There’s a few turkey journals coming your way, not all in order. I’m just running a little behind this year because I’ve been in the woods quite a bit in both Kansas and Missouri. The stay-at-home orders have created the perfect opportunity for some social distancing chasing turkeys.
With early success on Missouri’s opening day, my next goal was to get my girlfriend her first turkey. We came up short in the last two years. Luckily, my good friend was gracious enough to let us hunt some property he owns in SW Missouri. It’s a 60-acre piece just a little under an hour away from our house in Carl Junction, MO.
The great thing about this situation is that it’s private ground that has rarely been hunted in the last several years. The bad part was I had done no previous scouting, so we were going in blind hoping there were turkeys in the area. The other problem was that the weather was expected to be nasty overnight and into the early morning.
The Set Up
Knowing the weather would be bad, we didn’t hustle to the property. We arrived right as shooting time started (6:00am) and parked on the NW side of the island of trees you can see in the above OnX Maps screenshot. It was still very dark and raining, so we remained in the truck with windows cracked to listen. The east side of the property is a high point, so I figured it’d be a great place to start.
At 6:15, the first one fired off, and close. I heard one to the east and Sami heard one to the west, but I thought they were all to the east. We moved to the X pin in the screenshot for our set up and left the truck where it was (more on that later). I figured it’d be a great spot to call the birds across the road to us. We were looking down over a sloping pasture in front of us, so the vantage point was good.
The rain died down. Soon after, I was caught off guard by two toms entering the pasture from the middle of the property, which turned out to the be the ones Sami heard earlier. They marched our way and I thought we would be done fast. However, as soon as they hit the opening between our island of trees and the adjacent treeline, they got spooky. I think they saw my truck because we were set up in very heavy brush with a lot of good cover between us and them. It wasn’t likely they saw us in my opinion. Normally, I wouldn’t think a vehicle would spook them, but it’s the only logical thing I can think of because they were heading right for the jake and hen decoys I set out.
When they reached the crest of the slope at the top of the pasture is when I think they got eyes on the truck, represented by the dotted blue line in the screenshot above. However, two hens came out almost at the exact same time behind them, so it’s hard to say for sure whether it was the truck, the hens, or our set up. Either way, they settled in with the hens for the next 30 minutes gobbling every so often at the edge of the field.
We weren’t out of it yet, though. Minutes later, the gobbler I heard to the east earlier in the morning fired off very close and I knew he was coming from that timber. He appeared moments later on our side of the road heading right for us. He put on a show gobbling and strutting for the better part of 10 minutes.
He reached the 35-40 yard mark, but hung up. I had placed the decoys to our right, hoping that any turkey coming from that east timber would move past the heavy brush on our left, giving Sami the chance to lift her gun and shoot. He hung up in the exact wrong spot where she couldn’t see him. Just another turkey doing turkey things.
The other two toms started coming our way with the hens, but they stayed just below the lip of the hill we were on and remained out of sight as they followed the single tom back to the timber. The action was all done by 8am.
We wandered the rest of the property, striking up two more gobblers further to the west on the adjacent piece of land. They seemed fired up, but never came closer than a couple hundred yards. They shut up by about 9:40am. The rest of the morning we set up a blind and waited in the original field, hoping the others would return by 1pm. They didn’t.
I’m not sure there was much we could do differently looking back on it. I think the main thing would be doing a better job of hiding the truck. Now that I know some general roosting spots, that should be no problem.
The single tom didn’t respond well to my jake and hen decoy set up, so if I’m targeting that bird again and hear him gobbling, I may go with no decoys at all or just a single hen. I will also probably take a ground blind so we don’t have to be so reliant on hiding in the thick brush, which ultimately inhibited Sami from getting a shot.
Finally, the hunt reaffirmed for me why I love turkey hunting on rainy days. When the front dies down or there is a break in the rain, the toms can get fired up fast in the search for a hen. Gobbling activity can be very good. We experienced that during our time in the field. Unfortunately we just couldn’t quite get them to close the distance.