A plan came together. Well, sort of.
For years, I had this wild idea of loading a houseboat full of turkey hunters and taking to the vast expanses of Bull Shoals Lake in search of public land longbeards. More than 1,000 miles of shoreline surrounds Bull Shoals, and nearly all of it is public land accessible from the water.
Driving south on a Thursday afternoon, I could hardly contain my excitement. The weather was gorgeous. Bluebird skies with a few cotton candy clouds matched the perfect 80-degree weather perfectly. By the time I reached Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock, I was convinced the entire expedition was going to be a slam dunk. Not so much.
Phillip Vanderpool, host of Dominator 365 television show on the Sportsman's Channel, joined me on the hunt. He brought his cameraman, Jay Jackson, along to record the entire experience. My uncle, Tom, and Josh Honeycutt, a writer from Kentucky, rounded out our group. As we loaded our gear on the houseboat, we began formulating our plan of attack for the following morning.
It's a funny thing about plans and how quickly they can fall apart. When the alarm clock rang at 4:30 a.m. it was raining and the temperature had dropped close to 40 degrees. My vision of a misty Ozark Mountains sunrise went out the window. There was no way Phillip could take out the video camera equipment, so we all went back to bed.
A couple of hours later, with rain still falling steadily, I couldn't take it anymore. Uncle Tom and I hopped in my boat and headed deep into the back of a cove. I cut hard on a box call, but to no avail. The turkeys were just as shocked by the drastic weather change as we were, so the gobblers had lockjaw.
We hiked up into the woods aimlessly and took a seat under a cedar tree, the most umbrella-like natural feature we could find. After a couple of hours, our clothes were totally saturated. We headed back to the boat.
The boys had figured out how to crank the heater, and a large brunch ensued. Have you ever tried deep fried bacon? If not, I recommend you do. You can thank me later.
Phillip told stories of his decades of hunting exploits, as the rest of us hung on every word. Even though the weather was horrible outside, we were having a blast.
Around 4 p.m., there was a break in the weather. We loaded our two transport boats and headed out. Tom and I went to an open field on a ridge top. I had located it with the aid of Google Maps. My old-school uncle couldn't believe I was using my phone to help us find turkeys. Technology sure has come a long ways since he started hunting.
Good fortune smiled on us when we found a strutting gobbler with a bunch of jakes and hens in the field. The ol' boy wasn't budging from his ladies, so it took a good belly crawl stalk to put a tag on him. Back at the boat, we rejoiced by breasting the bird out, battering the nuggets and deep frying them on the back of the houseboat. We mixed in a few morels Tom and I found, too. It was the freshest turkey I've ever had, and perhaps the best camp meal I've ever eaten.
You can't help the weather. We just happened to plan our hunt during what turned out to be horrible conditions. My bird was the only one we took, but rest assured, there are plenty more where he came from. You can bet we'll be hunting from a houseboat again next year. I just hope we have better conditions.
See you down the trail ...
Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for the News Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.