Herald-Whig

Finding truth in three Ps of hunting

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 21, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Mar. 22, 2019 1:50 am

Scooter Barnes likes to tell you he uses a mouth call better than anyone around to talk to turkeys.

He tells you he has never missed a shot, at least while turkey hunting.

And he says the biggest turkey he ever killed walked up to him without being called.

"I like to tell stories," Barnes says. "The problem is getting people to believe them."

He laughs at himself after saying that, the kind of guttural chuckle that causes him to cough in order to catch his breath.

"I know most of my stories are a bunch of baloney," Barnes says. "That's why I tell them. You tell stories, and you hope people enjoy hearing them."

Decades as a hunter and an angler have given the 63-year-old Barnes plenty of material. If you wade through the muck many of his stories are filled with to find the pellets of truth, it will make you a better outdoorsman in every regard.

Specifically, it will help your pursuit of spring longbeards.

Barnes, a mid-Missouri native who moved to Quincy after graduating from Culver-Stockton College and never left the area, is fairly talented using a mouth call. The best around? Hardly, but he's good enough to talk in a turkey.

If you believe he's never missed a shot, Barnes has you snookered. You can't argue his accuracy unless you see him shoot, but everyone misses. Watch even the most popular hunting shows on TV and professional hunters miss. Everyone misses.

But don't let any misgivings about the first two stories he told deter you from listening to the third.

Could Barnes have killed his biggest bird ever without uttering a call? It's not only probable. It's easy to see how, especially when you hear the whole story.

It's all about patience, position and preparation.

Isn't that the ultimate story behind most hunting experiences?

Barnes hunts properties in both Adams County on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River and Lewis County on Missouri side. He insists the birds act differently in both states, but he doesn't have any definitive proof.

"It's what you see and what you feel," Barnes said. "They're just different."

That doesn't change the approach.

Before either state's spring season opens -- both open April 15 -- Barnes spends considerable time in the woods listening to the gobbling and the yelping and pinpointing movements. He maps out patterns as best he can, noting where he hears birds chattering and where he sees them coming down from the roost.

It allows him to find what he believes is the optimal spot to set up.

"You have to be where the birds are," Barnes said. "Find where they like to eat and like to strut and get yourself in that area."

Being in the vicinity is only the start. The perfect spot offers concealment but maintains quality lines of sight. Good shooting angles are a must, and you want it to be quietly accessible. Too much noise is a giveaway.

"You hear basketball coaches talk about being in the right position. Hunters need to be in the right position, too," Barnes said. "I know guys who have taken uncomfortable shots and killed birds, but they're the exception. The right spot produces the right shot."

But you have to be in the right spot when opportunity strikes.

Barnes will make sure he has everything necessary to stay comfortable in one spot for an extended period. That includes a padded seat, quality cover and easy access to his gear. He keeps his cellphone in his pack for emergency purposes, but it won't be turned on.

"I hear stories about people playing games on their phone or sending text messages because their phone is on silent," Barnes said. "I ask, ‘Why?' Enjoy the sounds of the woods, the sunrise, the smell of fresh air. Unplug and soak it in.

"My mother always told us patience is a virtue. Not sure where she got that, but it's true. If you have patience, something good is bound to happen."

There's no guarantee Barnes actually heard his mother say that. He embellishes every story, even those dripping with truth. He admits that, too.

"I love to spin a yarn," Barnes said. "But think about this, you know that when I start talking. So you're prepared for it. You listen long enough, so you have patience. And you're talking about hunting and fishing, so you're in good position.

"It all goes hand-in-hand, doesn't it?"

There's definite truth in that.