by Brian Lovett, editorAfter the human-friendly, turkey-hating bulls ran off my gobbler the first day, my Missouri trip got back to normal. That is, hunting got tough.
The second day, Knight & Hale pro-staffer Steve Stoltz and I chased several gobblers to no avail. That evening, we failed to roost anything, and with the wind due to kick up during Day 3, things didn't look good.
The next morning, we heard several gobblers sound off, but none were close. We finally settled on a vocal bird across a large hollow and attempted to work him from a distant pasture. That didn't work, so we slipped in closer to the turkey and set up. The longbeard cut off Stoltz's first series of yelps but gobbled sporadically after that and eventually seemed to drift away.
Having nothing else located, and with the wind increasing, we decided to stick with the turkey. Stoltz eased down a small hollow, where we set up again and called. Again, the bird responded — not 100 yards away — but then faded and seemed to drift off. After waiting for a half-hour, we slipped to the top of the knob where he'd been and found a decent setup.
Stoltz yelped, and the bird hammered back from 60 steps. We shifted to the right and prepared for a wham-bam hunt. However, as he'd done previously, the gobbler didn't rush in. Instead, he responded to calling now and then but basically stood his ground. Now and then, we glimpsed his fan just over the brushy rise but never had a shot.
Finally, after a tense 15 or 20 minutes, the gobbler eventually drifted left and offered just enough of his head for a shot. As I fired, an unseen hen the gobbler had been following jumped and flew to the left.
As I retrieved the bird, the scenario made sense. The old gobbler — he sported 13/8-inch hooks — had been content to gobble occasionally and follow a hen around the small flat. His tepid response to Stoltz's calling would have prompted some other hunters to leave and find a hotter turkey. However, with the clock ticking and the odds of striking a bird dwindling, Stoltz made the right call by sticking with the stubborn turkey.
Our reward? A great finish to a classic hunt.