Turkey Hunting Full Of Superstition

A recent Missouri turkey hunt -- full of signs and struggles -- ends with a gobbler seeing stars.

"I'm not carrying your bird out, no way," said turkey guide Preston Frasier. "They say you'll never shoot a bird again if anyone but the shooter carries out his bird."

Hunters can be a superstitious lot. The way guys pick decoys, shot shells and camo patterns often has as much to do with hunches as it does experience.

I had no intention of asking Preston to haul my Eastern the half-mile to the truck. Who wouldn't be proud to carry hard-hunted, 24-plus-pound bird? This year especially had been a frustrating season in Missouri: Harvest was down nearly 10 percent compared to last year. Blame the flooding, colder weather or voodoo, the bottom line is there are a lot of birds in the Show-Me state, but fewer tags on legs.

Personally, I had my struggles during my weeklong hunt. I fought the flu, chased henned up toms, and somehow always picked the one tree that was at war with my back.

After a total of seven unsuccessful days hunting the Midwest and Georgia this season, despite myself I was starting to look for signs.

Roosting birds the night before, there was a waxing crescent moon above the pine trees. Standing there in the dark, friend Marshall Dick whispered, "Just saw a shooting star. That's a good sign."

I wondered what that omen meant, if anything, as we called it a night.

A few hours later, Preston and I drove over country roads to a turn off into a field. He got the decoys together as I put on my vest, gloves and mask. I loaded my Remington shotgun, looked up to the dark sky full of stars and thanked God for the opportunity to have another day to get my bird. That's when I saw my own sign: a shooting star streaked from north to south across the heavens.

"Shooting star," I said to Preston.

"Good sign," he said.

We set up in the dark near a perfect strutting zone. Backs against a wide oak tree -- a turkey hunter's version of a La-Z-Boy -- with brush all around us, we settled in to listen for turkeys on the roost.

With in a half-hour, a thunderous gobbled shook a tall elm 60 yards away. Another gobbler farther away answered, and another. We were in the right place at the right time. Still, in the back of my mind I was thinking that this scenario had played out many times this season without a clear shot at a bird.

The skies lightened. The sun peaked through the woods. I couldn't see the bird, but I heard him fly down with a thump.

I finally eye-balled the tom through a hole in the brush. But he wasn't following the script -- he was walking to my left, and I had set up so he'd move to the hill crest on my right. I couldn't shoot the bird on the left because small trees right in front of me stopped my barrel from swinging left.

In desperation, I pushed the gunstock back to my right so the muzzle was near my face -- like bringing back a pool stick before you hit the cue ball. I risked the bird putting off, but if it were smooth and quick enough, he'd be dead. As the bird cocked its head toward me, I swung the stock to the right, pushed the muzzle through a small hole in the brush, clicked off the safety and pulled the trigger.

He flopped dead as an eight ball in a puff of feathers.

The last thing the tom must have seen was an awfully bright light that could've looked like a shooting star.

"Good job!" said Preston. "Now he's all yours. Carry him out."

My pleasure. As my 2011 turkey season came to a close, I sure didn't want this bird to be my last.

12-gauge Remington VersaMax
SHOTSHELLS: Remington Premier Magnum 3 1/2-inch
BOOTS: LaCrosse Alphalite
VEST: HS Strut Deluxe Sport Utility

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