This spring has found us very busy here at Twin Pines. After the hard winter we endured in the Ozarks, the promise of nice weather has brought folks out in droves. Taking a look at our calendar, I noticed a slot open for Wednesday morning of the second week in Turkey Season. With an “okay” from my manager, I penciled in a quick morning hunt.
The morning of the 30th found me on the back porch, sporting a shotgun and wearing my best camo duds. I had poured myself a cup of coffee and was about to take a sip when I heard the first gobbler of the morning cut loose. I set my cup down, grabbed my shotgun and hurried into the woods. With the late spring this year, ground cover hunters typically prefer while chasing these wary birds, has not been ideal. I closed the gap between the bird and I quickly. When I was as close as I felt was prudent, I set up. With a few purrs and yelps I had the gobbler responding and heading in. As he moved in closer, I was mentally picturing the ground between us shrinking. 100 yards, 90, 80, 70…Then I saw him across the thicket. Coming in hot, he stopped at the wood line and gave a couple warning “perks.” With that, he took a jump, flew into the closest tree, and roosted. Questions were racing through my head—“Did he see me? Had I moved?”—but were quickly answered when I noticed movement around the base of the tree. Two coyotes circled the turkey’s refuge four times, looking up longingly at the old bird.
Watching this scene play out reminded me that even though we hold seasons for wildlife in Missouri, not all critters are managed by hunters and designated hunting seasons. Turkeys have had a very spotted and interesting history in our state. As an MDC employee, I take much pride in the current flock size. Even still, predation, disease, and weather play a key role in the turkey numbers from year to year. However, by using sound wildlife population science, public input, and key partnerships, MDC has a credited, comprehensive approach to turkey management. By supporting your local NWTF chapter, filling out turkey surveys, or just buying a tag and harvesting a bird, you are doing your part to help MDC keep a balanced population of turkeys.
As the two coyotes continued to circle the base of the tree, I let out a couple of soft purrs. This caught their attention and I sat motionless as they both turned in my direction, and then trotted out of sight. The old bird watched his predators disappear into the wood-line before turning his attention back to the invisible hen at hand. He began working his way up to a higher vantage point limb by limb, then leaned forward and glided off the roost in my direction. 60 yards, 50, 40…