March 24, 2020
If you’re like me, the last several weeks — with perhaps a few more on the horizon — has seemingly turned into a chore. Turning on the television, listening to the radio, or even jumping from website to website has become one in the same as you try to escape constant chatter that’s surrounding the COVID-19 virus.
Fear not, however, as there is light sneaking through in the distance. That is, of course, if you’re a turkey hunter and are making plans to get back in the field as several states have openers that are quickly approaching. One such state is Oklahoma, which has its statewide lid lifter set for April 6th.
I did just that one year ago with some great industry friends and partners at Mossy Oak. As you more than likely already know, turkey hunting is a passion unlike any other to many inside the Mossy Oak family — a company that got its start in 1986 when Toxey Haas created the original Bottomland camouflage. In recent years, Bottomland was brought back by popular demand with a few modern enhancements — you can read my full review of Bottomland camo here — and is a big part of why Mossy Oak is now known as the official camouflage of conservation.
“Mossy Oak is a great partner and supporter of NWTF, which really speaks to their deep commitment to conservation,” said turkey expert and outdoor writer Brian Lovett. “That’s no surprise, as the company was born from turkey hunting, and everyone there is so passionate about turkeys and turkey hunting.”
And that's precisely why sharing hunting camp with the Mossy Oak gang is such a treat. They're diehards, and I've been fortunate enough to be with them for a couple great adventures over the years.
After I'd been close on multiple sits, we were down to the last day of our 2019 Sooner State hunt at Rut N Strut Guide Service. I had the privilege of hunting side-by-side with Lovett as we chased Rio Grandes that morning. It quickly became apparent that owner and guide Todd Rogers had put us in prime position to get the job done, as we heard the morning gobbles from roosted birds well before the darkness of night had begun to fade away.
As first light made its anticipated appearance and the first few turkeys decided to abandon their roosts to start a new day, I was instantly wowed by the realistic and effective calling sequences that Lovett was showcasing. While I was able to get the same Rios talking the day prior, it simply was nothing like what I was experiencing at that moment.
Unfortunately, even the best plans don’t come to fruition at times. There were two toms that had our focus from the start, and it was looking very promising to say the least. Their hens, however, were intent on making things difficult by convincing the two strutters to circle right around our setup and well beyond shotgun range.
“When that pair slipped past our setup, I feared we might be out of luck. Rios often have a destination in mind and put on their track shoes after flying down,” Lovett explained. “They’ll usually gobble — like those two did — but often keep on walking. I thought we might have to relocate to kill them, which would have been very tough on that open ground.”
Despite being behind us now, the flock didn’t seem in too much of a hurry to get out of our immediate location. If there was any good news, that allowed Lovett an opportunity to adjust his strategy a bit, as I waited for the right moment to shift around and secure a better shooting position. Once I was where I needed to be, Brian pulled out a Rio fan to act as a decoy. What a gamechanger — it was game on from there!
“When they hung around just out of sight for a few minutes, I thought we might still be in the game,” Lovett said. “They started responding better and finally drifted toward us a bit. I threw the fan up and tossed in some Jake yelps and aggressive purring to pique their interest. And when they broke, they came in really fast.”
From my setup, I couldn’t see the aforementioned break. Brian could, however, and signaled to me that they had committed and were on the way. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to waste once they crested the bluff in front of me, so I flipped the safety off of the Mossberg 535 in my hands and waited for the moment of truth. It came in mere seconds, and not long after thinking that the hunt was heading in the wrong direction, the celebration was officially on!
“The entire hunt was so cool,” Lovett said. “Hearing all that roost gobbling, seeing all the birds and watching you kill that gobbler after we thought it was over — just a great morning.”
It was, indeed. And the time is almost here to make some new memories this spring. And with all the negativity that’s currently in the news, what better time is there to do it?
Here’s to that!