Paul Saltaformaggio of Watson, La., is an avid turkey hunter who has successfully harvested many gobblers. Last year he harvested a rare red phase gobbler and that spurred him to pass on his passion to his three children. A dream was born, and the avid hunter and single father made plans to make it happen. Would it be possible for all three kids to harvest a mature tom in their first season of turkey hunting?
Eleven-year-old Tripp’s quest started during the spring season in Liberty, Miss., and he was in the woods with his dad on March 25 when the action heated up.
“Tripp had a couple of birds gobbling on the roost but, two shut up once they hit the ground,” said Paul Saltaformaggio. “Another bird was gobbling his head off a little further away, so we decided to go after him. We crossed the creek and made a big circle and got closer to that bird and set up.”
First turkey down
Saltaformaggio called to the gobbler and the bird answered with a lusty gobble.
“He sounded like he had made it to our former position,” Saltaformaggio said. “I called to him again and he gobbled right around the bend of the trail, so we moved a little closer thinking he was still another 100-yards away.”
“He’s right there, daddy!” Tripp said. “I called again and was answered by a thunderous gobble only 30 yards away, just through a thicket. I set Tripp down by a big tree, and we heard the gobbler spitting and drumming coming down the old logging road.”
Suddenly the gobbler rounded the bend and Tripp zeroed in on his head and squeezed the trigger at a mere 8 yards.
“Boom!” Roared the 20-gauge Benelli M2 and Tripp’s first gobbler was history.
“This was the first year all of my children wanted to try turkey hunting, but the girls weren’t too serious about it until Tripp killed his first gobbler,” Saltaformaggio said. “Then it became a quest for both of my girls as well.”
Gabriella Saltaformaggio is a 12-year-old seventh grader at Live Oak Jr. High this year and she was next up on the list.
“During our first trip to the woods, I called in a gobbler that came in before I knew it,” Saltaformaggio said. “Gabriella said that the gobbler was in the decoys, and she squeezed the trigger and the Benelli “click” sounded off as the metal pinged, but the gun didn’t fire. I’ve probably shot 60 gobblers with that gun, and it never did that!”
Somehow the bolt was not locked in place and the bird vacated the premises.
The following Saturday, Gabriella and dad were back in the woods in Liberty and as soon as they got to their listening spot, they heard a gobbler belting out gobbles.
“We sat down for about an hour and not much happened, so we got up and cut the distance in half, but he quit gobbling” Saltaformaggio said. “Then it started drizzling on us so I picked up the box call and hit it real loud and he gobbled but he was still way off so we started moving on him about 50 yards at a time.
“A thunderstorm was approaching in the distance and every time it thundered the turkey would gobble so we eased towards the gobbler and cut the distance again, and I cut at him with the call at about 150 yards.
“’Gobble, gobble, gobble,’ thundered the excited gobbler in response. He left the field and came into the woods across a thicket about 100 yards away now and really fired up.”
Saltaformaggio called again and the turkey screamed another thunderous gobble about 50 or 60 yards from them and then ran up to 20 yards. Gabriella squeezed the trigger as soon as the gobbler stopped.
“Ka-boom” roared the shotgun.
“I got him, I got him, I got him,” said Gabriella. That shotgun shell couldn’t have hit the ground before she was hollering in triumph. She was so excited she just couldn’t contain her excitement.”
Paul Saltaformaggio was supposed to make a hunt with a friend of his who has some land near Gloster, Miss., but something came up and the friend told him to take Isabella up there and let her kill one.
“I checked her out of school early and we got to the property and pulled in the gate about 1:30 p.m. and there was a gobbler in the field about 500 to 600 yards away,” he said. “We went to a small pine island of trees in the field and set up and called. We waited an hour and a half and never saw or heard anything else, so we went back to the truck.”
They went back out again and at about 4:45 Saltaformaggio thought he saw a turkey on a levee about 250 yards away.
“I finally saw him come across a levee on the edge of the field, so we called to him, and he gobbled four times,” Saltaformaggio said. “He kept going down that levee before he finally came into the field and I could see his fan moving in and around the wet stuff in the broom sage field as he headed toward us.”
Excitement takes over
It took about 20 minutes for the gobbler to make it into gun range and Isabella was beside herself with excitement.
“The gobbler finally broke and ran towards the decoy and chest bumped the decoy and started pecking his head,” Saltaformaggio said. “Isabella was scared she was going to shoot the decoy because they were so close together, but I told her to just shoot the gobbler!”
“Boom!” roared the shotgun and the gobbler collapsed in a heap and Isabella had her first gobbler kill too!
What started out as a dream of their father Paul Saltaformaggio, became a reality for all three of his talented children who may have just accomplished something few other siblings have done before.
“It wasn’t easy for sure and took me all season to do it but we finally realized our dream and achieved quite an accomplishment,” he said.