Two miles of hiking along a forested ridge top logging road put me on top of the tallest mountain around an hour before sunrise. Nestled up next to a blowdown oak, I poured a cup of coffee from grandpa’s old Stanley thermos and waited on the first gobble of the morning. It came soon after. For the next hour I sat audience to an ensemble of birds bellowing from every ridge and every holler for miles around. I was front row as nature’s symphony delivered a reprieve from the current anxiety gripping the globe.
The plan was only to listen. And to strike a gobble in a few different locations. One of those being a powerline crossing with deep drainages on both sides. When I hit my box call, a gobbler thundered back. I would have left him alone after making mental note of his location, but he had to step out into the open and go into full strut. He wanted to play. I obliged.
Wearing blue jeans, a green sweatshirt and no gloves or facemask, I sucked into the base of forked tree. He had started up the two-track coursing the powerline cut. If he followed that path, he’d end up right next to me. But he didn’t. Because a band of jakes came rolling in from the opposite direction. They were chattering about in the woods across the powerline opening from me. Before coming to find his lady, the gobbler headed straight for those jakes and laid down a beating. He jumped on the them and pounded them with his wings. It all took place 20 yards form me.
After running them off a little ways, he came looking for me. Filming on my phone with my right hand, I did my best to work a box call with my left hand while it was on the ground next to my leg. It didn’t sound like anything you’d want your buddies to hear, but it worked. He ended up 10 yards to my right and ripped out a fierce gobble. Then moved around me and took the high ground, where he spit and drummed and strutted for 15 minutes just out of sight. Occasionally, I could catch a glimpse of him. The jakes stayed 30 yards or so away the entire time. Eventually, he walked off and I let him go. He never spooked. Just moseyed away. For me, this interaction was better than any therapy money could buy. If you want to see this turkey video, it’s on my website, www.driftwoodoutdoors.com.
Youth Season kicked off Missouri’s spring turkey season on Saturday, April 4th. I’m writing this from my cabin the day before. All is prepared and my daughter, Bailee, is ready to go. I hope we have a good story to share in a future column. I hope all the other youth hunters out there, and their mentors, had an incredible time outdoors.
The regular spring season runs from April 20 until May 10. Hunters are allowed to kill two bearded or male turkeys, but only one may be taken during the first week. If you don’t take one during the first week, then you can take two during the second and third weeks, but only one per day. Hunting hours are ½ hour before sunrise until 1 p.m. You must telecheck your turkey by 10 p.m. the day you kill it. Hunters born before January 1, 1967 must complete an approved hunter education course to purchase a license.
Finding a place to turkey hunt in Missouri isn’t difficult. Most public land in this state has a healthy population of birds. The Mark Twain National Forest consists of nearly 1,500,000 acres of public hunting ground and has a ton of turkeys roaming all across it. Conservation Areas scattered throughout Missouri are also prime turkey hunting destinations. They collectively offer nearly 1,000,000 acres of public land. Hunting Army Corps of Engineers land by water is favorite tactic of mine. Not many hunters go to this length to locate birds. Around many reservoirs, you can find secluded areas and have them all to yourself. Plus, if the hunting is tough, you can go fishing.
It is always important to keep in mind when turkey hunting, especially on public land, that some of the turkey sounds you hear may actually be other hunters using calls to sound like a turkey. Always be 100 percent positive of your target before pulling the trigger. A dark-brown, fanned out gobbler and a camouflage clad hunter who’s sitting down can look a lot more alike than you might imagine, especially in the heat of the moment when adrenaline may cause your mind to play a trick.
Turkey season offers sportsmen many opportunities to enjoy nature. The weather is finally warming up, mushrooms are popping, and fish are biting. It’s pretty easy to turn a weekend of turkey season into a serious outdoor adventure. Crappie, bass, and white bass are all being caught in good numbers and size. I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend than turkey hunting and catching some fish. Throw in some cast iron cooked biscuits, a little ham and bean soup, a few fried morels, and my personal paradise has been defined.
See you down the trail…
For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on by clicking HERE or anywhere podcasts are streamed.