The 2012 turkey season started off with a " Bang " when my 13 year old son Justin Gailis knocked down a monster 25 pound longbeard 15 minutes after daylight on opening day of the Missouri youth season. And all the action was captured on video! That hunt was textbook, I knew where birds were roosting from numerous scouting trips, and we set up well before daylight in our Double Bull blind and set out our peep-n-tom gobbler decoy ( with a jake fan ) along with two hens. As daylight approached I gave some soft calls with my Commando Hunting Products Pro Staff Limited Edition Glass & Slate call. It was barely daylight when that giant gobbler flew down and stepped out of the timber at 50 yards. He put on an awesome show of strutting and gobbling and then bred a hen 30 yards from our blind. The entire time he was eyeing our decoys, which finally got the best of him as he ran into our setup and stood 4 yards outside the blind. Justin kept his cool and dropped that bird with a clean shot from his remington 11-87 20 guage.
After Justin's awesome hunt I had my hopes up that I would be able to " easily " fill my 2012 tags also. Well I should have known better, opening day of Missouri turkey season was filled with hours of staring at my decoys and not one turkey sighting. That afternoon I loaded up and headed to southeast Iowa for my yearly hunt. The first evening I positioned myself in a big patch of river bottom timber in an attempt to surprise an afternoon longbeard. No birds were seen, however, as darkness fell an owl hooted and a frustrated gobbler sounded off from his roost about 150 yards from me.
The next morning found me back in that timber well before daylight and making my way to the area where I had heard that gobbler the night before. As dawn approached and the owls started their morning ritual, that gobbler sounded off again which enabled me to move in within 40 yards of his roost and actually see him skylined on his branch. I slowly and quietly placed a single hen decoy 40 yards from his tree and then settled up against a tree where I could watch over my decoy. As the sky lightened that gobbler was hammering away so I gave some light hen calls until I was sure that he knew where my hen was.
When that longbeard finally jumped off his branch he soared through the treetops and angled right to my hiding spot. He hit the ground 15 yards from me and took two steps before My Remington 11-87 super mag. dropped him in his tracks! Talk about a hunt where everything went right, if this was a preview of things to come I was going to be one happy hunter. And what a great bird with a 10 3/4" beard and spurs at 1 1/2 and 1 3/8 inches he was definately a very mature bird.
The day after I returned to Missouri I was back in the woods hoping to fill my first Missouri tag. What I came back to was some very frustrating hunting conditions. There was a little bit of gobbling on the roost, however, once they hit the ground the gobblers became tight lipped and it was virtually impossible to locate them. By week two conditions had not improved and I was hearing reports from Iowa to southern Missouri that everyone I knew was experiencing the same difficult conditions.
I knew it was time to change my strategy and take a different approach. I decided I was going to wear out my boots, and my stamina, by still hunting the Missouri hills and valleys. After a few days of hiking I finally located a group of birds feeding in a large field. I saw that there were two longbeards in the group and decided to make a move on them. The only cover between us was a secondary field of 3 foot high weeds and grasses so I did what any desperate turkey hunter would do, I belly crawled 200 yards through the wet, tick and chigger infested, weeds until I was within 60 yards of the group. Then I caught a lucky break, a hen decided to walk my way and right behind her was a love sick longbeard. I was already in position when his head popped up above the weeds at 25 yards and seconds later I was standing over a brute of a gobbler that weighed 25 pounds and had two giant 1 1/2 inch spurs!
The very next day I was back in the woods trying to fill my second tag. My days were filled with more sneaking, crawling and numerous failed stalks, in addition to the many bug bites covering my body. Finally on May 2nd the hunting gods decided to reward me for all my pain and suffering. After hiking all morning I decided to spend the last 30 minutes resting in the shade along a field edge to escape the 90 degree heat. After 10 minutes I saw a hen and a gobbler step out of the timber and walk the field edge away from me. They were 200 yards from me and gaining ground quickly so I grabbed my gear and crawled into the timber and then made my way quickly down the field edge, staying in the timber for cover. When I finally crawled to the edge and peeked out I saw the gobbler feeding in the grass 40 yards from me. I checked the time and still had 7 minutes of legal shooting time so I sat up and as soon as my sights covered his head I touched of the shot and down he went. He was a great 3 year old bird and worth every grueling minute that led me to him!