A guy I know says there is nothing to turkey hunting. Over a decade ago he thought he would try hunting a turkey for the first time. He ventured out into the woods before dawn, sat down and got ready.
At daylight he made a few half-hearted hen calls he had learned by listening to a cassette tape.
Immediately a gobbler responded.
Within a few minutes the tom gobbler walked up to within easy gun range, and the hunter shot it dead. He was back at his truck before 7 a.m.
Hence his declaration that turkey hunting was the easiest thing he had ever done. I advised him to try it again before he issued any more profound proclamations on the relative simplicity of turkey hunting.
At the opening I mentioned it had been 10 years since this hunter first tried his hand at turkey hunting. He has not killed one gobbler after many, many more attempts.
When I see him these days he immediately says “just don’t mention it.”’
He quickly came to find out that every blind hog finds an acorn eventually, but turkey hunters never score every time if they are honest about it.
There is nothing easy about turkey hunting.
The game plan
“The downside is finding a good place, outside of public land (which I refuse to hunt due to the two near death experiences I have had with other hunters attempting to kill my decoys),” begins the turkey hunting saga of J.M. Summerlin of Ridgeland. “So that leaves me to my own hunting land, which generally lends itself to being flooded by the mighty Mississippi River, thus evacuating my birds, or when it’s not wet it’s crowded.
“By crowded I mean two or three folks chasing the same two or three gobblers round and round. Thus enters the dilemma of where to hunt.”
Like many turkey hunters I know, locating a place to hunt is like a poor, homeless person trying to find a place to lay his head. Good places are hard to come by.
We often resort to begging, borrowing or scheming for an invite with somebody else, hopefully somebody who does not turkey hunt.
“All deer season long my buddies tell me about seeing tons of turkeys on their place, with dozens being long-bearded gobblers,” Summerlin said. “What they don’t often realize is that come the spring season these wintering birds start moving back to their own comfort-zone home ranges. That may be on property with no access.
“The 2013 season was no different for me. I found myself once again having lost the previous year’s location due to a timber company clear cutting it. I got the news a mere three weeks before the start of the season.
“Lucky me, another friend heard about this travesty and invited me to his place. The land was nice, heavy laden in pine and marsh, surrounded by turkey hunters — which could be good or bad. So I had a new place to learn and quick. But one thing that drives me to hunt these birds is the challenge they present, and new land adds to that challenge.”
Cutting to the chase
“Once the season was underway I had been driven past, disrupted and busted in every way you could imagine on this place, but finally I decided to revert to my Western and Mid-Western style of turkey hunting tactics,” Summerlin said. “In Mississippi we all tend to be the typical turkey hunter who roosts, goes to the roost first thing in the morning, listens, sets up, calls and kills. Or have to resort to the ole run-n-gun strategy.
“So, I decided to opt for some spot-and-stalk work.”
J.M. put in as many days in the woods as his busy schedule would permit. We all know how it is to juggle family, work and hunting.
At every turn, however, he was busted in every way you can imagine. So finally, it came down to the final day of the season.
“I was going again, having killed no bird the whole season,” he said. “It was a first ‘got me’ ever that I could remember. But being dedicated and still mad at them, as they say, I packed up my gear and went to the woods for one more trial.”
The earnest attempt
“I started out in an area that I had learned had a roost, but I took a new route to the spot,” Summerlin said. “Walking in I blew a bird off the roost and started the cycle of not hearing a single gobble that day anywhere I went. I looped the entire property and ended back at my truck.
“I decided to give it one more go, but light this time. All I carried was my mask, gloves, 12-gauge, and two calls. I was going for broke.
“I decided to spot and stalk the entire east edge of the property, moving slowly only a few hundred yards every half hour. I was only half way around the loop when I spotted a lone gobbler in the wide open. I backed around through the woods and came back to the edge directly at the bird.
“I made some cuts and yelps, and I could see him gobbling though I could not hear him. He started coming my way.
“It took that tom over 45 minutes to close the range to me. Then he dropped down into a little draw out of sight, hidden by high sage grass. In dire hope I got my shotgun ready. When I finally saw him, I let out a loud purr and he stuck his head up to take a look. I hammered him with a cloud of No. 6s right in the head.
“It was over. My long, frustrating, well-earned but enjoyable quest to harvest a tom was over. On the final day it happened. He was a nice bird with an 11 ½-inch beard with spurs just over an inch.”
Goes to show you: An earnest try is always the best strategy.
And some say turkey hunting is easy.