Memories of some long-ago gobblers

By Larry Dablemont
    I likely won’t kill a gobbler this year because I don’t like seeing the declining wild turkey numbers throughout the Ozarks. So while I probably will not shoot any of them this year with my shotgun, I will call some up that I can shoot with my camera. I have killed so many over the years in three states, that I just don’t care about killing any more. There are enough great memories.


    Fifteen years ago, I took my good friend Dennis Whiteside, who is an accomplished river guide and all around outdoorsman, on his first turkey hunt. Dennis had never hunted turkeys because he always fished too much in the spring to give it any serious attention. But he knew where to come when he wanted to learn about it. Shucks, it was me that taught him how to paddle a boat, though he won’t own up to it.
    I recall that we went out on opening morning and just at first light I called up a gobbler which stopped and strutted in front of us for an hour, about 60 yards away, and then left with a hen. Then we called up another one an hour later, which gobbled and strutted about 70 yards away, only to be ran off by another tom, which also went a different direction.
    At 9 o’clock in the morning, Dennis complained about how it seemed I was really good at calling gobblers in to just outside of gun range, but not so good at calling them in to killing distance. I was offended, of course, and reminded him that if it wasn’t for me he would still be fishing with a cane pole and paddling on both sides of the boat. That really made him mad, and he said that if it wasn’t for him I’d still be fishing with worms for shade perch, and the two of us almost came to a point of shouting insults at each other.
    But, we realized that yelling at each other in the turkey woods is counter-productive, and in about an hour, I sat him down in a brushpile and called up four big strutting gobblers. He was so well hidden he couldn’t see to shoot, but eventually one of them walked off a ways and Dennis got his first gobbler ever, a big red-headed tom with an eleven-inch beard and spurs about a quarter of an inch shorter than he has been telling everyone they were. As a fisherman, he has developed some bad habits, and I don’t think the gobbler would have weighed forty pounds either!
    Those were the days! For every gobbler we have in the Ozarks today, there were four or five back then. Why in the world do we not have restrictions on seasons and limits now to help them come back some? I guess it has to do with money. Hunters like me who hunt with a camera don’t buy turkey tags. And those who would balk at changes in limits and seasons might not want to pay as much for tags. But if wild gobblers continue the decline I have seen over the last ten years, those who quit hunting them will stop buying tags too.
    I have had some calls about this Saturday’s trip to the wilderness area on Truman Lake where we might even hear a wild gobbler. Some callers want to know if we will find mushrooms. I can’t guarantee that but I believe we will. I have found quite few after last weeks rain. Regardless, I will teach people HOW to find them. We will be hiking through one of the largest forests in the Ozarks. Then at midday we will have a fish fry. We still have some room so if you want to go you should call me on my office phone and leave a message. It is 417-777-5227. The day-long trip will leave from Wheatland Missouri that morning and there is a nice motel there.
    If you want to get bargains on fishing lures, rods, reels etc. I want to tell you about a couple of places to visit. Angler’s Tackle Box, owned by Mark Irwin, is located just to the east of Rogersville, Mo. Mark has hundreds of lures for $2 each…top brands that appear to be to be brand new. Some of them are $8 or $10 in most outdoor stores. His variety of fishing lures is outstanding. I bought a half dozen Rapala lures there for $2 each and a half dozen crankbaits for the same. He also has some antique lures, used motors etc.
    Then I found a place halfway between Clinton and Warsaw called Steve’s Rod and Reel Repair. Steve is disabled and his shop is inside an antique store called Ginny’s Red Barn. It contains new and used rods by the hundreds and every kind of reel you could ever want to see. The prices are so good that I bought a couple myself. He has a lot of antique fishing gear too. If you want to find bargains on rods and reels, or have your own gear repaired, go by and see him sometime. You won’t believe his prices on high quality rods with reels to match, hundreds and hundred of each.
    Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge47 @gmail.com.
    EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.