Missouri turkey hunters live a dream in woods near Lake of the Ozarks

04/26/2014 4:36 PM

04/26/2014 4:36 PM

Michael Spriggs’ idea of the perfect turkey hunt would go something like this:

He and his good friend, Jimmy Joe Myers, would slip into the woods in the predawn darkness and would immediately be greeted by the booming gobbles of tom turkeys on their roost trees.

As darkness would start to lift, the sounds of turkeys crashing through the limbs as they flew down would fill the crisp air.

Four, then eight, then 16 turkeys, mostly hens, would land in a dip in the field, about 60 yards from where Spriggs and Myers were hiding in the brush and timber.

A few soft calls from the hunters would persuade the hens to move closer and the hunters would see the fans of two gobblers — showing off for those hens — strutting just over the hill.

Within minutes, two huge toms would top that incline, still strutting and anxious to attract the females.

Two shots would ring out, one from each hunter, and the birds would tumble.

A spring dream? Maybe, but Spriggs and Myers lived that dream Tuesday on the second day of the Missouri turkey season.

Hunting on private land owned by the Spriggs family near Lake of the Ozarks, they needed only 45 minutes to accomplish what many hunters only dream of doing.

They walked back to their truck with two giant turkeys — a 27-pounder shot by Myers and a 24 1/2-pounder taken by Spriggs.

“That was the best turkey hunt I’ve ever been on,” said Spriggs, who along with his wife, Paulette, owns Point Randall Resort on Lake of the Ozarks. “It was an intense, spectacular hunt.”

Before the two adult gobblers showed up, the hunters got to watch a jake (a young male turkey) pitch into the field and go through his yet-unpolished spring routine.

“He’s just learning to gobble, and I don’t think he’s got it down yet,” Spriggs whispered. “Listen how he’s trying to imitate the gobbles of those birds off in the distance. His voice is cracking.”

Spriggs and Myers also watched as a deer caught wind of the hunters and stomped his feet.

“He’s going to scare those turkeys away,” Myers said.

But it didn’t happen. The toms, preoccupied with the hens, kept advancing.

For Spriggs and Myers, the experience was a temporary cure for the spring fever they get each April as turkey season approaches.

The rugged land near Lake of the Ozarks is known for its big, tough gobblers. The area is filled with the wooded hillsides, ridges and clearings that turkeys love.

The terrain isn’t always easy on hunters. The turkeys have plenty of options on where to roost, feed and strut.

But for hunters such as Myers and Spriggs, who spend a lot of time in that setting, scouting often pays off.

They used information gained Monday on an unsuccessful hunt to their advantage Tuesday. On Monday, they set up in a popup blind they had placed at the edge of the field two weeks earlier, and waited for the turkeys to fly down.

But they found they were in the wrong place. They tried to move in and set up closer to the birds. And it almost worked. On several occasions, they were so close that the gobbles of the tom turkeys amplified.

But the gobblers apparently were traveling with hens and couldn’t be persuaded to come to the hunters’ calls.

It was a different story Tuesday. The hunters set up closer to the spot where they had first heard the turkeys Monday morning and the strategy worked.

It wasn’t the first time, though. Myers, 68, has been hunting the area for most of his life and he will tell you that turkeys are as much as home on the Ozarks land as humans are.

He learned to hunt from his father, not far from the place where he and Spriggs took their birds Tuesday. Eventually, he became friends with the Spriggs family and eventually sold his land to them.

But he continued to hunt there, and taught Michael to hunt there. Now the two are regular hunting partners and look forward to each turkey season.

“I remember my first hunt here,” Myers said. “My dad set me up on one end of the field and said, “Now if you hear one gobble, just sit next to the biggest tree you can find and start calling.’

“I clucked three times and I heard a gobble so loud that I jumped in the air. I looked up and saw this big gobbler on a limb right over where I was sitting. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the turkey.

“He started to fly off, and I shot him. That was the start of it all.”

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