This year's successful spring turkey hunt with Mossy Oak will be a tough one to forget.
For a guy who can't seem to string together a sequence to save his life, I am a little flabbergasted when I'm around someone who really knows how to call turkeys.
That's why a quickly-confirmed hunting trip with Mossy Oak and a few other notable guests became my first chance to hunt with not just successful, but national champion-caliber callers, and see the kind of magic they can work.
It was a spring hunting trip that coincided with the filming of video segments with the likes of Matt Van Cise, winner of multiple World Open Championships and Grand National Championships (amongst others), and Josh Grossenbacher, the 2015 World Turkey Calling Champion, 2017 Grand National Head-to-Head Champion, and dedicated call maker for Zink Calls.
These were some of the best callers around, and they were along for the ride as part of their busy spring schedule. Basically, I stood the chance of hunting with the top of the top, and I was eagerly anticipating the opportunity.
But for now, we all converged, with a few other media members and Mossy Oak's finest, on the land available to those lucky enough to book a hunt with Rut n Strut Guide Service. We'd acquired our hunting licenses, and were ready to see what Oklahoma's wild turkey population had in store.
After a last ditch, hunt preserving day in Oklahoma's red dirt hills, it's no wonder Mossy Oak claimed these guys as pro staff members. And no wonder they picked this place to gather such a great group of guys for a weekend of spring gobblers.
There's just nothing like cool spring mornings that make turkey hunting so great, and I got the best reminder I've received in years that's the case.
I was excited to get out and use some of the new Bottomland camo I'd packed for the trip, and was surprised with an opportunity to wear my first pair of Danner Boots. I was equally as pumped for the first chance to hunt anything in Oklahoma. The fact that it was spring turkey, my personal favorite, was icing on the cake.
I knew I'd be well taken care of, having experienced a few Mossy Oak-hosted events, and this was no exception. The setup at the outfitter was as comfortable as can be, and it was a pleasure meeting and getting to know owner Todd Rogers, even if it was for just a little bit. He knows full well what's happening on each corner of his some-55,000 acres he has leased, and they're all within a reasonable drive from the main quarters.
It wasn't too far from the border of the Texas panhandle, and success rates seemed to be promising from what I'd read ahead of time.
We'd be shacking up four to a room with bunk beds, and if it weren't for the early Step Brothers and Simpsons references, it could have been a little awkward.
I grabbed what was left of the shotguns after everyone else seemed to have made their choice, and ended up with what I wanted anyway, a pump action Remington 870 Express Magnum in Bottomland.
Myself and another writer were teamed up for the first day, and despite a couple early long distance encounters, we didn't see any action. We knew the videographers were with the badass callers we'd met on the first night, aiming for some footage captures to be used in a few online and TV spots. The cool thing is, you can already watch on Mossy Oak's MOGO app and online website. Which is free and available on any platform. Yeah, it's a promotional mention, but it's worth it for something as great as MOGO. Trust me.
What started slow picked up by the second day, with a rare "triple" pulled off by three hunters with simultaneous shots on a group of gobblers. That alone would have made the trip interesting enough for me, just to be part of a camp that can tell that story. A few other turkeys were tagged, and the mood was bright.
Except in my own head, I was beginning to dread the thought of leaving empty-handed.
Things Turn Around
On the final morning of the last day, still birdless, I trekked through some fence gates and into a field's edge that was known to be close to a prime roosting location. I was with Van Cise, my first legitimate hunt with a champion turkey caller, and I had high hopes.
The morning that commenced was one of the most unforgettable experiences I've ever had in the turkey woods, and I never even raised the Remington.
About 20 minutes from daybreak, the gobbling started. I must have heard 100 over the course of an hour. The only thing was, none were headed our way.
It was no fault of Matt's (or his custom High Class Calls), and I could tell he was frustrated too, but a morning like that could never be described as having "no action." It was so loud at times, it felt like I was at a zoo.
If that was a sign of things to come, my luck was about to shift.
We called the morning early and got back to camp early for lunch, but the break didn't last long. A pair of gobblers were spotted not far from camp, and visions of my pronghorn harvest flashed in my mind.
This time it was Grossenbacher accompanying me, and we flipped on the "stealth mode" switch while cutting through some thick woods in the direction of the turkeys.
Only the turkeys we were after already had hens, and didn't seem interested in budging. It wasn't until we saw a lone tom, some 200 yards across an open ag field, that we refocused our target.
Grossenbacher's technique was spot-on, as I watched the tom strut and gobble the entire 200 yards, seemingly straight into my barrel. Once it was within 20 yards, my anticipation reached its peak, and I couldn't hold out any longer. One shot, one downed turkey, and a heck of a lot of appreciation (and amazement) for Josh and his calling.
With one final afternoon hunting session and one more tag to fill, myself and Brian Lovett from the National Wild Turkey Federation partnered for a sit in a main thoroughfare we were certain would have birds. It wasn't too far away from where I sat with Matt that morning; if that many gobblers were roosting there, it was a good bet we'd see some promising interactions.
From the start it was hot, as the spring turkey hunting season can be in Oklahoma, and we sat through some sweaty hours before two gobblers showed themselves. They didn't commit to Brian's calls or our two decoys, but we knew they had to eventually pass by if they wanted to get back to the roosting site.
Nearly three hours after the first sighting they crept back into view and were avoiding our decoys entirely. They slowly pecked their way closer, and it appeared like they'd get within 30 yards if they merely stayed the course.
Brian eased up on the calling and we silently waited. We'd already determined I'd get first shot and he would take any leftover opportunities, and my grip tightened on the shotgun's stock as they inched closer.
I heard Brian's faint whisper say "Whenever you're ready," and I barely let him finish the sentence. The boom resonated through the trees, followed by another within a second. If you want to make a fast friend with a fellow hunter, there's nothing quite like doubling up on two Rio Grande turkeys.
Brian and I rejoiced in our efforts, snapped the requisite photos, and toasted a cold beer to each other and the hunt we'd just shared. It might not be Brian's best story from the trip (he'll likely fill us in when he finishes his story on the hunt), but he showed the kind of excitement and gusto I love seeing in sportsmen and women.
A Turkey Hunter's Trip
Needless to say, this Oklahoma turkey hunting trip was one I'd have to try hard to forget. Spring turkey season is great anywhere, but there was something about this region that I really liked. Maybe it was because of that one gobble-filled morning, but I knew I'd be marking this as a location I'd have to return to.
Even though I felt jealous hearing about the rest of the spring plans for the group, I felt sure I could consider my spring a success, even if I never pulled the trigger for the rest of the season.
When you're surrounded by such a good group of outdoorsmen, pursuing your favorite game animal, and finding some success on top of it all, you're in a good place.