I am so excited about my scheduled spring 2012 turkey hunt in Missouri! This will be my fourth spring turkey hunt, and also to be my second hunt with Ed “Snowman” Johnson. Ed guided me on my very first turkey hunt in the spring of 2009 which planted the seed of turkey hunting that has flourished in my soul ever since. This week as we make the final plans and lock in the dates, it prompted me to pull out some memories, dust them off, and reminisce about my very first turkey hunt. Now to travel back in time, here is the story of the hunt, along with the memories.
This was my first true “turkey hunt” and would take place along the foothills of the Ozarks in Bennett Springs, Missouri with Ed “Snowman” Johnson, Pro Staff for Commando Hunting Products. After meeting Ed at the NWTF Convention earlier that year, we became fast friends, and he invited me for a turkey hunt on this lovely piece of heaven that he had been hunting since he was a boy. This was going to prove to be raw hunting, but I was ready for it, as you can see with my nifty camo suit in the picture to the left. This was actually the first piece of matching camo that I had ever owned! Underneath the even pattern is a mix of whatever I could find to fit, most of it boy’s clothing, and none of it matching.
Ed was a great guide but even more of a patient teacher. As he would execute a call, he would label it, explain why, and how he anticipated a bird within earshot would react. When we would hear the turkey talking, he would patiently tell me what they were saying, and why they were saying it. Sometimes he would remain silent, and sometimes he would respond with a certain call. He was actually “talking turkey” and this was amazing to me! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the “Commando” Glass Disk and Wooden Stick! But that was a no-no if we were to coax a turkey into sight, so he kept them far away out of my reach.
He of course was being very careful that we did not spook the birds with unfamiliar sounds, and I understood, but I still didn’t have anything to play with. We hiked in the woods, we sat in a blind, we called turkey, listened to turkey, talked to the turkey and nothing came in the first day. The second day we started all over again, with no complaints from me. The area we were hunting was beautiful, private, and loaded with game! I felt like a princess, with Ed as my “Fairy God Guide”, and I was pumped about the hunt! This day we were fortunate to have a couple of hens prissing thru the area, but they must have been ugly, because there were no gobblers following them.
I have been known to cook a thing or two, and one of my specialties is a good old Louisiana gumbo (recipe coming soon to Outdoor Hub). Planning for a dinner party of a different kind, I had packed up the camper with chicken, smoked venison pork sausage, fresh crawfish tails, fresh gulf shrimp and lump crab meat and proceeded to cook a big pot of my special dish for several of the locals, which included Barbara (now Ed’s wife) and Ed’s mother. Along with the boudin* that Lou put on the grill for starters, we had a grand feast outside the camper in lawn chairs with paper bowls, and we all had a good time.
Returning with an empty game bag on the 3rd day, I was in for a special treat.
One of the highlights of the trip was meeting Bill Rainwater, owner of the land, hence he had known Ed for most of his life. Just coming in from the morning hunt, Bill came out to meet us and we stood by the Rhino making small talk. I felt something on my waist, pulled my shirt out and quickly found something small and black, and it wouldn’t come off! I looked down at it and realized it was a tick! I had never had a tick and the look on my face told Ed and Bill that it was not a good thing for Becky Lou to have a tick! Bill sprang to action, and before I could speak, he reached over and pulled it off. I broke into laughter, as he flicked it away and casually proceeded on with the conversation. I had to conclude that getting a tick was not the worst thing that could happen to me, and it was all worth it. We then sat down to a fabulous lunch as Bill had prepared his delicious wild turkey dumplings topped off with lots of stories, a tour of his yard and his inventions from over the years. Even without a turkey to take home, it was a very good day. I have always said, the special times between the hunts are the biggest reasons why I love to hunt.
For a total of three days, Ed and I enjoyed watching the woodpeckers, owls, turkey buzzards, and squirrels. We called turkey, he would identify various other sounds for me, and sometimes we just sat in the pure, beautiful silence. It is always good to be in the woods, but time was ticking and we knew that reality would soon kick in, and it would be back to the grind for all of us…but hopefully with a turkey in the bag for me!
The fourth day started out very very slow. I am sure that Ed was feeling slightly discouraged, but he put his game face on and never let up! I truly think that everyone was going to be even more disappointed than myself if I didn’t get a turkey, which in turn made me very anxious. Under the circumstances, the pressure was on. Lou was waiting patiently every day at the camper with our yellow lab Honey, while several of my friends were standing by waiting for word. This day would have to be the last day, and we would also have to cut the hunt short for our scheduled departure. With everyone on the edge of their seat, it was like the little kid inside of me started squirming around, wanting to do well so that everyone would be proud.
We finally got a little action one hour before we would have to shut it down. A hen came within 10 yards and browsed for a while, all alone (she must have been ugly too). Off she went, leaving us in total silence. But as we say in Louisiana, things were fixin’ to change! About 100 yards directly in front of us a Jake and two hens appeared, passing through the brush. They just fiddled around, and although Ed beckoned with more expertly executed turkey talk, they did not come into our area. He explained that the mating season was just beginning, and the Jake probably didn’t want to share his hens with another Jake (one of our decoys). So with this thought in mind, as those three moved out of sight, Ed quickly jumped out of the blind and grabbed the intimidating Jake decoy, and tossed him into the blind. He then proceeds to lure the turkeys in with more turkey-talk from the infamous Glass Call by Commando. A Jake appears and it looks as though he is coming in closer with his two hens in tow (which I have to assume were pretty). He came into view, but never stopped, turned and walked right back behind the tree. Grrrrrrrr! He did not give me a shot, as my range was very limited.
Shortly afterwards, there was some low clucking, possibly sharing some gobbler gossip, when again, out of nowhere, “Eagle Eye Ed” spots two Jakes and a Hen! They are coming in on his side, from the right of the blind! I was ready this time, and as soon as he came from behind the tree, I lined up the brightly colored beads on my sights and squeezed the trigger. I was dead on, and that turkey was history! It was an amazing moment, Ed was elated! I was trembling, totally overwhelmed with excitement and relief! I paused to send out the text “BIRD DOWN” and it was all over but for the pictures!
This was an amazing learning adventure for me with some wonderful people, the salt of the earth. I realized my passion for turkey hunting, and was hooked on the unique challenge it presents. The thrill of interacting with these birds and learning to communicate well enough to fool them into showing their face would prove to be another activity that I would look forward to each spring, and have enjoyed for three years running now, looking forward to my next hunt(s).
Ed and I have remained friends and he has also been a mentor for me as my future unfolds. A talented writer, speaker, and hunter, I am very grateful to have his ear and his guidance. This spring it just so happens that he has a few days to spare for an old friend, and we are going back out into the woods to put the smack down on that elusive tom from three years ago!
I should have a very good story for this next hunt, as I don’t think Ed will cutting me much slack… but at least I will be looking good this time in my matching SHE camo! This has been great to sit down and dig up these pictures and emotions as this hunt was a turning point in my life, complimented by new friends with new stories, campfires in the countryside, and being able to lie down at night with a good feeling of being out in the clean fresh air of the outdoors… of course after you check for ticks!
*WARNING: If you do not live in Southern Louisiana and have not had true cajun “boudin“ (boo-dan). Please do not partake if it is offered to you. There is a high risk that you will love it, become immediately addicted, and unless you live in Southern Louisiana, it will not be accessible. Or as many of my friends, like Ed, you may be forced to resort to inviting me on a hunt and I will bring it with me.