Hunter kills three gobblers, in three days on three different National Forests
What Revel Rawlings accomplished in a three-day period of Mississippi’s turkey season is the stuff of legends.
Heck, it’s way, way, way beyond that.
Rawlings, 58, who has hunted gobblers for 47 years, turned a miserable spring into a phenomenal personal accomplishment by killing three mature toms in three days.
On public land.
On three different National Forests.
- On Monday, April 22, Rawlings ended his 2019 drought by killing a bird at one of his favorite public spots, Bienville National Forest in East Central Mississippi near Forest.
- On Tuesday, April 23, Rawlings decided to try the Copiah County Wildlife Management Area, a state-run WMA on Homochitto National Forest land near Crystal Springs.
- On Wednesday, April 24, Rawlings ended the feat at Choctaw WMA on Tombigbee National Forest near Ackerman.
Going for a third
“On Tuesday night, after I’d killed the second bird, when I was talking to my friend Barry Biggers and my wife Liz about it, they were both adamant that I had to try to make it three in a row on three different National Forests,” Rawlings said. “They both said it was something that had probably never been done. So I decided I’d give it a try so I started looking at the other National Forests in Mississippi.”
Delta National Forest was out because of the backwater flooding. DeSoto National Forest in South Mississippi was a possibility but Rawlings had little experience there, and it’s a haul from his Ridgeland home and office. Holly Springs was just too far north.
“That left the Tombigbee National Forest, and the Choctaw WMA,” he said. “I had hunted it before and it’s 97 miles from my driveway to the gate on what we call Three Mile Road. I’d hunted it before. I was there at the gate before sunrise.
“As was the case with the previous two days and the first two birds, I did not hear a bird gobble on the roost. I made it all the way to the end of Three Mile Road — it’s three miles, that’s why it’s called that. I hadn’t heard a gobble and was pretty depressed. I made a few calls and didn’t get an answer so I was texting Barry and Liz that I had struck out. Right about then I heard a bunch of crows calling out a ways and that’s when it happened.”
At 7:56, Rawlings heard a gobble, apparently a shock-gobble from a tom reacting to the crows.
“I set up and started calling and at 8:03 I was standing with my foot on the gobbler’s neck,” he said. “I called home to tell them and you could hear the crows in the background. It was that quick.”
“I might have killed three birds in three days before, but if I have I can’t remember it,” said Rawlings, a former President of the Mississippi Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (1994-96). “But I can promise you this, if I did it I didn’t do it on three different public areas.
“It’s been a few days now, and I still can’t believe it.”
A love of public land
Rawlings hunts primarily on public land, not because he’s adverse to private land, but because he’s dedicated to the task. He knows it’s harder work, and he knows there are going to be a lot of days that he heads to the office at 9 or 10 a.m., straight from the woods, without a bird in his bag.
“I was in a nice club but it got to where I couldn’t justify the cost (upwards of $5,000 annual dues),” the financial advisor said. “I own 200 acres in west Hinds County, but I just don’t hunt it. I’m sure we got some gobblers that pass through the tract — it’s in a good location — but I’ve never really hunted it. I don’t even get up and go listen there.”
The challenge of public land is Rawlings’ way, and how he hunts it is rather unique. He rides a bike. Seriously.
“While I was president of the Mississippi NWTF, we worked to have gates put on roads on some public lands and getting them locked during turkey season,” Rawlings said. “That slows down a lot of traffic (hunting pressure) and makes you work hard for it. The bike just works for me. I carry a .20 gauge Model 870 Remington because it’s light, and I carry it unloaded over my shoulders. My Primos game vest is big enough to carry my accessories and has a big pocket in the back where I can put a gobbler.
“It’s a great way to get around on those roads, and a side benefit is it’s good exercise. As much as I’ve hunted and ridden that bike this year, I’ve lost over 20 pounds this turkey season.”
He’s eating well now, though and savoring every bite.
“I love eating wild turkey, and I’ve always said that public land gobblers just taste better,” Rawlings said.