Three years ago, the Lake of the Ozarks turkey hunting community led by local taxidermist Chip Stamper banded together to create the Lake of the Ozarks Spring Turkey Championship. By 2019, the contest drew in 80 hunters from young children like 8-year-old Tate Boothe, to seasoned veterans like 74-year-old Larry Thomas.

When most folks think about the Lake of the Ozarks, they might envision Powerboats and Party Cove, but few realize that the Ozarks Hills surrounding the majestic lake is steeped with a rich turkey hunting heritage.

While the third Monday in April doesn’t signify much to the rest of society, for the Ozark turkey hunter it is the day they look forward to the most, the beginning of spring turkey season! Hunters of all ages rise early and dust off their shotguns to chase the elusive “Tom Turkey” just like their ancestors have done for generations. For these hunters turkey hunting is a not just a hobby, it is an act of reverence for the tradition they love.

Three years ago, the Lake of the Ozarks turkey hunting community led by local taxidermist Chip Stamper banded together to create the Lake of the Ozarks Spring Turkey Championship. By 2019, the contest drew in 80 hunters from young children like 8-year-old Tate Boothe, to seasoned veterans like 74-year-old Larry Thomas.

What makes this competition even more special is that all the proceeds from the entry fees go directly to a member of the community who is experiencing difficult times. Dozens of lake area businesses donate money and items for the silent auction and live auction ranging from cupcakes, customer fire pits, dog kennels to a variety of turkey hunting gear.

On the afternoon of the last day of the turkey season, the hunters and their families get together at Marty McGuire’s house the for an awards ceremony and turkey-fish fry picnic. Everyone shares their stories and pictures of their hunts while they chow down on fresh fried turkey and crappie. Some hunters tell grandiose stories about the gobbler that got away, while others poke fun at them. Last year’s first place award for Typical Turkey went to Wilbert Goldsberry’s 25.2-pound gobbler with a score of 97.05 and first place for Non-Typical Turkey went to Wes Jones’s three-bearded monster with a score of 97.05. A total of 54 turkey were harvested and 15 hunters were able to fill both tags.

In 2019, the hunters and over 35 businesses raised a total of $8,002.50 for Travis Page who was diagnosed with stage 3 brain tumor and has begun radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Travis is a hardworking husband and a wonderful father of a 2-year-old girl and a newborn baby boy. The group of hunters all agree that it is an honor knowing we are helping one of our own in need while we hunt.

The 2020 spring turkey season runs from April 20 to May 10 and we would love for anyone reading this to join the Lake of the Ozarks Spring Turkey Championship by contacting Chip Stamper at the Missouri Taxidermy Institute. The entry fee is $25 per hunter and an optional side pot of $5 for heaviest bird. 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to 13-year-old Maelie Williams who has recently suffered a severe eye injury. Her injury has required extensive medical treatment and operations and we hope that this money will help her family with some of the expenses.

This turkey hunting competition has been such a great experience for our hunting community and we hope you got a little taste of our tradition in the Ozark Hills. Gobble Gobble!