Brady Watts is sick, very sick.
He’s also an avid turkey hunter, extremely avid.
His timing is awful, horribly awful.
Watts, 19, of Jayess in Pike County, is battling pneumonia, a fight that began about a week before the start of Mississippi’s turkey season.
“I was told to stay in bed,” Watts said. “I wasn’t supposed to be hunting.”
He spent opening day, March 15, at the doctor’s office.
Ordered off his feet, he spent March 16 in bed.
But on the third day of the season, on the 17th, when his older cousin Alex Powell called to say he had taken the day off, Watts couldn’t stand it.
“Mom slept late, so I sort of snuck out,” he said.
Two hours later, Watts was holding a dead gobbler in his hands, and from it hung a trophy 13-inch beard. Its spurs were 1¼ and 1-inch long.
“I’ve been in bed ever since,” said Watts, who has since realized just how sick he really is. Or maybe he realized it that morning, when he had to fight off symptoms of the disease long enough in the woods of Pike County to kill his first longbeard, though at times it seemed the pneumonia would mess up the hunt.
Did we say longbeard? Yep, 13 inches sure qualifies.
“There were times that I had to really hold back coughing, and I was short of breath, but I was able to do it without busting up the gobbler,” Watts said. “As far as I know, he never heard me cough or anything like that. It worked out good.”
The morning started with the two cousins visiting a part of their hunting property where they have never had success.
“We have been hunting this tract of land for five years now with very little luck,” he said. “We knew the turkeys were there, but over those five years they had become pretty educated.”
At 6:15, the hunters spooked one off the limb before they had reached the top of a hill on a logging road between a cutover and some hardwoods. It was a good listening spot, and their planned destination.
“We decided to do some locating calls,” Watts said. “We tried a hoot owl call several times, but it didn’t work. We heard nothing. Then Alex tried a turkey call. His slate was wet so he borrowed my Primos Purple Haze Slate and that did the trick.”
Three or four different gobblers responded and the hunters pinpointed the one they wanted to pursue. They moved into position and set up.
“The next 10 or 12 gobbles were about 150 yards from us, and at about 7:15, he nearly stopped our hearts from right over the top of the hill from us,” Watts said. “Alex made a couple of soft calls to get him to commit and at 7:17 he was flopping on the ground. It was a 50-yard shot.”
Once the gobbler committed, he wasted little time, exactly what the doctor would have ordered for his young patient who had not followed his advice.
“It was an exciting hunt, but the fact that I was sick and having to worry about spooking him coughing made it even more exciting,” Watts said.
And, the repercussions?
“Mama just did what all mamas would do and told me ‘you’re going to be put in the hospital if you don’t stay inside,’” Watts said. “The doctor told me ‘you can’t hunt anymore until you’re completely healed, otherwise the pneumonia is just going to get worse and you will end up hospitalized.’”
As sick as he is, Watts said he’s happy he hunted.
“I think any turkey hunter would be ecstatic to kill (a gobbler) of this magnitude,” he said. “I’m just thankful that I killed such a beautiful trophy for my first longbeard ever.”