Two Days, Two Doubles
Missouri was tough this year! The state moved the season up ten days and the gobblers were henned up about as bad as I had ever seen them. Seems that some concerned parents decided they didnít like youth day falling on Easter weekend, so they petitioned the state to change the date of the youth season. Instead of just moving the youth season up, they moved everything up ten days. That, coupled with a late spring cold snap, had everything behind. For the past three seasons in Missouri hunter have harvested over 52000 gobblers each year. With six days left this season, 22000 had been harvested. One of our clients, who has over two hundreds birds to his credit summed it up by saying he felt the birds got started with the mating process, got shut down by the cold snap, the eggs that had been laid may have froze, and everything had to start over at the beginning of the season. All I know is that birds that normally would have come running to the call, would gobble back on occasion, but werenít about to leave the hens they were showing off for. I guess we have all heard the old saying, ď A bird in the hand is better than a bird in the bush! ď. And that definitely applied this year.
Last season in Missouri, I had the chance to guide Tommy Jackson, a preacher from Texas, and we shared two incredible hunts together, (Two Days, Two Birds). His son Justin also hunted with another of our guides, Pat Ely. Pat is a great turkey guide and a very accomplished turkey caller (much better than me) but they just didnít have any luck. Regardless of how good a hunter or caller you are, luck in finding hot birds that are willing to play, has a huge factor in your success.
Justin had booked another hunt for this spring, and as I was driving out to Missouri, Tommy called me and said he had decided to come along and wanted to know if I would guide them both this year. I checked with Darrin Bradley, owner of IMB, and he said that would be fine.
I guided the first week of the season in Nebraska, then headed to Missouri to guide the second and third weeks of the season there. When I arrived, I was disappointed to find that the gobblers were glued to the hens and chances to find a mature gobbler, without a bunch of girlfriends were slim. The first week I guided, we would hear birds gobbling off the roost every morning but as soon as they hit the ground, that was pretty much it. One morning we actually had two birds coming in hard just after fly down. We could see one roosted hen and she was doing a good job of helping with the calling, but as the gobblers got closer, hens that we couldnít see started pitching down out of the trees on the hillside and went straight to the gobblers. Game over!
I was off the day Tommy and Justin were coming in and had a chance to scout one of our properties that I hunted last year with some success. Grandpas! The property is a couple hundred acres of mainly crop fields with a patch of timber thatís about thirty acres and several connecting fingers of timber in two draws that extended up through the crop fields.
One of the things I pay a lot of attention to when I am scouting, especially when I hear birds on the roost, is where they go when they come off. Typically the birds will have two favored routes they will go. When the gobblers are henned up the way they were this year, and wonít pay much attention to a call, figuring out where they like to go after they fly down , gives you at least a 50/50 chance of being in the right place. Getting decoys out helps a lot too. None of the gobblers, even the jakes, like to see a strange jake standing behind a hen. I had a jake decoy get torn to pieces in Nebraska this year by a group of six jakes. When they saw the decoy, all six of them went straight to it and ganged up on it. I told my hunter as we were watching the show that I thought we could have killed all six of them with one shot, as they all had their heads in an area about the size of a basketball.
The birds the morning I was scouting were roosted on the southeast corner of the crop field and at fly down headed west along the edge of the timber and turned north up one of the fingers. Then they stayed there and gobbled for at least an hour. After they left the area, I went over and decided where to set up on them.
The next morning found us set up and ready to go at five am. As luck would have it, about five minutes later, a pack of coyotes started howling and the turkeys started gobbling. Only problem was the coyotes were between the turkeys and us. I donít know if thatís what changed their mind, but they didnít come our way. But they did skirt the patch of timber again, after they flew down. Since we hadnít disturbed the bird, I decided to hunt there again the next morning,. We went to a small outside corner, along the edge of the field that bordered the patch of timber. We took a long hike to get there through the cornfield, just to make sure we didnít bust any birds and were set up about five am again. There are two favorite places on that property the birds like to roost, and the point we set up on made it possible to place my Jake and hen decoy in a spot where it could be seen from both places. About 5:30 am, two birds started gobbling in the corner to our west. We could also hear several other birds on the other side of the timber. There was a huge dead elm tree right on the corner and I had Tommy and Justin sit side by side, behind a small ground blind I had with me. I tree called to the birds several times, just to get their attention and let them know their were some chicks over there. Around 5:40, they flew down out of the tree into the corner of the field and immediately started gobbling and strutting across the wood line to the decoys. They put on a pretty good show but it didnít last very long. When the first bird was within about twenty yards of our position, he started acting a little funky and I knew it was now or never. Within three seconds, both birds were down. It was 5:52. Tommy and Justinís first double ever! After some high fives, hugs and pictures we went to the Leonard cafť for breakfast, and were back at the Macon lodge by about 9:00 am. Just in time for a nap!
Last season, Tommy and I killed both of his birds on one piece of property. I could tell Tommy really wanted to go there, so we made plans for the next morning. Last season, I called in a bird there that busted us at about 80 yards. That was, without a doubt, the biggest turkey any of us had ever seen. This bird is a true thirty pounder and when he stands upright, his beard drags in the grass. Didnít know if he made it through the winter but it didnít take long to find out. We set up on a fencerow, near a draw the birds like to roost in. After hearing only one bird off the roost, we were suddenly surprised by a group of 8 hens and 4 gobblers that flew into the field out of range. The monster was one of them. He was half again as big as the other long beards, and while he strutted, all they did was walk around and pick at the stubble. We did have a Jake at five yards, which didnít give us a lot of options at the time, but the big bird just flat out refused to show any interest in anything we were doing. After a while, they disappeared over the hill. Thatís when Tommy told me they had to leave no later than 9:30. Seems they were meeting their wives and Justinís kids in Branson, Mo. that evening and they had to get on the road by 11 am.
We decided to go down in the creek bottom and check out a big field surrounded by timber, where we had killed one of Tommyís birds the year before. We snuck through the timber, and sure enough there were two big gobblers strutting with some hens on the other side of the field. Once again, they would gobble, but wouldnít even think about coming. With limited time (one hour), we decided to put the sneak on them. We stayed in the timber and had made it about halfway around the field when Justin spotted some birds in a tractor gap going into another field. Nine gobblers together! We changed course and headed for the tractor gap. At 9:20 we eased through the woods and came up the creek bank to the edge of the field. A couple soft calls and it was all over in a matter of seconds. Another double!
I now have a new Bennelli shotgun that Iím going to call the Jackson gun, thanks to Tommy and Justin. We hustled back to the lodge and I took care of their birds while they packed their clothes. They packed up and were on the road by 11 am.
Tommy and Justin were great. Not once did they try to guide the guide and when it came time to pull the trigger, they knew how to do the job! It just goes to show that even when the birds are tough, you can kill them if you donít give up ! Knowing where the birds want to go and setting up your decoys in their way can also pay huge dividends when they arenít willing to come to you.