Killin’ turkeys is easy: Lessons derived from the Old Master

“Killin’ turkeys is easy, Bud – it’s huntin’ them that’s hard,” he said it looking me straight in the eye, just like he was staring down the barrel, safety off and ready to pull the trigger. He knew I would flinch first, and I did. When held in his hawk-like gaze, I had to look away. We were on an early morning scouting trip and seated on the highest piece of ground we could find.

The day was turning warm and pleasant, the tweety birds were singing and he decided to deliver an impromptu sermon. I saw him as one of the last of the old-time turkey hunters. Here was a complicated prophet of the backwoods whose rundown boots and grease-stained jacket belied his wisdom. He had the gruff exterior of most old turkey hunters, but I was sure he had a heart of gold. If he didn’t, he would not be letting me tag along and learn from him. I was happy to listen.

To many I’m sure we seemed an odd pair – the grumpy old retired mechanic and farmer, and the new game warden that half of the county was afraid of. I don’t think I was particularly perceptive about such things back then, but for some reason, the light came on and one day and I realized I needed to spend some time with this man. A fabled turkey psychic was here in my own backyard, and I had better learn all I could from him before he was gone.

I’m sure you understand he never gave his lectures in a formal manner. Told in his own way, the lessons were all the more memorable when given when you least expected them. He was the epitome of a brilliant intellect, but without knowing it, which made his friendship much more precious.

As in many things in life, if I had it to do over again, I would do it differently. First off, I would have taken ample notes when he talked. When we are young, none of us believe that time and age will rob us of so many things, including some memories. Oh, well, I think I remember most of his teachings.

I realized when I started to write some of this to you I couldn’t easily tell where his lessons on turkeys ended and my ideas began. Maybe that is as it should be. I can’t be a hypocrite and tell you that my beliefs alone would hold much water.

So, in no particular order, I thought I would give you some nuggets to think about for the upcoming spring turkey season. There is probably nothing here that you have not heard before, and all of this wisdom and a buck and a half will get you a cup of coffee. Just thought you turkey hunters out there needed some things for a refresher course.

Sometimes, the best place isn’t. We are all hunters and we are human. We want to go to the best place to hunt, and that usually means the place with the most turkeys. If you have a honey hole teaming with gobblers, you are fortunate indeed. Sometimes, though, lots of turkeys in one spot can complicate things. If others are hunting this area, it could mean too much company in the form of other hunters. Scads of turkeys will mean lots of hens, and you experienced hunters know what that means – sometimes it seems impossible to get the gobbler away from all of his girlfriends. The lonely place you forget about may be your ticket. It only takes one cooperative gobbler, you know.

Have faith in the things unseen (and unheard). If you have hunted a certain place for a while, you know the turkeys are there. Heck, you have probably seen them. If you have hunted turkeys very long, you know somedays you just don’t hear them. Nobody, including the turkeys, knows why this is. We don’t know why, they don’t know why, and nobody this side of heaven does either. So just go and hunt them. Slip around in the woods. Sit and call in likely places. Quietly observe what is going on around you. You know, hunt! Just because you don’t hear 14 turkeys gobble this morning doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.

Less is often more. We have talked about this before. We all like to call to the gobbler that screams every time we call. Often, though, just a little calling, just enough to keep him interested, is enough. If the turkey is gobbling and coming towards you, shut up and watch what he does. If you don’t hear him for maybe 15 minutes, give a soft call, have your gun up and pointed correctly. Be ready.

Three and more is a crowd. Most of you know spring turkey hunting is not like a rabbit hunt or a deer drive. Turkeys require stealth and a low noise factor. You and your buddy can hunt an area just fine. If you find another person or party is in your area, it may not turn out so well. It is best to always have a plan “B” so you have another spot to go to. This is not just so you can be successful hunting, but also for safety. A truck parked at your spot in morning means you should put it in gear and go to your alternative hunting area.

I hope you all have a wonderful spring season. Let me know how you do. I can’t end this session without asking everyone to think safety. Following the basic hunter safety rules will ensure a safe season. Make sure of your target every time you pull a trigger. Treat every gun as loaded, and don’t point a gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot. Watch out for the other guy; be a defensive turkey hunter.

Hunt your turkeys ethically and legally. Remember what my old professor told me: Killin’ turkeys is easy – huntin’ them is hard.

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