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Turkey Hunting Tales

(A.K.A. "The Gobbler Follies")


It was a cool, still morning. Ken and I were sitting on folding stools, near a fenceline on the edge of a wildlife management area (WMA). It was turkey hunting season - spring gobbler season, to be exact - in our home state of Florida.

We had set up here in hopes that a turkey would answer our calls and stroll out into a small open area, but had instead heard some yelps from across the fence, on the private land. We were trying to entice the turkey over onto our side of the fence, or at least into sight so we could identify it as a hen or a gobbler. I was using Dad's old Lynch box call, while Ken had a then-new call, the Knight & Hale Fighting Purr. I would hit a gobble, he'd let loose on the purrs. The turkey seemed to be getting closer.

Just then, a freight train came rumbling by on the tracks, about eighty yards to our left, which marked another boundary of the WMA. The noise of it shattered the still morning air, and we could even feel the ground shaking beneath us. We looked at each other ruefully, and waited it out. It was an extremely long train, and was travelling none too fast. Finally, the last car passed us and the clatter and rumble faded slowly - ever so slowly - until it was gone.

We were about to call again, when another noise began to swell. What the heck was that? It grew and grew, oppressive in its might, destroying the air around us with its powerful thrumming and chopping. It was a helicopter, flying low. Very low. And, that peace-shredding bird flew right over our heads! Our very bodies vibrated with the power of its engine. Holy cow, this was too much. Still, we looked at one another, rolling our eyes, and waited.

Finally this racket, too, faded. Stillness once again began to filter back into the woods. Birds called again, and eventually we could hear our own breathing. Just then, the folding stool beneath me let out an unsettling POP! and my rear was just a tad closer to the ground than it was before. I wondered in the instant that followed whether or not I could get my butt off that stool before it collapsed under my weight. Another instant later, with the clatter of wood-on-wood as the small plywood seat crashed into the now-flat wooden legs with me on top of it, I had my answer.

I sat there on the rubble that had been Dad's old hunting stool, and I had to laugh. How many events could conspire to hose our hunting? How else could I screw up? Never mind; I would find a way. We laughed ourselves silly right there on the edge of the field in the woods, finally releasing all of our pent-up frustration. Just then, something moved, ran, took flight in the weed-strewn field! It was a turkey that had been coming to our calls despite all of the setbacks, until our explosive laughter spooked it and ran it off. It appeared to be a gobbler.

Did I not tell you I would find another way to screw up?

In our ignorance, we called some more, hoping to get the bird to come back to us. Duh! Then we decided to circle the field and try to get closer to it and call from another location. This we did, only to hear its answering fighting purr from the woods just behind our original position! This dumb bird had circled and was still heading towards our first setup, while we, the dumber hunters, had moved at just the wrong time. Far across the field, we spotted a bobcat slipping into the woods, hunting the same turkey, which soon fell quiet.

This, for me, is turkey hunting. I simply cannot win - but I can find any number of ways in which to lose.

A year or so after that, Ken and I were hunting in other woods, on another WMA. Again, I would gobble with the Lynch box and he would hit some fighting purrs. We had heard no replies. A crow approached, perched in a nearby tree, and Ken decided he needed to shoot a crow. Ka-boom! went his shotgun, and Gobble! went a turkey not too far away. That was the last we ever heard of that bird.

Several years later, I went to the woods with some good friends, and hit my owl call just at first light. An answering shock-gobble shattered the still morning air, infusing my bloodstream with an extreme jolt of adrenaline. Immediately I slipped into a trail that kept me behind some cover, and started slipping towards the sound. Every now and then I'd hit the owl call, and every time a gobble roared back at me.

On the way, I managed to spook some roosted turkeys from the pines above me, but still I headed closer to the original gobbler, trying to close to within 100 yards or so, so I could set up and try to call him in. I pressed on. I was finally getting close to the bird; it was not too far, now was the time to find a setup. I hit the owl call. The bird gobbled, loud and proud. And then BOOM! came the sound of a shotgun that sounded as if it must have been in that bird's grasp, and all else was silence.

And that was the end of that.


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