The first morning of Missouri turkey season, I found myself in the blackest, darkest bottom I’ve ever seen. The drifting fog brought to mind folktales of wary eastern turkeys making grown men go crazy. I anticipated that we would be spending two days in these hills chasing ghosts for the most part, along with the ever-so-rare gobble. But things never quite shape up to be what a fella has in his dreams.
I was joining my good friend Brett Eddleman from Beretta USA on his home turf. He was carrying the gun and I was loaded down with cameras. We were hunting a large creek bottom complex situated between two huge hillsides, typical Missouri farm country.
As we set off through a maze of winding trail roads and small fields in this premier habitat, I couldn’t help but think how we would soon be chasing turkeys over this same terrain as we tried to navigate ahead of where they were going.
The anticipation of waiting to hear a gobble cut through the darkness in the morning of a turkey hunt rivals the agony of waiting to hear Santa’s footsteps hitting the roof as a kid; it’s an incredible strain on the soul.
It wasn’t long into the dawn that we heard the first rumble from the treetops we were headed toward. The next few minutes of frantic shuffling and gobbles all over the creek bottom and hills lit a fire under our feet.
We found a good set of trees on a point and placed the deception decoys, a boss hen and a jake, in front of us.
As the gobbles continued and light began to grow, the occasional gun blast barked through the bottoms. It was a new experience for me, coming from the plains of Kansas. Very rarely do you ever see another turkey hunter much less hear one.
The shotgun blasts rolling through the hills made me a little giddy. I almost wanted to cheer for them, people who I didn’t know, as if they were stars on the football field on Friday night and I could hear the press box announcer yelling “touchdownnn” from blocks away.
To our surprise, our bird on the limb pitched down into our field and came running to our decoys. Gobbling all the way, strutting his stuff, it was the dreaded super jake.
He hit the decoys on the run and puffed up into character, notched tail fan and stubby beard. We both looked at each other in disbelief, as his gobble indicated he was the king of these woods. After a few photos and laughs, we were up and putting miles on our boots.
Day one came to a screeching halt as all gobbles seemed to cease after 7:30 am. Soon the texts from friends and associates came flooding in of either immediate success or dismal frustration that the birds had gone silent on such a perfect day.
On day two we hunted a new spot on the backside of a large duck club—a chunk of habitat that would have made Daniel Boone smile.
This time we slid in later in the morning, giving up our roost and dawn setup in preference for a scouted strut zone. The move proved to be the right one as a barrage of gobbles rattled the trees shortly after 7:30, not by our mouth calls, but by the famous “car whooshing over a bridge sound” that seems to always make gobblers go nuts.
We were set up about 200 yards from a county blacktop road that crosses a large creek. Soon the shock gobbles transitioned to fiery responses to a box call. Then we had to play the quiet game, as four gobblers tried to hold their ground and bring the hens to them.
After a strange gobble with an echo, I had a hunch they were coming under the bridge. And soon they showed their faces. Another string of gobbles at 80 yards in the woods gave up their approach.
They danced and swayed all over our decoys, showing that they were indeed the kings of these woods. White headed and full of vigor, one gobbler let out a gobble that you could feel at 15 yards and that was his last.
What a day and what an experience for my first Missouri turkey hunt.