Quest for a Missouri Longbeard
It all started with a phone call to Tony May about possibly deer hunting in Missouri in the fall. I am not sure if it was my desire to harvest a turkey in every state possible, or his salesmanship was the reason I ended up at Randy and Cheresa Stelle’s lodge the first week of May. It was originally set up for the last week of April, but a family emergency postponed it a week.
I arrived to bad weather, and a grim outlook for the next few days. My optimism kept me focused on the task at hand. That was harvesting a mature Missouri gobbler. When I arrived at the lodge, I was greeted warmly from Tony and introduced to Trent Dunham, my guide for the next few days. A great meal and a few stories later we crashed for the evening.
We awoke at 3:45 am to a pretty steady rain. The only option was to wait for it to let up, and try to spot some turkeys. The rain let up and Trent had a plan. One setup later, no gobbles, no luck, and it was time for lunch. Early afternoon saw us at a new farm. We spotted a lone gobbler just hanging around a food plot. An hour and a half, a sneak, a belly crawl, and a set of soaked hunting clothes later produced no gobbler and a hope for a better second day. Trent determined that the gobbler probably roosted close, so an early arrival to that food plot the next morning was in order.
We found the perfect spot, set the decoys out, and waited for daylight. Breaking day produced a gobble in the draw across the food plot. No…two gobblers, ...three gobblers. My first time hearing that legendary, thundering Missouri gobble was awesome! Well, it is hard to compete with the real thing. The jealous hens pitched down on the other side of the draw in an adjacent field, and the three Casanova’s followed along. We sat there for a couple more hours and we saw or heard nothing. On the way out we spotted the big group of birds in that field. We decided to back up and cross the draw exactly where they were roosted to flank them. The next hour and a half could be considered comical. Two one hundred yard belly crawls, two laps around a twenty acre field, a grown man, myself, climbing to the top of a tree, Trent climbing a tree stand, and an emergency business phone call, and we still could not locate the flock of birds in the hilly field. We decided to head back toward the truck with the hopes of seeing the birds on the way out. I had just turned to Trent, frustrated with those typical “field turkeys”, and said,” It’s times like this you get frustrated and let your guard down and the turkeys bust you.” I turned around and low and behold, just over the next rise in the field I see a fan. We dropped down and realized we were pinned down. The way the turkeys were moving they would come by, but just out of sight over a ridge. I talked it over with Trent and we decided that calling was not an option. I looked at Trent and told him I thought I could get in position. He replied,” It is the next to last day of the season.” The grass around the field was about a foot tall, so I shed my turkey vest, and me and my leafy wear pretended to be snake. If I made it about 75 yards, I would be in position when they came by. After 60 yards, I decided to pick my head up just a bit to see what was happening. They had moved on me, now within range, and had gotten nervous. It was now or never! The “Big Bush” suddenly got to his knees and drew a bead on the strutting Tom. My BPS barked, and the turkey was now in flight, like a jet taking off. No time to wonder, “Boom, Boom”. I had decided to shoot at one of the other birds still standing there. Trent in the mean time could not see the other turkeys, just the one with his afterburners on. I stood up, knowing Trent couldn’t see the downed turkey, and acted dejected. When he walked up he finally realized that I had harvested my first Missouri gobbler. Wow, what a day! I still don’t know what happened on the first shot. Oh well! For those of you that think it is not the same harvesting a turkey like this, try your luck and see. It is much easier to call one in than to try to sneak in position on the wariest of game. It is hard to imagine a man wanting to harvest a turkey that bad, but being the next to last day in the season, we were determined! We headed back to the lodge for an afternoon of relaxation.
The final morning of my hunt, and the last day of Missouri’s turkey season found us setup on a green field where Trent had seen birds before. I had a second tag in my pocket and I wanted to use it. Although it was just as memorable and exciting as the first day, I will spare you the 3 hours of details of the hunt. I will just say that we worked 2 gobblers, 5 jakes, and 6 hens all morning, even after they were busted by a coyote, until I got caught in an awkward position( you know what I am talking about) and couldn’t feel my entire right side, to harvest another longbeard. Plus we got the whole episode on film!
I would be lying if I told you the hunting those few days was easy, but determination from Trent and myself paid off with 2 beautiful toms and a successful quest. To commend Trent and his efforts, I will tell you that no one else in camp harvested a turkey those three days. There was just brutal turkey hunting conditions. It is not fancy, but if you like great hosts, and a clean, comfortable place with great food, stay with Randy and Cheresa. You will not regret it. I also hope you get to meet Tony May one day. He simply has a passion for the outdoors that is second to none. By the way, He’s a pretty cool dude to hang out with also. So much that I am purchasing a season pass for 2008.
Thanks to Tony, for making me want to hunt there this season, and IMB Outfitters for one of my most memorable trips.