use effectively, that’s all you need,” said Brant, who is also a volunteer Missouri Hunter Education instructor.
CDs and tapes are available on how to make seductive turkey sounds, and these days, the Internet offers many free sites that teach turkey calling.
A compass in your pocket is handy for preventing getting lost. Many hunters carry snacks and water. Insect repellant is invaluable if the weather warms and mosquitos and ticks become active.
Gear such as life-like turkey decoys and camouflage ground blinds, which conceal hunters and resemble small tents, sometimes help bag a turkey and sometimes they do not. Enjoy them if you wish but do not consider them an essential requirement if cost is a concern. They add to your carry load and make it more difficult to move in response to gobbling or to explore the woods for a fresh setup location. Many veteran hunters prefer to travel light, move when they feel like it, and let stealth and careful calling bag the bird.
Don’t forget to bring some type of blaze orange bag or strap to carry your turkey out of the woods, which helps keep you safe. Some hunters put a blaze orange sash on the tree where they set up to warn other hunters of their presence.
Hannah Rogers of rural Warrensburg hunted turkeys as a youth with her father in St. Clair County. A few years ago, they hunted together again and she bagged a nice tom. Now, the mother of four young children is back into the sport and planning how she will introduce her own family to the tradition.
“A big thing for kids is learning how to be quiet in the woods,” Rogers said. “One of the biggest things we do all the time is to walk out in the woods and watch for animals or pick up interesting leaves.
”Those hikes help kids learn about the woods but also about quiet movement, skills that translate to turkey hunting for all ages. Wild turkeys possess excellent eyesight and hearing. They won’t grow into adult birds without using their senses to avoid dangers from woodland predators.
Movement and sound puts turkeys on alert. Many a turkey has spied a hunter turning their head, scratching an itch, or reaching for a box call. The usual result is a turkey quietly slipping back away without the hunter knowing the quarry was near.
But for Rogers on her last successful hunt, simple tactics worked. She and her father heard turkeys and saw some fly down into a field. They moved to a good spot. She sat still against a tree. Her father hid behind a tree and made the turkey hen sounds of yelps, clucks, and purrs. A tom came in within close range and she shot it.
“I was so excited to get back into turkey hunting and get a bird,” Rogers said.
Now, for her children, the next step is teaching them gun and hunting safety. She is also a Missouri Hunter Education volunteer instructor, a Protection Division volunteer, and a college student.
“One of the biggest things with kids is gun safety,” Rogers said. “Maybe I’m a protective mom, but when it comes to gun safety, I don’t think you can be overprotective.
”For information about Missouri’s hunter education and safety programs, go to mdc.mo.gov/node/3095. A hunter education course certificate is required for anyone hunting alone who was born after 1966.
Brandon Pope, a Department education specialist in Kansas City, stepped into the woods for his first turkey hunt last spring. Pope bought some basic camouflage apparel — pants, a long shirt with big pockets, and a cap with an attached face mask — for about $100. He practiced hen yelps with a box call, and he fired test patterns with a borrowed shotgun at a Department shooting range.
Then a sunrise found him seated on a ridge with his back against an oak tree.
“When we sat down, I heard a barred owl call,” Pope said, “and we saw other animals moving around like squirrels and songbirds. You could hear the river gurgling. Just hearing nature all around us was the good part.”
A hen turkey flew down off the wooded ridge where he sat and began feeding within sight in a crop field. Then another hen flew down and marched away into woods. Finally…well, no, a gobbler did not appear. The toms were all gobbling and strutting on the other side of the valley.
Regardless, “I had a good taste of turkey hunting,” Pope said. “I want to go again and I’m ready to bag a bird. But that’s just the culmination. Turkey hunting is a lot more than just shooting a gun.”