JACK'S JAKE AND THE RED BLIND A campfire roars at my feet. Temperatures will drop to 37 degrees tonight. My Cabela's sleeping bag kept me toasty warm the last two nights as cold rains pelted my tent. Tomorrow will bring the third day of the Missouri spring turkey season. I will hunt alone. I enjoyed the company of Jack Peters the first two days of the season. He is an unusual character, one of those exceptional people that haunt our minds for decades. I will never forget hunting turkeys with this incredible man. Peters knows Current River country very well. The National Park Service transferred him there in 1967 as the first Park Ranger of the newly formed Ozark National Scenic Riverways. He became intrigued with my plans to hold a youth turkey hunting camp in Shannon County for the National Wild Turkey Federation. He quickly volunteered to help. The camp provided an once-in-a-lifetime experience for 10 youngsters from across the state, largely due to Jack's efforts. Jack Peters is full of surprises. None shocked me more than when he extended an invitation to join him on a spring turkey hunt. I have sense wondered if my poker face concealed my elation. Jack is full of surprises. My heart sank as he explained that we would hunt in separate locations since the spread he referred to as 'the turkey farm' held lots of birds. My hope had been to sit side by side with the ex-Park Ranger who knew every hill and holler in Shannon County. I figured, too, that Jack knew the whereabouts of every gobbler around. Jack is full of surprises. The evening I arrived at Jack's campground, we quickly began laying plans for opening morning. He began by saying, 'Bill, I have decided that I want us to hunt together, and I want you to guide me. I have only killed two turkeys in my lifetime.' A feather would have bowled me over. Sleep evaded me. Pelting rain combined with visions of what I hoped to happen the next morning kept me tossing in my cot. The truck wipers swished back and forth across the windshield as we headed north on Highway 19. We both voiced our worries about the rainfall and its effects on turkeys. 'We will stay dry,' Jack quipped. 'I have a blind in place.' Fortunately the rain subsided before we reached our destination. 'Birds don't gobble much in wet weather,' I explained nervously. We shuffled our feet slowly as we descended a steep slope. The damp grass on the farm lane made footing precarious. Fifty yards into a crescent shaped valley stood Jack's blind. He had it neatly tucked into the edge of a patch of brush. A small grove of walnut trees stood in a grassy flat directly in front of the blind. A towering hill lay to the right and the long slope we had negotiated in the dark lay to our left. Jack placed three decoys 25-yards from the blind. An old grass covered road entered the field at the base of the ridge to our right. The decoys stood there where the road entered the walnut grove. Jack assured me turkeys would come from the East, down the road right to the decoys. A gobble rang out from far behind us. In response, another gobbler bellowed to the west. Pleasantly surprised, I told Jack we were fortunate to hear anything on a misty morning. Silence dominated the next 30 minutes. I cackled loudly on an H.S. Strut double reed mouth call. A gobbler immediately answered. I called again and two more gobblers chimed in. Within minutes gobblers answered my calls from all four directions. The misty morning had quickly transformed into the best bad weather morning of my turkey hunting career. Several gobblers sounded closer at times. And then they sounded farther away. The gobbling activity continued as long as I kept calling. After 45 minutes of listening to the thundering birds, I decided to quit calling. The toms were not coming closer. They gobbled continually in their lusty attempts to get the hen to come to them. Often, going silent turns the trick. I kept checking the grassy lane to my right in hopes of seeing approaching gobblers. Ten minutes after my last call, I glanced out the left window of the blind. There stood two majestic toms less than 25-yards away. 'Gobblers to your left,' I whispered to Jack. He slowly turned his head to locate the birds. For some reason, he had laid his gun in the far left corner of the blind. And he had only killed two turkeys in his lifetime? He slowly crawled across the blind floor to retrieve his shotgun. Meanwhile, I jammed two rounds into my gun. I had not loaded because I could not shoot to the right where the turkeys were supposed to come from. I know better than to believe a turkey hunting partner. Another tom joined the other two birds. They had fed 10 more yards down the lane by the time Jack and I got organized. I clucked softly. The three gobblers snapped to attention, spotted the decoys to their right and began a slow stroll in that direction. The birds stopped in the walnut grove 25-yards in front of our blind. Perfect. I had clearly demonstrated my turkey hunting prowess. 'On three,' Jack instructed. 'You shoot first,' I replied. I wanted to be sure Jack harvested a bird. Too, I figured when he knocked the first bird down the other two would stand and watch it flop and then I would take my bird. Jack is full of surprises. He missed! 'Shoot again,' I yelled. He issed again. I fired at a bird running to the left and missed, too! A perfect plan fell apart in two seconds. Jack and I looked at one another in total disbelief. 'How in the xxxx did we miss those birds'? Jack grumbled. We laughed until tears streamed down our cheeks as we recounted again and again what had just happened to us. The blind became unbearably hot by 9:00 a.m. We decided to take a hike and try to work some birds we had heard earlier on the west end of the farm. Two hours and three setups later we had not managed to strike a single bird. Tired and still disgusted with our earlier performance, we headed towards the blind. As we made the turn through the scattered woods to enter the field holding the blind, I stopped in disbelief. Jack's blind stuck out like a neon sign. It was red. Against the greenery of spring, it was no place to be hiding. Jack whispered, 'Look, there are five gobblers in the decoys.' 'This ain't for real,' I muttered. 'The regular sonic booms from all the aerial dogfights in this area has warped these birds,' I muttered under I breath. We slowly sat down and crawled to a nearby cedar tree. Over the next 30 minutes I tried to coax the birds across the field. They approached part way three different times, only to return to the decoys by the glowing red blind. The birds had to be aliens. Jack and I decided to backtrack and use the cover of a dry creek bed that we could sneak up and close the distance between us and the turkeys. Our decoy set stood only 20 yards from the edge of the creek. We formulated a plan to call one or more of the birds down the side of the field next to the creek cover, where we would be waiting. All 5 gobblers glanced in my direction when I gave the first series of soft yelps on my mouth call. Next I began soft feeding chatter and scratching in the leaves. Minutes passed before two jakes broke from the group and began feeding in our direction. Ten minutes later the pair of young gobblers stood 15 yards in front of Jack. I tensed expecting the report of his 12-gauge at any second. A cloud of feathers puffed from the lead jake when Jack fired. The other bird stood for a couple of seconds watching his fallen brother, offering me a clear neck shot. I passed. Jack and I hustled towards his bird to investigate. We laughed and joked aloud, happy at the outcome of our well executed plan. I felt a tingle of satisfaction as I congratulated Jack on the harvest of his third wild turkey in his lifetime. Turkey hunting with Current River legend Jack Peters provided a memorable experience. His stories of the cultural and natural history of the area both entertained and educated me. His wit and canny manner challenged my intellect. Too, he provided me a fun-filled day of turkey hunting in the Missouri Ozarks that I will not soon forget. I still laugh when I think of Jack posing proudly with his jake in front of the red blind. Go figure.