The McKinions, dad Johnny and son Buck, were being treated to a very vocal show by a tom turkey early on Saturday morning (April 5), so much so that the thundering gobbles made it hard to hear anything else in that part of Rankin County.
“We heard that bird gobble right after the songbirds started singing around 6 a.m.,” said Johnny McKinion of Brandon. “He was in a creek bottom in front of us so we started his way. He was gobbling like crazy. We got to within 70 yards of him and got set up.”
There was absolutely no fear that getting that close had bumped the bird.
“No, because for the next 45 minutes on the roost, he gobbled his head off,” McKinion said. “He was double- and triple-gobbling and at one point I swear he gobbled five times without a breath.”
As good as that sounded, the McKinions knew they were in trouble with the boss gobbler.
“The only problem with that bird was that he would not gobble at us,” McKinion said. “He was loud and wanted everything within 20 miles to hear him but he didn’t like the song I was singing. At 7:15 he pitched out of the tree away from us and never made another sound.”
As far as the elder McKinion was concerned, the morning was over. The younger hunter had other ideas.
“I told Dad, ‘let’s go hunt one of those other birds I heard gobble,’” Buck McKinion said.
Johnny McKinion was stunned. He’d heard no other birds, just the one that kept shaking the trees but showed no interest.
“I wish I had 12-year-old ears,” he said. “I had never heard another gobble.”
His son had heard more than one, and then some.
“I heard one gobble to our left, but I heard some hens over that way,” Buck McKinion said. “I heard one gobble back toward the truck, but didn’t hear any hens back that way.”
The choice was obvious and they made a move back toward the truck hoping to find the lone gobbler ready to play the game.
“We eased back through the woods to about where Buck thought he was and I clucked one time, and he hammered,” Johnny McKinion said. “He was about 70 yards away. Buck hit the ground and belly crawled to a pine tree and I went back about 40 yards and sat down.
“I let everything settle down and I clucked again. He gobbled and it was obvious that he had closed the distance on us and I knew he was ready to play the game. I yelped softly and he nearly blew my head off with a gobble. He was directly in front of me but to the right of Buck and he had no chance to turn on the bird.”
In a bind, Johnny McKinion had to make a decision, and he chose to shut up and let the bird make a move.
“I waited until the bird walked off and then I started cutting at him real hard in hopes that he would come back in front of Buck,” he said. “That didn’t happen. The bird decided to circle to our right looking for the hen he could not see.
“When I could not see the bird any longer I motioned for Buck to belly crawl to me and we reset to where I thought the bird may come. I didn’t call we just sat and waited.”
Mother Nature forced the issue.
“This lone crow came flying over and when he called, the turkey gobbled and he was directly behind us,” Johnny McKinion said. “He had walked 180 degrees from where he had started. I cut hard on him and he double-gobbled. I waited and purred and saw his red, white and blue engorged head coming through the woods.
“Buck had not yet spotted him because the bird was again to his right. I whispered ‘right, right, right’ and I knew when Buck spotted him because I could see him breathing harder.”
Already a wise hunter, the youngster knew he couldn’t move, and with a soft purr from his dad’s call he got the perfect chance.
“The gobbler broke into strut and when he turned and put his fan between me and its head, I adjusted,” Buck McKinion said. “Dad clucked and the bird broke his strut and stuck his head straight up.”
A load of No. 6 Hevi-Shot put the bird down at a distance of 38 yards. Dad said the gobbler never even flopped.
Adding a perfect finish to the story, as the two were sitting with the bird discussing the hunt, the son was telling the father about how cool it was that the gobbler had strutted so much so close.
“He said, ‘Dad, did you hear him blowing?’” Johnny McKinion said. “The boy’s got some ears, I’m telling you.
“I told him that was the gobbler spitting and drumming and it was the first time he had ever heard that. It is a memory he will have forever.”