Turkey Time

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Published on: Feb. 15, 2013

Becoming a wild turkey hunter in springtime is easy. You step into the woods at dawn and open your senses. Sunrise alters colors and shapes. Scents from soil, trees, and wildflowers mingle in cool air. Small birds chirp. Down the ridge a barred owl belts out a vocal purr that resembles “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.”

The owl’s bold call might make a tom turkey rise up on his tree-limb roost and let rip a rolling gobble just to let every creature know he’s the real boss of the woodlands.

“Yelp yelp yelp,” you might answer sweetly with a wood, slate, or diaphragm call designed to help you imitate a hen turkey looking for a willing partner in an ancient spring mating ritual.

The tom’s viral “gobble gobble gobble” reply jolts your brain, especially if the sound is close, perhaps he’s on the ground and headed your way. But you turn eyes and ears in his direction carefully and then freeze, for you want to conceal your presence from one of nature’s most keen-eyed birds. You are not separate from nature, but rather part of irrepressible natural life renewing in the most urgent season — that’s turkey hunting.

Newcomers to the sport need not be daunted by complex gobbler-versus-hunter tales oft heard in coffee shops in late April and early May. Nor should they feel compelled to acquire gear beyond a few good calls and camouflage clothing. Hunting wild turkeys can be simple and affordable.

Calling a gobbler into gun range might be easy, hard, or impossible, depending on the tom’s mood. Yet each morning of the three-week season offers a chance for success. Hunters harvested more than 40,000 toms or bearded hens during Missouri’s 2012 spring turkey season. It helps that Missouri is a great place to hunt with healthy turkey flocks throughout the state. That doesn’t always make turkey hunting easy, though, because the largest bird in the woods is also among the wariest.

But turkey hunting skills are easy to learn for those willing to look, listen, and practice. Turkeys are the best teachers, and the spring woods make a beautiful classroom.

Where to Go

Missouri’s eastern wild turkeys are a woodland bird. But they also like feeding and loafing in open crop fields and grassy meadows. In spring, their tree-limb night roosts will often be near streams with weedy or shrubby cover where

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