You need turkey hunting excuses? I got 'em. But sometimes, the reason for an unsuccessful hunt goes far beyond the standard stuff.
This past week, I joined Knight & Hale pro-staffer Steve Stoltz for a hunt in northern Missouri. The first morning, Stoltz and a camera crew headed to the northern part of a 3,000-acre ranch, and I settled in nearby to hunt some birds we'd heard go to roost. A bad setup prevented me from killing two pepper-hot gobblers early that morning, and by 9 a.m., everything was quiet.
Finally, at about 11 a.m., I struck a gobbler to the south. But as I prepared to cut the distance, I heard a "snap" behind me. Looking back, I spied a huge bull the rancher had warned us was in the pasture.
The bull didn't seem to notice me, so I prepared to get up, grab my decoy and slip away silently. That's when I heard another snap — this time from the other bull in the pasture, which was five feet behind me.
"They're friendly to people," the rancher's wife had reportedly said. However, I wasn't so sure.
Friendly? Perhaps, but I wasn't sticking around to find out. I got up, kept a tree between me and the closest bull, grabbed my decoy and headed south. The bulls just stood and watched.
"Whew," I thought. "Now I can go kill this turkey."
I climbed the ridge and yelped, and the gobbler almost blew my hat off. He was 70 steps away, just over the ridgetop. Immediately, I sat down and got ready.
That's when I heard footsteps behind me. The bulls were in hot pursuit. They'd crossed the creek and were 50 steps from me, closing fast. However, the turkey was also closing fast. Which would reach me first?
You've probably guessed. By the time the gobbler appeared over the rise, the bulls were standing immediately behind me, sniffing and snorting. And when they saw the turkey, they broke toward it at lightning speed. The bird stood its ground at first but quickly rubber-necked away as the lead bull charged it and snorted.
"Unreal," I thought. "The bulls spooked my turkey."
Still, I kept calling, and unbelievably, the bird answered from farther out in the pasture. And after a minute or two, he seemed to be closing ground. He was coming — again.
I quickly closed the distance and prepared to shoot the gobbler the second he popped over the rise. As I sat, he gobbled from just over the ridge. The hunt would be finished in seconds.
I waited. And waited some more. And then waited some more. No turkey appeared.
"What the heck happened?" I thought.
A loud, triumphant snort from the pasture gave me my answer. The bulls had again run off the interloping turkey.
And that, friends — if you'll pardon the obvious — is no bull.