In 2012, on opening day of the Missouri spring gobbler season I experienced one of the toughest weather days of turkey hunting I had ever seen. It had rained for three-straight days and the winds were gusting more than 40 miles per hour. And it wasn’t much better in 2013!
The drought ended and monsoon rains engulfed the “Show-Me State” the first week of that season. If a ditch, creek, stream or river could flood … it did. Opening day is, however, opening day so not hunting was not an option.
Just like the past few Missouri turkey season openers Bob Cowman was my cameraman. Last year’s footage was excellent and we hoped to repeat that hunt in weather just as harsh. The good thing this year is that the rain prevented the field from being plowed before the season. Last year it was a mud-wallow getting to the blind. Last week the field was just as wet, but solid under the standing water, making getting there much easier.
It rained all night and drops spit on us as we drove. The trip across the field was uneventful and we were set-up plenty early. It was wet and windy. That is how I knew turkey season had begun.
There was very little gobbling off the roost and the field that usually filled with birds by 6 a.m. was void and empty at 6:30. I began calling but with no response. A bit later a couple of hens entered the field. They were not interested in my decoys and began to feed in the opposite direction.
As I watched them at a distance, I noticed more movement on the other side of the field, several hundred yards out. It was the silhouette of two gobbler fans in full strut. I called, but due to the less-than-perfect conditions I seriously doubt that they heard me. A few more hens came and went from the field and we watched the toms for several hours as they moved around the property. We also saw a total of eight jakes, but none of them got close enough to hear my calls. Opening day ended uneventfully.
The Weather Gets Worse
Then the weather really got bad! It rained on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday was supposed to be better, but much colder. Cowman could not film on Friday so I would be on my own to fill the first week’s tag.
When I stepped outside of my daughter Katie’s house at 4:30 on Friday morning I was greeted with snowflakes in my face.
“When am I gonna get a break?” I said out loud. Is there an earthquake or a volcano in my turkey hunting future? How much can I take?
It got no better as I drove to my farm. The flakes turned to tiny round ice pellets that bounced off the hood of my truck like miniature hail stones. I just shook my head in frustration.
“At least there won’t be any skeeters,” I told myself.
Since I was alone, I decided to set-up on the other side of the field where all the action was earlier in the week. I set out my three decoys and tucked into a deadfall next to a stump. I had a great view of the field and the wind blowing the ice pellets was to my back. I felt like I should have been deer hunting. In fact, as I recall deer season last year was warmer than this.
As the cloudy morning sky lightened my frustration grew. The few gobbles I was hearing were coming from the south side of the field, near the blind I was in on Monday!
“That figures,” I thought. “Why do I do this to myself? I could be at home in bed … warm and dry.”
Once again it was 6:30 and there was not a bird in the field. This was impossible! I have been on this field in the spring and seen as many as 30 turkeys out there with seven or eight strutting. Where were they?
I got impatient so I picked-up my Mountain Screamer box call and made a series of way too loud yelps. I put the call down and looked to the north, and here came a gobbler toward the decoys at a sprint. He never gobbled and I have no idea how long he had been up there watching. And you know what? I did not care. All I knew was a big tom was coming in fast and hard!
I knew better than to move too soon. I was going to wait until he was at the decoys to raise my Thompson/Center 12-gauge Encore. That way if I spooked him he would be well within range for a lethal escape shot.
- When he got to my strutting jake decoy he puffed-up into strut and began doing circles around Tommy. As he turned his back on his second trip I raised my gun. As he faced me I made a single cluck and he stopped and looked up. An ounce and five-eighths of Federal No. 7’s dropped him cleanly.
There was no sunshine for the photos, but under these conditions a 22-pound gobbler with an 11-inch beard was a gift from the Lord. Weather or not, I am extremely grateful for this gift!
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