Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Humbling Turkeys

 Come in and head back to my hunting closet. Look around and find the turkey vest. Take careful note of the properly placed calls, ammo, chalk, scrub pad, gloves, head net and, of course, bug spray. You will find the water bottles, decoy stakes and the TP. Look down by your feet and you will find the stack of decoys ranging from the old foam style to the latest on the market. The camo is hung and arranged by type and weather conditions. The custom camo painted shotgun rests in the gun safe just to the left of where you stand. Taking all of this in you can only think that this is one of “Those” guys. The ones other turkey hunters whisper about. The guy with more long beards on the wall than you will ever see in the woods.
  Nope! Wrong! I am one of “Those” guys that like to make many trips to the store and gather all the cool equipment. . Don’t take me wrong I am a serious hunter but something of a gadget collector. This is not to say that I don’t turkey hunt. I do. This isn’t to say I haven’t killed turkeys. I have. But believe me I have come home beaten by the thunder chickens many more times than I care to admit. But I want to tell you the story of my first bird, the one that led me to believe I had it all figured out in my first two days of hunting.
  After finding a farm to hunt in Marshall county that was full of birds, I watched them all winter as I picked on the deer. Along comes spring and a friend gives me a decoy and some camo gloves for my birthday. I explained that I knew nothing about turkey hunting couldn’t call and had never even thought about actually hunting the things. I mean, they are stupid, how hard could it be. Nothing like deer.
  I went along with the idea because it allowed me to expand the contents of my closet. After a few trips I had a pile of stuff guaranteed to kill turkeys at every outing. I practiced calling and figured out a load that was sure to thump the first one to come into range. I waited for opening day with little of the excitement I have for opening of bow season.
  I crawled out of bed the first day and drove over to the farm. Just before light I walked into the field and could hear turkeys on four different roosts. “See? I knew this would be easy.” I told myself out loud. I set up and waited. Sure enough here they come. About sixty birds come out into the field and the toms go to strutting. Eight big long beards showing off for the hens. I called and sure enough here come some birds. All hens. They come up to the point that a couple were within a foot of my boots. After a few minutes they lose interest and wander off but none of the toms come close.
  I watch them go to the woods across the field and decide I can set up on them by moving a couple of hundred yards. After a few minutes in the new spot I have a tom gobbling and headed my way. Easy, piece of cake, told you so. Nothing. He gobbles and gobbles but won’t come in and then I feel something watching me from behind. I turn to find all eight of the big toms watching me from 10 yards through the fence. After they scatter I pack it up for the day and decide tomorrow will be better.
  The next day goes pretty much the same. Eight toms strutting and then off to the woods in the wrong direction. So, I move to the other end of the field where I had never seen a bird and set up one decoy. I called a couple of times and saw two birds fly into the field a good four hundred yards away. I called every few minutes never really thinking about those two birds. They were too far away. They were in high grass. They wouldn’t bother coming this far. They were standing right in front of me!!
  I saw a tiny movement and like magic there they were. Both now in full strut at twenty yards. I had my gun on the ground, not ready the way I was told to be. I knew that the birds would be gone at the first movement but had no choice. I eased the gun up and they paid me no mind. All the time showing off for the girl they had found. I got the gun up, the hammer back and the sights on the closest bird. He had a head that seemed to glow and was an easy shot. I touched the trigger and felt that great shove into my shoulder. I looked and sure enough I had killed my first long beard. I ran over to get him and found out the hard way about flopping birds with spurs and gloves not protecting fingers. Still have that torn pair of gloves. A torn glove and finger was worth it. He weighed in at 22 pounds, had a 9 ½ inch beard and I had taken him with a muzzle loader.
  After a few pictures and a trip to the check in station I knew that I had this turkey hunting figured out. This was as easy as I knew it would be. I called my brother and told him, sent pictures to anyone that would listen and retold the story of my hunting prowess and the ease of turkey hunting to my friends. Three years later I finally got a chance at another bird. Three years!
  Hunt after hunt. Farm after farm. Too many early mornings to care to remember and the turkeys proved my wrong again and again. For a stupid bird these things proved pretty hard to kill. In that time I have learned from many hunters that are good at this sport and take great birds every year. I found out how humbling and difficult it can be to get a good old bird to come in.
  The only bird I took this year would set no record. That hunt wasn’t much of a hunt. I drove to a spot less than two minutes from my house and got set up. The birds flew down right in my lap and I got a shot at a nice young bird that I was proud to take. I did manage to miss a big tom a week later but that is ok, too. I did every thing right and he came in right where I thought he would. To me a successful hunt because I had listened and learned from some good hunters and come to respect the turkeys for the great game birds they are.    
  If you are considering turkey hunting, by all means, give it a try. There are plenty to go around. If you have never hunted them take the time to listen to the guys and gals out there that can and will give you good advice. Practice your calls, gather your stuff and get to the woods. But believe me, all of you that are new to the sport, it isn’t as easy as you might believe. Take it from someone that found out the long and humbling way.


heyBJK said...

Turkeys can be challenging, but very fun to hunt! Before I started turkey hunting I had this idea that it was complicated and required more skill than I could master, but it's really not so difficult once you start doing it.

Glad to see you started a blog, Tommy, and I look forward to reading it! Nice job!

texwisgirl said...

This humbling experience of easy/peasy hunting reminded me of HeyBJK's bear hunting story. :)

larryb said...

Turns out that you are a very good story teller of the real kind TommyE. Really dug this Turkey piece. It's awesome that you've jumped on this blog'n bandwagon too ol' bud. Blogger makes it fairly easy eh. ;-)

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



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