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story.lead_photo.caption Wild turkeys are shown in this file photo.

For the first time, I tagged out on turkeys in Arkansas.

I should be ashamed of the way it happened, but the easy hunts make me appreciate the hard hunts all the more.

I woke too early at 4:30 a.m., so I shut my eyes for a few extra minutes. They reopened at 5:48 a.m. That was too late.

Instead, I reached my spot at 12:30 p.m. With the wind blowing fiercely, I didn't expect success, so I stuffed my laptop into my turkey vest to write my Sunday column.

Instead of my Eddie Horton box calls, I packed two Bill Rhodes (Sheridan) box calls, including a two-chamber walnut model that Rhodes made especially for me in 2012. The other was like it, except made of cedar and with the chambers reversed. Loud, raspy and resonant, they are perfect for windy conditions.

I checked an Arkansas hunting site on Facebook where hunters frantically sought advice on how to hunt turkeys in the wind. The consensus opinion is that turkeys go into fields in the wind, and that they are highly unlikely to be in the woods except in protected ravines.

There are no fields where I hunt, but I was near what passes for a ravine in my part of the world.

Between gusts, I yelped, cutt and cackled with the box calls. One thing I love about the Rhodes calls is that I can make a sharp cutt and then drag the lid over the opposite lip to make the quavering yelp that I heard two hens make on Monday.

At about 1:40 p.m., I thought I heard a gobble pierce the wind. I quickly hit the box, and another gobble responded as the gust subsided.

Turkeys take their sweet time with me, so I continued typing. The gobbler responded to my calls, but he didn't sound any closer.

Then I did an extended fighting purr. The gobbler bellowed several times during that call, and then I resumed typing.

Then he gobbled again.

"Oh gosh, he's coming!" I thought.

I closed the lid on my laptop and put it aside, quickly lowered the mask over my face and raised my gun. The gobbler basically walked in front of it, and at 1:10 p.m., I put him down at 30 paces.

This was a boss bird. He weighed 21 pounds. His beard was exactly 91/2 inches, but his spurs were 11/8-inches long and as sharp as needles. His wingtips were worn square from strutting, and his breast feathers were thin from breeding. The rest of his plumage was disheveled from fighting.

My opening day bird had an 11-inch beard, but his spurs were short and blunt. He looked like he'd just left the tailor with a brand new suit.

My season was quick, but the memories will last a lifetime.

Sports on 04/14/2019

Print Headline: Getting easy out to end the season

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