At the age of 55, this is the first spring that I have hunted turkeys. My job responsibilities changed last fall and allowed me a more flexible schedule this spring. Although I have hunted and killed a few fall turkeys, that is a different experience than matching wits with mature gobblers during their breeding season. I was a novice when this season began, and I’m only one slight notch above novice after eight spring hunts. The hunting was forecast to be challenging this year because of the low production during the two previous years. Fewer young turkeys meant a higher proportion of older, and smarter, Missouri birds.
I feel fortunate to have gotten close to gobbling adult birds during six of my eight hunts on local public conservation areas. I did manage to kill an adult gobbler on my fourth hunt, so I got the full experience of harvesting, cleaning, cooking and eating a wild gobbler. My lack of experience with a turkey call may have contributed to my inability to have more birds come a-running, but I’ve heard experienced callers report similar results with some birds.
The most compelling attraction of spring turkey hunting was that each close encounter with a mature gobbler was a contest of wills. The sound of those loud gobbles nearby gives a thrilling connection to a bird that the hunter may not ever even get to glimpse. Whether successful or not, spring turkey hunts generate hunters’ stories like no other hunting that I’ve done. Every action of turkey and hunter is replayed later in the hunter’s tale like moves in an important chess match. There is a great temptation to second-guess your moves when the turkey gets the better of you.
Other than the disruption of normal sleep patterns to be in the woods before daylight, I thoroughly enjoyed my first tastes of spring turkey hunting. I can’t wait until next spring to apply what I learned this year from my gobbler encounters and my story-swapping with other hunters. I hope that agreeable weather in the next few weeks will boost turkey production this year. I could use some less-intelligent birds next spring.