Last night after our club meeting we was hangin' around just shooting the breeze with a couple friends on turkey hunting. We each traded stories about the birds we hunted those that we managed to get and those that got away. One thing about turkey hunters, they can tell a great yarn but as for the facts, they ain't no better than a fisherman. Now I am not saying it is all fiction, more like a Hollywood docu-drama. The "true" parts of the story are embellished a little but for the details as to the where and when, well you won't hear that because it is not important.
There is an art to trading stories. A hunter tells his story and his listener then tries to out do it. On a good day two hunters can swap four or five stories each until the last has no more truth than a dime store novel. Get three or four guys together and the caliber of the stories gets great real fast. The participants know when the end has been reached because the facts get stretched to the point that if someone were to let go, it would smack you right in the face.
Now the story I'm about to relate is not your typical yarn, in fact it is entirely true from start to finish and that is why it is so unusual. I'm not lookin' to out do anyone but if you read carefully you will learn a whole lot 'bout turkey huntin', that you won't see in most books.
First you have to know we aren't dealing with an average bird. Every turkey hunter knows that turkeys possess extraordinary abilities. Their vision is about as good as the best military radar, hearing is superb, they can hear a human heart beating from two hundred yards, and they are so smart they school up as opposed to flock up like other birds. Amazing for a bird that has a brain about the size of a pea. We are lucky that turkeys don't have a sense of smell, for if they did they would rank up there with the big-foot out west in their ability to avoid human detection. It is no wonder that amongst hunters the turkey is the subject of so many conversations and braggin' titles. And this turkey I was about to face was one of the smartest I had ever come across.
The hunt took place a couple years ago. It was a usual spring in the southern tier of New York and turkeys were being very vocal at sunrise. I was hunting a ridge near the town of... well not important. The first day out I got a late start and the sun was just coming up over the horizon. If you want to get a turkey it is best to get in the woods at least and hour before sun up. I gave the usual good morning hen turkey yelps, which elicited a response from a lovesick gobbler down the ridge. He gobbled and I could hear it echo off the hills around me. It has to be the most exciting sound you can hear in the spring woods. I called back and he responded but I could also hear hens with him so I realized that today would not be the day to get this bird unless I could sound sexier than the real thing. I figured I needed to get on the ridge before the hens got to the gobbler and distracted him from my calls.
The next morning I got there it was perfect at about one hour before sunrise. Worked my way to the spot but I could hear the gobbler on the ground already with his harem of hens. I tried to call him away from the sure thing he had with them but it was impossible. So I figured I would scout the area out, listen to him, and figure out how to outsmart this extraordinarily intelligent bird. The key again I believed was to get to the ridge top before he did.
On the third morning I was in the woods three hours before sunrise. It was so dark it almost had substance. It was oppressive I could almost feel the blackness touching my face. And it was quiet, quiet as a cemetery. I slowly walked the trail into the woods. I didnÕt dare use a flashlight for fear it would alert the gobbler to my presence. I carefully stepped up the ridge when all of a sudden the quiet was shattered by the thunderous gobble. He was only a few yards away in the top of an oak tree. I have never heard a turkey gobbling so early. I took a step then heard the gobbler flush out of the tree, my heart sank I thought I spooked him and today's hunt was over. I froze and listened to where he would land but to my surprise he came down on the trail about twenty feet in front of me. I could hear him but it was impossible to see him in the black. I quickly sat down with my back against a tree on the side of the trail. That bird walked all around me in the dark; sometimes I could hear him almost within my reach. The only thing I could do was sit and wait until it got light.
About 5 A.M. as the sky started to lighten that bird had moved up the ridge. I asked myself, do I follow, or do I call him back. It was about that moment I heard something relatively small dropping down through the tree branches above me. I was about to do the smartest thing for that morning, I didn't look up. Unbeknownst to me I sat sitting directly below a hen turkey and she just relieved herself. Well that done I couldn't move or I would spook her and any turkey within a mile. However about ten minutes later I heard the sound of something falling through the tree again. Twice that has to be all a turkey can do, so I sat. About ten minutes later again the now familiar sounds from above came again. It wouldn't have been bad if that hen missed once in awhile but each time it was a direct hit. She finally flew out of that tree at 6 A.M. but only after seven direct hits. I never new turkeys were so full of ... or so accurate in their aim.
Well as the morning warmed up and the flies became unbearable I got out of the woods. I never saw the gobbler on that day or during the rest of the season. Turkeys are smart and tough to hunt. You got to just love turkey hunting...
By James Robert (Jimmy Bob) McMormick
Posted on Tue, December 29, 2015