Brett Stephenson had a birthday party he’ll never forget Monday.
On opening day of Missouri’s spring turkey hunting season, he and two friends, Dan Guyer and Fred McAdams, were treated to the best hunt of their lives.
In the first half-hour of the 2015 season, they listened as several turkeys responded to their calls and gobbled loudly in the woods at the edge of Smithville Lake. Then they looked up to see three adult birds racing toward them and the two decoys they had set out.
Running side by side in a race to throttle the imitation gobbler that was seemingly entertaining a hen, the hunters watched as the three toms ran close enough for them to get a shot.
Three shots rang out. Three big birds fell. And three hunters celebrated Stephenson’s birthday hunt.
“That was the best birthday I’ve ever had,” said Stephenson, 41, who lives in Kansas City, North.
Stephenson’s bird was a big boy. It weighed 241/2 pounds. But it couldn’t match the one that Guyer took. That turkey weighed 281/4 pounds, the biggest he has ever taken. McAdams’ turkey weighed 20 pounds.
For Stephenson, it was a special day all around. Guyer, a guide, had a client cancel his trip for the day, so he called his friends Stephenson and McAdams. They decided to hunt public land, despite the expected crowds of hunters.
They arrived early to make sure they could get their spot, and they each parked their vehicles near the place where they went in, hoping that other hunters would be discouraged from choosing that spot because it was already being hunted.
The strategy must have worked. After hiking in almost a mile and a half, they arrived at a spot where they had seen turkeys during scouting trips. Once darkness started to lift, they each began calling, and it wasn’t long before they got a response.
“Those birds came right in,” Stephenson said. “They didn’t even pause.”
Stephenson has hunted turkeys for 25 years, and he can’t remember a more exciting hunt. But then, every season is exciting in his eyes.
“I’m addicted,” he said. “I just love watching those big toms come in, strutting and gobbling.
“We got a good show this year.”