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GRANT: It was a beautiful morning during the opening day of Missouri’s 2020 turkey season. There was a layer of fog in the valley and clear and crisp on the ridgetops.
GRANT: I chose to start the morning on a point of a long ridge we call Boomerang. This point is a great listening location. I can hear several ridges from this point, listen for toms gobbling and plan my hunting strategy based on where I hear them and where I believe they will travel.
GRANT: During the past few years, I’ve put a Reconyx camera on this point to learn how turkeys use this area, specifically, an interior road that goes along the ridge.
GRANT: We’ve found through the years that toms, jakes and hens travel through this area.
GRANT: Two years ago, Daniel used this information to tag a nice tom on Boomerang Ridge.
GRANT: Once again this year, turkeys were frequenting the point at Boomerang.
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GRANT: Several weeks ago, we used prescribed fire to remove the leaf litter in the timber on Boomerang Ridge and burnt the 26-acre bedding area just below the point.
GRANT: The results of prescribed fire can create ideal bugging areas for turkey as it removes that top layer of leaf litter and exposes many insects.
GRANT: Based on past hunts in this area, toms frequently roost on the ridge south of Boomerang, fly down, work their way through the timber, come across the point and drift out into that bedding area to feed during the day.
GRANT: Last spring Tyler and I started in the timber on the ridge to the south of Boomerang, had an encounter, but couldn’t close the deal because it’s steep and tough hunting.
GRANT: Just after sunrise, some toms fired off on that ridge south of Boomerang.
GRANT: (Whispering) It’s opening morning of turkey season in Missouri and it’s a beautiful day. We’ve had a lot of rain, but clear skies, sun’s up, fog in the valley behind us.
GRANT: (Whispering) There’s two ridges up here. They actually go up here and join, make a “U” and the toms are gobbling on the next ridge over. I don’t want to try to get any closer or set up closer because it’s a steep valley and I think we’d just get busted trying to get in there, so we’ve got our Avians out.
GRANT: (Whispering) There’s a road that runs down the top of this ridge. I expect for ‘em to get with some hens and then come across that valley, come right down this road – I think they’ve been doing that anyway – to go feed in the area we recently burned. It sounds like they’re still on the limb. I’m going to give a tree yelp or two, not much, just to let them know there’s a hen in the area and then see what happens.
GRANT: Once the toms hit the ground, things got very quiet.
GRANT: As the sun came over the mountain, I decided our setup would be better on the opposite side of the road. Over there, we could get more trees between us and the sun, breaking up our silhouette.
GRANT: We repositioned and adjusted our decoys accordingly. I felt if we were patient, the toms would work through the valley and come into our setup.
GRANT: About 7:45 a hen popped over the ridge.
GRANT: The hen hung close to her decoys and fed in the recently burned area.
GRANT: Suddenly, without a sound, a big tom stepped into the road.
GRANT: The tom came in silent and with the hen close by, I hadn’t picked my gun up.
GRANT: Fortunately, that tom was locked on the decoys and when he turned with his fan toward me, I picked my gun up and got ready for the shot.
CLAY: (Whispering) Are you kidding me? (Chuckling) Are you kidding me? I was like, whenever that hen got over there, I thought I heard something.
GRANT: (Whispering) I did, too, but…
CLAY: (Whispering) But I couldn’t tell.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah, and I didn’t want to pick my gun up because I couldn’t tell where it was.
CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah, I could just, I first saw him, but he was like five, five feet off the road.
GRANT: Yeah. I saw him – saw him there, but I knew the hen was gonna bust me so I said, “Well, he’ll get her behind the fan and then I’ll be able to pick my gun up.” But she was standing right there looking at me. I was like, “Well, I hate to do this and have her start.” So, I let her drift off over the hill before I got my gun up. Because he was totally on the decoys. He wasn’t leaving.
CLAY: (Whispering) No. Oh, man.
GRANT: Did you see him like try to muscle up on that?
CLAY: (Whispering) He was, he was locked on ‘em.
GRANT: That’s a good tom right there. I could see his burrs from here.
CLAY: And at 15 yards, maybe?
GRANT: Oh. Or closer. That, that sun was hitting him.
GRANT: It was gorgeous.
GRANT: I mean, stunning.
CLAY: 7:50. Bird down.
GRANT: 7:50. Opening morning, Missouri turkey season. Man, that was fun.
CLAY: That happened fast right there.
GRANT: Yeah. He come in – that was all about the setup and having our decoys out there and calling the hen in. I don’t know if you noticed, I switched to just start just replicating what the hens are doing.
