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Strutting His Stuff

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Published on: Mar. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

The river bottoms around Nashville, Mo., come alive every spring with the resounding gobbles of the wild turkey. It is a melody that calls me to the woods. Last year, answering its call paid off with one of the largest gobblers ever taken in the state of Missouri.

On opening morning of the Missouri spring turkey season, I chose to hunt near a favorite roost. It didn't produce, so I made my way to a river, where I found myself with a familiar dilemma. Rain had swollen the river out of its banks, but I could hear several toms on the other side.

I finally coaxed six of them into displaying their brilliant plumage as they strutted safely along the opposite bank. Every call I gave was interrupted with lusty gobbling! I played the waiting game for a long time until they finally made their move. One by one they sailed across the river and glided into the woods.

One hour passed before three of the big toms emerged from the shadows and quietly walked my way. At 30 yards, they knew something wasn't right and started to leave. I hurried a shot and caught nothing but dead air.

The next morning found me at the rain-swollen creek again, but this time with a boat. I climbed in and drifted in the dark until I struck the opposite bank. My plan was to set up in the gobblers' main strutting area and not call, a tactic I've used in the past, especially if the birds weren't vocal.

The strutting area was a small meadow in the woods along the river. I made my way to it as quietly as I could under the cover of starlight. At dawn, 12 gobblers sounded off to greet the new day. I tried to make a mental note of the whereabouts of each bird.

After an hour of waiting, a turkey appeared across the field, ambling my way. He quickly closed the distance to about 150 yards. Since the angle he was taking would bring him past my position and just out of gun range, I decided to get him to turn toward me while he was still a safe distance away. I did this by giving two soft yelps on my mouth call.

The big bird immediately put on the brakes and paused to listen. I gave one more soft yelp. He responded by dropping his head and running in the

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