It’s now legal shooting time, and the scene in front of my blind’s window is coming into focus. Admittedly, it’s an unusual site for a turkey blind. It sits just inside the edge of a mature forest that borders part of one side of a huge cornfield. It’s possible to see at least a 1,000 yards in two directions and about 200 yards to the edge of riverine timber bordering a creek on the third.
06:20. A mature gobbler strolled out of the timber about 100 yards to my left and started across the field. Every series of my finest come hither calls made him break into full strut for a minute or so, but nothing was going to keep him from whatever business awaited him on the far side of the horizon. As Yosemite Sam would no doubt have said, “I hates turkeys.”
06:30. Just as the aforementioned tom left the scene, I spotted two turkeys as far away as I could see down the eastern side of the field. Using binoculars, I determined by size and coloration that one was a mature tom and the other a jake.
The jake wandered off, but the tom put on a show the likes of which I’ve never before witnessed, but which I suspect has occurred countless times back in the timber where it would have been invisible. He would mix running, walking and strutting along a “track” at least 150 yards long parallel to the riverine timber but well away from it. He repeated this pattern for the next two hours without attracting a single hen. Given the way the gobblers were treating me, I felt he and I were kindred spirits.
08:40. My long distance buddy slowly started my way, following the edge of the timber. And I do mean slowly. There were times I wondered if he or the 13:00 legal quitting time would get to me first.
09:45. The gobbler started strutting and moving across the field directly toward me. Now this was more like it. Then I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and then saw a hen walking across the field in front of the blind toward the gobbler. When they met, they were technically in range, but there was too much brush in the way to shoot. Both turkeys moved off to my right.
10:05. When a turkey hunter’s luck changes, it really changes. The hen came strolling back past me, only 30 yards in front of the blind with the gobbler tagging along about 10 yards behind her. By some miracle, she didn’t see me, and when he came into range, I filled the first tag of my 2016 spring turkey season.
So as any nonhunter can plainly see, killing a turkey is easy. Or at least it is if you don’t consider the facts that this was the fourth morning I’d spent in the woods and the third place I’d set up the blind.
Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]