Just days after my memorable hunt with Ray Eye, I returned to northern Missouri to hunt with longtime friend Mark Drury and new buddy Chad Kilmer. I'd arrived late the previous night and was still pretty groggy as we walked toward the timber on Kilmer's family farm.
"There have been two birds here on and off this spring," Mark said. "Every time they're here, they fly down in a pasture. If they're here today, we'll kill one. If not, we're moving on."
Sounded good to me. And when the aforementioned two birds shattered the morning stillness with ringing gobbles, it sounded even better. In fact, the looks on the faces of Mark and Chad told me we might be in for another memorable morning.
We quickly ducked into the edge of the woods and set up. Mark asked if I was ready, and I nodded. And then we waited, listening to the gobbling show.
Mark did not call. Not one peep. Why would he? The birds had visited that pasture regularly, and he was content to let them do so again. Sure enough, after a tense half-hour, we watched three turkeys pitch into the open field — two gobblers and a hen.
The hen fed slowly toward us, and the gobblers followed. The strutter gobbled two or three times, and his buddy mostly stood alert, looking.
When the birds crossed into easy range — 38 steps, as we later measured it — Mark gave his only call of the day: one sharp cluck. The strutter craned his neck high, and I shot, ending the deal.
The hunt had been reward enough, but when we raced to the downed bird, we discovered something even better: 1.5-inch hooks. The gobbler was so memorable, in fact, that he now rests at my office back home.
Funny footnote to the day: Back at Mark's camp, we wondered about the other bird; the looker. Was he of the same class as the long-spurred turkey we'd killed, or was he a "lesser" gobbler? We had to know, so Mark reviewed the video footage in super-slow motion. For a split second, just as the shot hit the lead gobbler and the looker began to run, you can glimpse the looker's spurs. They were every bit the equal of those on the bird we'd killed.
I was tagged out in Missouri that year. But trust me, Mark and Chad had another gobbler they needed to chase.