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Turkey & Turkey Hunting’s Retro Minute: A Missouri Milestone

StoltzieEditor’s note: In this recurring blog, Editor Brian Lovett looks back at memorable moments in his turkey hunting journey. This entry covers his second hunt of Spring 1997, which marked his first time afield with some folks who would become lifelong friends: Steve Stoltz, Mark Drury, Terry Drury and Don Shipp.

Don’t ask me why, but fellow Turkey & Turkey Hunting staffer Brad Rucks and I decided to fly to Missouri for our hunt with Mark Drury and the M.A.D. Calls crew. To do that, we had to drive 90 minutes to Milwaukee, fly 90 minutes to St. Louis, rent a car and then drive four hours to the Kirksville area. Oh, and our luggage was delayed. We could have driven to Kirksville in seven hours, but after our flight and the drive from St. Louis, we didn’t arrive in camp till about 3 a.m.

The next morning — OK, maybe two hours later — the camp whippoorwill cranked up and rousted us. Soon, M.A.D. pro-staffers Don Shipp and Steve Stoltz, both world-champion callers, knocked on the trailer door.

“It’s a gobbling morning,” Stoltz said. “We’ll probably have some action early, but the birds have really been henned up.”

Rucks jumped in with Shipp, and I teamed with Stoltz. Our early-morning hunt blew up, so at about 10:30 a.m., we eased up to a large farm that Stoltz knew well.

“I’m going to stop often and call,” he said. “Sometimes, 20 yards will make the difference. I think turkeys have sort of a zone for gobbling. You have to be within a specific distance and sometimes at certain locations to get them to respond.”

I nodded my head and just tried to soak it all in. As if to prove his point, Stoltz yelped, and a gobbler responded about 250 yards away.

A series of slick moves soon brought us to a small strip of trees near a marsh. The turkey had been deep in the timber, so we figured we were OK. However, Stoltz’s first calls brought no response. Had we spooked him?

Nope. “There he is,” Stoltz whispered.

The bird was about 80 steps away and closing quickly on Stoltz’s decoys. But just then, I heard crunching footsteps to my right. It was a hen.

When she was about five steps from me, the hen periscoped her head and spooked at the sight of me or the decoys. Then she flushed, flew about 40 yards and landed right next to the gobbler. The longbeard seemed momentarily startled at his good fortune and dropped out of strut. Then Stoltz cutt, signaling me to end the hunt.

I did … although it took me three shots to do so. Don’t ask. I blamed the optic. Stoltz blamed my excitement. Sixteen years later, we’re still not sure.

But the gobbler was dead, and the hunt was a success. Later, we learned that Shipp had called in a dandy 4-year-old gobbler for Rucks earlier that morning.

The next two days, we got to hunt with Mark, Terry and other folks in the M.A.D. crew. It was a memorable week, and we forged lifetime friendships. In fact, I’ve hunted with Stoltz almost every year since then. I just make sure to drive to Missouri nowadays.


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