GRANT: We’ve had some incredible turkey hunts this spring, but, you know, and I love going to Florida. Man, John’s a great guy; I love hunting with him. But hunting on your own land, you know, is just so rewarding.
GRANT: And a lot of people are worried about, you know, groceries right now. Man, fresh, fresh turkey for a lot of people right there. That is so cool.
GRANT: And you know, just sitting back thinking about this. We just, actually, my daughter – all of us. But Rae was home from school because of the virus. So, Rae actually lit that side of the road for us and burned that over there. So, we got to work with the family on that. And you can see that hen really feeding in the fresh burn.
GRANT: They love a fresh burn because it exposes all the insects.
GRANT: This morning, if I can find it – yeah. That rascal right there – and I was thinking, watching that, you know, when you burn all these leaves off, all those are exposed and turkeys – and you can see her feeding right through there.
GRANT: Where when the leaves are everywhere, these insects are below the leaves and it’s harder for turkeys to find. That’s why you see ‘em scratching.
GRANT: But when you burn like this, man, the turkeys will gain more weight. And If a hen nests over here, comes out in here with young poults, they can walk through here so easy versus getting bogged up in a six-inch layer of leaves. So, man, just another reason we like to use prescribed fire.
GRANT: Stunning morning here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: Full grown. Look at that paintbrush. I mean, a paintbrush, man.
GRANT: That’s just a beautiful tom.
CLAY: Hmm, hmm.
GRANT: Of course, his feathers. He’s been strutting. Feathers are worn a lot. He was strutting here. Marks right there; tracks right there. I’m going to say this thing is – he’s over 20. I mean, he’s – for the mountains, yeah.
GRANT: This is the fifth mature tom Clay or I have tagged over Avian-X decoys this spring. Four of ‘em have been over this exact setup. We’ve got a quarter strut jake a few feet away from a hen. He’s looking right at the hen. We position him that way. And the hen is looking off. And we’ve seen tom after tom come right in and be locked on the jake.
GRANT: That quarter strut is so submissive, toms have no problem coming in and challenging.
GRANT: After reflecting on this hunt, I believe there’s a few lessons I can apply to my next hunt and you can apply wherever you hunt.
GRANT: Even without gobbling as a tom approached, the strategy made this a thrilling hunt.
GRANT: Identifying prime food sources such as available insects and a fresh burn can be key to locating and patterning toms.
GRANT: These food resources can change year to year. For example, maybe a food plot wasn’t planted from the previous year or a farmer changed the crop. He’s going to an ag field. Maybe there was a bumper red oak acorn crop and they’re still good and turkeys are feeding on them during season. Whatever the case is, you need to find that current food source while you’re scouting and adjust your hunting tactics accordingly.
GRANT: Knowing where toms prefer to roost and understanding the terrain around there can be key to having a successful hunt. If a tom roosts, which they often do, in an area that’s difficult to approach, it’s probably better to back off to an area that has a good setup where you can approach without alerting the tom. And the tom will be very comfortable strutting and wait there and either call or let the tom travel there on his own accord.
GRANT: During this hunt, we approached through a 26-acre bedding area with very few trees and none really appropriate for turkeys to be roosting. So, we could walk right through that bedding area and that’s below the slope of where the tom was roosting. So, we could scoot right up through there and approach our setup without any chance of spooking the toms.
GRANT: Past observations can be critical to knowing where to hunt. This may be based on past hunting experiences, scouting or using trail cameras to see where turkeys are using during the period of time you wish to be hunting.
GRANT: This was a very fun hunt and it provided fresh, organic meat for my family to enjoy. Tracy is ready for me to tag another tom as she’s found a new recipe she wishes to try.
GRANT: Pro Staffer Bradley Lueckenhoff recently used an effective decoy strategy to tag a mature tom and we’ll be sharing that hunt with you soon.
GRANT: A lot of folks are working on food plots and/or turkey hunting. If you’d like to learn more of our techniques, check out our playlist on both of these subjects.
GRANT: It’s the time of year we celebrate Mother’s Day. And I’m going to be honest, not everyone had a great mother like I do. But almost everyone has someone that pours into them, nurtures them and it’s a great time to celebrate that person. This year, find that special person in your life and spend some time with them because that’s the best gift we can give anyone.
GRANT: Yeah, you don’t get that fat in a late-season bird at all.
CLAY: Um, um.
GRANT: Especially in the Ozarks.
GRANT: Not a pellet anywhere to be found.