With the warmth of Florida and good fortune of Alabama behind me, I set out for a new adventure: the rugged country of northern Arkansas.
Brad Harris, Jim Spencer and I planned to hunt early-season gobblers on the vast public areas in that part of the state — first at Spencer's camp by the White River and then perhaps by west toward Eureka Springs. We knew it would be a challenge, but we'd sure see some pretty country in the process.
The first morning brought lots of great scenery but little action in the mountains by the river. Same for the first afternoon. We heard some gobbling the second morning and worked a bird for about an hour the second evening, but things weren't going our way. Harris suggested that we head west, and I reluctantly agreed — hesitant to leave the gorgeous mountain country but fully aware that we had a limited window to get on some turkeys.
After hunting a bit the third morning, we packed up and drove to Eureka Springs. Then, Harris showed me around a public wildlife area he'd hunted before. I was a bit leery about that, but then he revealed the catch: Much of the property was walk-in only, meaning that with any effort, we'd have the place to ourselves.
That effort transpired the next morning, as we hiked in about two miles to a gorgeous meadow surrounded by timbered bluffs. Two longbeards sounded off at dawn, and both seemed to approach our setup after flydown. The one in front of us won the race, however.
The bird came into view at about 100 yards, cautiously checking out the open field and our decoys. Then, he strutted back and forth across the opening for about 10 minutes, easing closer to us. Finally, he assumed an aggressive posture and would have probably thrashed our jake decoy ... if I hadn't shot him at 20 steps.
After celebrating the bird and hunt, I remarked to Harris that he should strike out on his own and attempt to get on the other turkey. He obliged, and I threw the gobbler over my shoulder and headed for the truck.
And during the course of those two miles, I learned just how heavy a 20-pound longbeard can really be.