A Spring to Remember
For me, Spring Turkey season is the ultimate chess game. No two mornings are the same, and a wiley gobbler always makes for more than a tough adversary. Fresh out of the chaos that is Spring Snow Goose season with ear piercing snow goose sounds and hundreds upon hundreds of decoys…Spring Turkey season is a welcome transition to just my shotgun, my turkey vest, and my ears straining to hear the first gobble in the motionless pre-dawn silence.
My turkey season started out in Kansas with my buddies floating a small river in layout boats. Despite Mother Nature trying to keep us off the river with screaming winds each day, the hunting was still good! I started fast out of the gates with a tagged turkey on the first morning, and then luck held out for a couple days, making me earn my 2nd turkey with just a couple hours of the trip to spare on the last day. A great success all around, as it was just as fun to watch my friends shoot their turkeys as it was my own! But as great as it is to have a good turkey hunt, the hunting didn’t hold a candle to another year in turkey camp with my friends. We cooked up some excellent food, caught a lot of white bass, and told even more fish stories.
The Missouri season was met with apprehension, as our numbers are really down in my part of the state. Opening morning found me nestled up to a huge Oak tree in a swampy bottom that had puddles of water and sloughs all throughout it. The wind was promptly taken out of my sails when I didn’t hear a single gobble on the roost! I sat there collecting my thoughts and listening to the turkeyless world wake up just to make sure there wasn’t a tightlipped turkey somewhere close by. After about an hour after fly down with the sun’s golden rays starting to pierce through the bottomland hardwoods, I decided it was time for me to go get on the tractor and start planting. I called one last time at 6:43 AM, just before standing up, and thought I heard something that sounded like a gobble! I didn’t know what to think, am I hearing things? Was it real? I called again a couple minutes later and he immediately answered! No doubt this time, and no doubt it he was closer….but which way was it?!?! I don’t hear that well after years of shotgunning, and the big, bottomland hardwoods were wreaking havoc with the sound. After spinning around the tree, I finally got his direction pinpointed. It felt like it lasted hours, when in fact only a few minutes had passed until I could see the snowball white head through the open, early Spring timber at about 200 yards out. He was coming at a steady jog, stopping just long enough to throw his neck out and gobble and go into strut for a second, then picking and weaving his way through the swampy bottomland again. I was shaking like a leaf, completely wrapped up in an excellent Spring turkey hunt and trying to soak it all in. Despite being on him for a long way, I didn’t take my safety off until he went behind a majestic Pin Oak just eight steps in front of me. He came out the right side, I cut hard and he blew my ear drums out with a thunderous gobble. That was the end of the line for him…and the swamp fell silent.
I sat against that tree for a bit reflecting on what had just taken place, an incredible turkey hunt, indeed! I found myself thinking back on other good ones I have had with family and friends…my dad’s first turkey, all of my uncles’ first turkeys, my buddies firsts…..too many great memories to think about at once. None of them the exact same hunt, but all of them similar in that the pulling of the trigger was the least enthralling part of the hunt. Once the trigger is pulled, that moment is time is over, he will gobble no more. The anticipation is a monumental part of the hunt!
Coming to, with a smile the size of Texas, I stood up to go get my bird. Glancing at my watch, it was 6:56AM….a mere 13 minutes after hearing him gobble the first time. It felt like an eternity, but in 13 minutes that turkey went from being barely audible to eight steps before me. I couldn’t have drawn it up any more perfectly…a track star turkey that played the game to a “T”, and allowed me to finish in time to get on the tractor and start planting duck food!! All in a good day’s work!
The rest of the Spring was surprisingly successful as well. I met my buddy Reed up in Iowa for a quick hunt that paid off less than an hour after arriving. My last Missouri turkey tag was filled on the edge of another swamp with a turkey that tried to gobble himself hoarse at every wood duck and Canada Goose that flew by. I found that to be a most fitting end to the season for a waterfowler, and couldn’t have asked for a better Spring.
Spring turkey season is something I REALLY look forward to every year, and can’t ever seem to grasp how quickly it passes. But although the season is now over for me, the memories made this Turkey Season will last a long time, and I’m more than excited to move forward with what the Off Season promises! In less than a few weeks, my wife and I are expecting our first child…it goes without saying that every time I tagged a turkey this year, I couldn’t help but imagine the unparalleled joy it would be in years to come to call in gobblers for my own little girl. It doesn’t take any persuading me to believe there’s no hunting like hunting with your children, and I cannot wait for this ultimate next step in our lives! And of course, work will still beckon as I prepare for next Duck Season, and I am looking forward to finishing our planting of duck food across the different complexes that comprise Habitat Flats. There’s only one constant in the life of a fulltime waterfowler…there is always a season somewhere, and there is never time to rest!
Have a great “Off Season”!!!