When long-time Cedar County resident and seasoned outdoorsman Ken White starts to talk turkey, one cannot help being drawn in by his ability to paint a picture with words.
White, a local outdoor enthusiast and hunting expert, said he started hunting wild turkeys in 1960 when Missouri opened its first hunting season which was limited to three counties.
“Growing up, we read about turkeys being part of the pilgrims’ first thanksgiving in school,” White said with a laugh. “You never expected them to be introduced and populate to a point where they could be hunted.”
At the genesis of the turkey hunting routine in Missouri, White said he learned a lot about the process by making rookie mistakes.
“Early in the turkey hunting game I went with a group of guys,” White said. “We were so awful at calling, I’m pretty sure we scared every bird in the woods over to the next county.”
White also mentioned significant turkey traits and behaviors he has picked up on over the years — citing turkey’s keen eyesight and hearing as being two obstacles every hunter has to combat when pursuing the elusive birds.
White said people’s real advantage is the turkey’s less-than-stellar sense of smell.
“That’s the only place you really have one up on a bird,” White said. “They hear and see tremendously well, they’re just not as good at winding hunters like other game is.”
White keeps a record of every single turkey he has harvested and said he uses the journaling practice as a way to remember each individual turkey hunt he has been on for the last seven decades.
White said he harvested his first wild turkey in Crawford County and had the most success in Carroll and Cedar Counties, harvesting 72 and 37 birds in those two areas, respectively.
Bear in mind those numbers are a reflection of White’s combined spring and fall seasonal hunting efforts dating back almost 70 years.
“I keep tabs on what county I was hunting in each time I go out,” White said. “I have records of what each bird weighed, the time of day I got him and a couple of other details. I can relive each hunt that way.”
White, who is almost 90, still contributes a weekly outdoors column to a number of local publications, including the Cedar County Republican.
White hunts morels like any outdoor enthusiast and observes opening day of spring turkey season almost as if it was an official Missouri holiday.
White started his 99th turkey season hunting a tight-knit piece of timbered acreage on a small central-Cedar County farm with good evidence of recent turkey presence and exclusive access.
White said he also has a spot in the Blackjack area he will spend a few mornings at this year as well.
White prefers to use ground blinds or brush cover and stationary decoys coupled with a mouth call, which allows him to keep both hands free at all times during a hunt.
“You really do get addicted,” White said. “Once you get your first bird, you’re just hooked. You’re really a turkey hunter after that.”
With his participation on opening day of the spring 2019 turkey season, White’s quest trudges forward almost historically.
White said while he always seeks to add another gobbler to his list of hunting accomplishments, he also takes time to simply enjoy the outdoors.
White said part of each hunt is observe wildlife signs and vegetation conditions every time he settles down in a blind to start calling in another love-struck gobbler.