My Granddaughter asked me this morning, “pop pop when did you kill your first turkey?” And I immediately replied, “March 23rd,1963″ as I heard my own reply, the memory stirred somewhere back in my old head and it cranked up like an old Bell&Howell 8 millimeter movie projector, you know the kind that snapped to life and you heard the film crackle aas it lined up across the gears, the white spots came up on screen and then the picture focused and came into view. Not really as clear as reality but, still as sweet as that spring morning.
My dad and I were hunting by way of a boat on the Tombigbee river and we were hunting a small tract of river front owned by a friend. By accessing the property by boat we avoided crossing a large open area of cutover and then a huge cow pasture where it was often the case that we bumped the gobblers off the roost and they either flew across the river or atleast flew far enough away to mess up the morning hunting. Secondly, we had our fishing tackle and planned to crappie fish after our morning hunt!
Daddy had a wooden skiff that he built from some wide Cypress planks and he hand laid fiberglass seams so it was a very sturdy and leak proof boat. The motor was a little 5.5 Johnson Sea Horse that ran so quiet we could slowly ease along the bank without much noise and we paddled the final 200 yards to our landing point along a slate rock point where a small sream flowed into the river. We got out of the boat and stood in the darkness watching for the faint glow of daylight in the east and just enjoyed the magic of dawn.
As the brown thrush birds started to call and hiss, a screach owl screamed and like always the hair on my neck stood up on response to the shrill sound. Then daddy gave out a big “who cooks for you? who cooks for you? who cooks for you alllll?” call of an owl and it was met with only silence. He then did the laughing call whohah! haha! hah! whoallll! and an owl down and across the river gave a sharp response, as did two more owls up the river. But, again no gobbler responded! We walked to the top of the bank and stood there another five minutes in the breaking dawn and then, there it was! The gobble ! daddy told me “there he is! go to him!” so I was off in a flash walking swiftly along the river bank trying to close the distance to where I thought I cound get in close enough to call the gobbler up but not too close to spook him.
I travelled a little more than 300 hundred yards through the beautiful hardwood river bottom and decided I better sit down since it was clearly daylight now and the fly down time was close. I found a huge oak tree and backed up between two root outcropings and slipped on my face mask, pulled my hat down tight and waited, hoping to hear another gobble and shaking with the excitement and anticipation!
However, after 15 minutes I heard nothing so I decided to give a yelp on my “snuff can” yelper that daddy had made for me. Back then, we were taught to yelp a three note yelp and do it twice, not too loudly and then close with a cluck or two. I gave out the yelps but, they were so light I thought “nothing can here that!” and I was contemplating doing the call again but, I heard a distant gobble! I thought surely he is not answering me! But, I decided to yelp my little 3 note call and when I did, he gobbled again! This time louder and closer! I was so excited! I shoved my snuff can in my jacket pocket and pulled my knees up tight to make a rest aim for my old 12 gauge single barrel, then I cocked it and waited! In a couple of minutes, he gobbled again and I caught the movement of his head rocking forward! I nearly threw up I was so excited!
He came slowly in to me, walking stiffly, and he would break into a strut every few feet showing out for the two hens that were running around him in circles, putting and purring for him! I felt like I might pass out! But, I slowly positioned my bead sight on his head and pulled the trigger! BOOM! he tossed over backwards and the two hens shot up in the air and flew off! Then, to my amazement! He got up and flew straight up onto a tree limb! I grabbed another shell from the side pocket of the old army issue camo pants and ran right under the limb he was on! He leaned over and looked straight down at me just as I let the second round go! BOOM! He came tumbling out of the tree like some overgrown squirrel and I was on him like a hunting dog in a charge! I grabbed him up by the neck and let out a squeal of delight!
Turned out, he was just a good gobbling two year old Tom with 1/2 inch spurs and an 8 inch beard. But, he was and still is a trophy in my mind! I have taken lots of big gobblers since that morning in 1963 and many of them I can’t remember the first detail of the hunt. But, that first one was sweet and the next one will be!
Good Gobbler hunting to you!