ULMAN, Mo. -- Jimmy Joe Myers has a simple explanation for how challenging it can be to hunt wild turkeys.
"Deer are curious," Myers said after a hunt last week. "Turkeys act like they're scared to death of everything all the time.
"I remember the day when I was working this big ol' gobbler and I got him to within 30 yards. Right when I was getting ready to shoot, that turkey spooked.
"I knew he hadn't seen me, so I was wondering what was going on. Then, along comes three horses.
"Like I said, they're just scared all the time."
They should be scared of Jimmy Joe ("just call me JJ") Myers. He has been running and gunning turkeys in the rugged woods surrounding Lake of the Ozarks for more than 50 years.
Finding birds to hunt -- and the private land on which to hunt --was never much of a problem, he said. His dad was a county commissioner years ago, and he rode the back roads. When he would spot turkeys, he made the landowner a unique offer to get permission to hunt the land.
"My dad would offer to pay that landowner's property taxes in exchange for hunting rights," said Myers, 68, who lives in Ulman, Mo. "Either that, or he would arrange to get some extra gravel put down on the road there or offer to have it graded.
"That's how he built up a pile of hunting spots."
Myers inherited many of those hunting spots. He has plenty of options when he heads to the woods each spring for his favorite type of hunting.
Big gobblers roam these rugged hills, he will tell you. And each spring, the hunt for those birds dominates his life.
"This is a great time of the year," he said. "We're hunting turkeys, getting morels, fishing for crappies . . . there aren't enough hours in the day."
They all go on the dinner table for one of Myers' favorite meals. Few years go by when he doesn't take his season limit of two turkeys.
And along the way, he has accumulated plenty of stories of spring days in the woods.
"One day, my dad and I split up and hunted different parts of our land," Myers said. "Before we went, my dad said, 'Whoever takes their turkey first and gets back to the truck should honk the horn.'
"Well, I was out there and I was working this bird and I heard the horn honking. At first I tried to ignore it, but it finally chased the bird away, so I went back.
"My dad walks up and he said, 'Where's your bird--' And I said, 'I thought you got one.'
"We look over and we saw a couple of horses with their heads in the window, bumping the horn. We had left an open bag of potato chips in there, and they were going after them."
That's just one chapter in Myers' life. Some locals still remember the stunt he pulled when he was a teenager and wanted to attract the girls. He borrowed a horse from a friend and rode it into a bar. It must have worked. He started dating one of the girls and eventually married her.
"We had this guy in town who would bring his horse with him when he knew he was going to be drinking," Myers said. "That way, if he got drunk, he could ride the horse home. The horse knew the way.
"Well, I borrowed that horse that night, and it worked out great."
THE WIT AND WISDOM OF JIMMY JOE
--"Being out here early of a morning, seeing the beautiful redbuds and dogwoods, picking morels and hearing those turkeys gobble, there's nothing like it. That's why I love living in the Ozarks."
--"Deer are curious. Turkeys act like they're scared to death of everything all the time."
--"When the state started stocking turkeys down here, my dad knew where every one of them lived. He was a county commissioner and he rode the back roads. He knew everyone in the county and he knew just about every turkey, too."
--"I've hunted turkeys for most of my life. I know what they'll do, where they like to go, in most situations."
--"I rode a horse into a bar here (at Lake Ozark) one time to impress a girl. It must have worked. I ended up marrying that girl."
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