April 18th marked the opening day of spring turkey season here in Missouri. For me this is long anticipated so I was a bit perturbed when I woke up at 6am and realized that although I had set my alarm for 5am, I had failed to turn it on!! So now the rush is on. I threw on my clothes, grabbed all my gear and was pulling out of the drive at 6:07 (not bad huh;-). I live just a few minutes from my hunting ground so it was about 6:13 when I rolled by my first choice only to see two other trucks parked on the land. Not a great sign, but as I was driving past a mature Tom ran across the road not 15yrds in front of my jeep. I took that as a sign and quickly parked in the farmers driveway and set up opposite of the other hunters.
It wasn’t long before there were 3 gobbling answering my calling, but that only lasted for about 5min before one of the other hunters cut him off and shot him about 150 yrds from my position. Two gobbles was the only response from the shot, so I stayed put. It wasn’t long before they were closing in their heads bright red in the early morning light. It wasn’t until they reached about 30 yrds that I realized that their beards were a mere 5 inches long. They could gobble and strut just like the big boys, but these were definitely jakes. That’s when I caught movement to my right and there ended up being 10 more jakes come in to about 25 yrds to my right – they had me surrounded! After seeing them gobble I realized that these were the ones that had been talking so I waited til they moved on and I got back to the jeep and headed to another property.
I had just driven through a gate and had crested a hill going to park when I saw this bird in full strut about 300 yrds away across a brushy ditch with a hen. I slammed on the brakes, backed up, and the hunt was on! I just knew I’d have to sneak my way down to that ditch as I didn’t think he’d cross it with that hen over there with him. I got in the brush and quickly closed in the distance to 150 yrds and that’s when I decided to give a few yelps to locate him. His response about blew my socks off! He was across the ditch and it sounded as if he wasn’t more that 70 yrds away! I quickly scrambled through the brush up to the barbed wire fence that separated the brush from the pasture. I gave a few clucks with my mouth call to let him know that all that crashing really was a hen and not a desperate hunter trying to get into position! He gobbled and that’s when I saw him running towards me. The only problem was that my gun was still in my right hand butt to the ground and my camera tripod was still in my left. He blew up into a strut not 15 yrds away from me and began spitting and drumming – beautiful!! I very slowly released my tripod but my gun was still sticking straight up. He closed in to 10 yrds and I decided that I was going to have to resort to the fast draw and that’s what I did.
The gun leapt to my shoulder as twigs snapped from my commotion, he was in full strut so the commotion did startle him but only enough to bring him to half strut and take a few steps. My finger touched the trigger and it was over, there he lay, 12yrds in front of me! What a hunt! To be honest, it happened so fast that there was a touch of disappointment in my heart as I realized that it my month long anticipation had ended in a mere 10 minute hunt! That was soon dissipated as I put my hands on the bird and realized that I’d have friends to tag along with and there was always the next week when we could do this all over again.
It was an awesome morning and once again I’m thankful to God for the opportunity to interact with the amazing animals He created. Great times!