Editor’s note: “The Turkey Hunters” is a blog that profiles notable folks in the turkey hunting industry. In this installment, we chat with Tad Brown, one of the industry’s best-known hunters, callers and call designers
T&TH: Tad, how long have you hunted turkeys, and how did you get started?
Brown: I’ve hunted them for 36 years. I started on my own. I was camping with my buddies on some public ground when I was about 14, and one morning we awoke to turkeys gobbling everywhere. I remember going home and telling my dad I wanted to turkey hunt. Dad made me a box call in the shop, and I just started hunting around the house. My grandmother on my mom’s side was a good sport and quite a fisherwoman. She would go sit with me at times. My grandfather on my dad’s side was a waterfowler and upland-bird hunter. He took me a few times, too, but we just hunted around my home on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land. Before I could drive, and when my grandparents couldn’t go, I had a buddy older than me that would pick me up. It was just a love of the gobble and the school of hard knocks. I harvested my first turkey my senior year at age 17. I took two that year and have not missed a season since.
T&TH: Tell us how you translated your love of turkey hunting into a career.
Brown: As I got better at turkey hunting, I started helping others and kind of got the reputation as a small-town turkey guru. Later, I had people start offering me money to guide them. Does it get any better than that? Turkey hunting and getting paid for it? I was working for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Fisheries Division out of high school at Truman Lake, which was surrounded by thousands of acres of public Corps ground, where I had spent my junior years hunting, trapping and then chasing turkeys on land I knew like the back of my hand. That allowed me to run the new lake and encounter countless gobblers. When I was not monitoring fishing activity, I was on the bank calling turkeys or even hunting them. I soon learned the value of a boat and the additional opportunities it allowed a turkey hunter. After three years of that, I built and ran a bait and tackle shop at the Truman State Park entrance. I hung out my guide-service shingle and started guiding for turkey hunters and waterfowl hunters, and my brother and I guided for fishermen, too. One of my fishing clients became a turkey client. He kept talking about this kid he knew who was his construction partner’s little brother. The kid was a contest caller, and my client wanted me to meet him. He brought him along one trip, and it turned out to be Mark Drury. Mark and I became quick friends, and through his calling he met Dick Kirby with Quaker Boy. Dick added Mark to his pro-staff. Meanwhile, a group of businessmen and individuals trying to promote the Truman Lake area came up with an idea to start a club called the Missouri Invitational Celebrity Turkey Hunt. I was a board member and invited Mark to help me guide the celebrities. Mark then called, telling me that Dick Kirby wanted to attend. We eagerly extended the invitation, and Dick came along. During the hunt, Mark and Dick were hunting the same 4,100 acres and ended up across the valley from me and my celebrity. Dick heard me calling and initially thought I was a real hen. Later, he asked me to join his pro-staff. At this point, and with Mark’s help, I started competition calling with some success. At that point, Mark was excelling on the calling circuit, winning a bunch of majors and getting known quickly. Mark told me people were telling him that he should start a call company. I told Mark that if he did, I wanted a job. That opportunity soon came. We sold the company (M.A.D. Calls) five years later to Outland Sports, which owned Lohman. Mark and I had employment contracts with them, and the company also purchased Feather Flex decoys, Kenco Feeders, Big River Game Calls, Blue Ridge Targets and API tree stands. Outland Sports then sold M.A.D., Lohman, Big River, Feather Flex and Kenco to Kolpin Outdoors. Mark and I maintained our employment status, overseeing the production of M.A.D. Calls and product development for all brands. Then, the brands were sold to Flambeau, an injection-molding company with a history of as a waterfowl decoy leader, as well as a weapon-storage, tackle-box, and deer and turkey decoy company. Rounding out their offering with game calls, Mark and I are still blessed to oversee the M.A.D. brand and are instrumental in many other of their outdoor brands. During that time period, I’ve enjoyed many hunting trips all over the country, entertaining outdoor writers and buyers. I am blessed to still be involved with Drury Outdoors producing predator and turkey videos.
T&TH: What’s the greatest thrill you get from turkey hunting?
Brown: My outdoors thrills are many. One especially influential thrill is the miracles that surround us at any and every moment outdoors. A sunrise, that first turkey gobble or coyote howl — nature in general relaxes me. I cannot walk past a lone turkey feather on the ground without examining it, or with an adult gobbler you just harvested, I can’t help but be amazed at the beauty and miracle the Good Lord has bestowed on us. The outdoors is definitely the ultimate church. Sharing that with kids, friends and loved ones is the ultimate thrill.