I'll admit, I was skeptical.
When Ray Eye drove me through the long pasture to a mesh-fabric blind on a brushy fence row, I just smiled and nodded, unsure of what to think. I would begin Missouri's 1999 season in that blind the next morning, and Ray assured me two gobblers had been strutting in the pasture near the fence row every morning.
"Trust me," he said. "We've been watching these turkeys for weeks, and they're here all the time. If you can sit in this blind, call and be patient, you'll get a bird."
Who was I to argue? Ray's status as a turkey hunting legend had been cemented years earlier, and I was still an up-and-comer. Of course I'd sit in the blind and be patient.
The next morning, I traipsed up a gravel road toward the pasture, joined by Bob Walker, founder of Walker's Game Ear, and another fellow — his name escapes me — who'd invented a track-mounted, cable-operated moving decoy system. He would man the decoys, and Bob planned to film the hunt. I just hoped the whole thing would fall together.
As dawn broke, gobbling erupted everywhere. It was a picture-perfect day, and Missouri might have been at its apex as the No. 1 state in the country for Eastern turkeys. I cannot tell you how many birds we heard, but it was certainly more than a dozen.
And, as promised, two gobblers started ripping it from a hollow at the far end of our pasture. Within minutes, they flew down into the field and continued gobbling. Our yelps brought responses every time, and soon, the birds were marching toward us.
Here's where my inexperience helped out. When the turkeys topped a slight ridge in the field and stopped to look — as they always do — I should have shot the lead bird immediately. In fact, I heard Bob whisper, "Boom" from behind me. However, I was using a borrowed gun and wasn't 100 percent sure on its range. So I waited.
Then our other buddy moved the decoys on the track. The lead gobbler puffed back into strut and marched toward the jake decoy. For the next two minutes, the strutter flogged it mercilessly, as Bob filmed the action. Finally, the bird hopped off to the side of the fake jake, and I shot him at 20 steps.
It had been an unforgettable morning, just as Ray had promised. And I really didn't even have to be patient.