John's Journal... Entry 246, Day 2
THE GREAT MISSOURI GOBBLERS
The Day I Learned Humility
Editor's Note: I've hunted wild turkeys in more than 30 states, and one of my favorite places in the world to hunt longbeards is in Missouri. This week I'll tell you why I love Missouri, and how Missouri humbled me. I assure you, if you'll come back each day this week, you'll want to be buying your own ticket to go hunt with Brad Harris, the Product-Development Manager for Field Line Calls in Missouri.
The next morning Harris and I went out for my first Missouri turkey hunt, which was also my first time ever to hunt with Brad Harris. Harris had built his reputation as a turkey caller and hunter on the professional turkey-calling circuit, as a turkey guide, as a vidiot and as the director of PR for outdoor companies. For years I had heard the name of Brad Harris as being one of the nation's top turkey callers and hunters, and I was really excited about getting to hunt with this man of legend. I had just finished my first turkey book, "Outdoor Life's Complete Turkey Hunting". I had interviewed and hunted with some of the greatest turkey hunters of that day, and I was feeling pretty good about my own turkey-hunting skills. I mean, after all, I had double grand-slammed (taking two gobblers of each of the North American species - Osceola, Eastern, Merriams and Rio Grande gobblers). I had hunted turkeys for 47-consecutive days for two years. Like the bull rider who has just ridden the 10-toughest bulls on the Professional Bull Riding (PBR) Circuit, I was feeling pretty confident and cocky about my ability to take turkeys.
Just after daylight on the first morning of our Missouri hunt, Harris began to call, and we heard three longbeards coming toward us. I was facing the turkeys, and all three birds had beards at least 8-inches long. But the last bird in the line was the dominant bird, because he was the strutter. I could have easily taken either of the first two birds with no problem. However, since I viewed myself as being one of the top turkey hunters in the nation, naturally I waited for the strutting bird to get within range. When the strutter stepped into range about 25 yards in front of me, Harris whispered, "Are you ready?" I whispered back, "Oh, yeah." Then Harris clucked. The gobbler's neck went up. I aimed and fired. Jumping up quickly, as I normally would to retrieve a downed bird, I couldn't believe my eyes. All three gobblers flew away. I hadn't even cut a feather on the longbeard, less than 25-yards away, that was in the perfect position for me to take him. "I can't believe this," I said. "I don't know what happened. I can't figure this out." Harris laughed and said, "You just missed. That's all there is to it. Don't worry about it. We'll go find another bird."
My arrogance, ego and confidence left as quickly as the gobblers had. I had looked and acted like the most-inexperienced turkey hunter who ever had walked in the woods. If there was anyone I wanted to impress with my turkey-hunting prowess, it had been Harris. And, just like the man who falls over in the mud as he kneels to kiss the hand of the Queen of England, I was embarrassed, humbled, shaken and looking for a rock under which to crawl. I decided I must not be nearly as good a turkey hunter as I thought I was.
TOMORROW: THINGS GET WORSE