Editor’s Note: With turkey season opening in a month in Florida and then mid-March in some of the South, we need to remember that tough turkeys teach us difficult lessons. Let’s listen to some of the best turkey hunters in the country tell us about the tough turkeys they’ve tried to take.
“David Hale and I used to guide at the Land Between the Lakes area,” Harold Knight, co-creator of Knight and Hale Game Calls (www.knightandhale.com), says. “We’d hunt turkeys at the end of the season after we finished guiding. Early one season, I called up a turkey for a client, but the client missed the bird. Every morning I went by that same spot. But whenever I’d sit down and call, the bird refused to come to me or anyone else who called him. Changing to a softer call didn’t work. The tom would gobble and walk away from me. On this morning, I decided to follow that bird as he went over two ridges before stopping at a third ridge. He had a strut zone up there where he could see for miles. I watched that bird strut for maybe an hour, and realized there was no way I could get to him without the turkey’s seeing me. Two days later, I went back to the knoll where I knew the gobbler would strut. When I arrived, I barely could hear him gobbling before he suddenly quit. A half-hour later, I heard a turkey gobble nearby. I spotted the gobbler coming up the hill strutting and drumming as if putting on a show for 20 hens. When he stuck his neck up right in front of me, I took him. This tom was an educated 2-year-old gobbler that knew how to stay away from hunters.”
The cemetery gobbler lived in Amite County, Mississippi. Some hunting friends told Will Primos, the owner of Primos Game Calls (www.primos.com), in Flora, Mississippi, about this mysterious gobbler. “One of my friends told me that the Cemetery Gobbler would gobble well for me, but I wouldn’t be able to kill him,” Primos recalls. “The turkey lived deep in the woods next to an abandoned cemetery with tombstones that dated back to the 1800s. You could tell no one had taken care of this cemetery for many years. The cemetery sat on a hill, and we couldn’t go to the turkey on the same plane without spooking him. So, we circled and got below the gobbler.
“The bird flew down from its roost. I watched him walk around the side of the hill – well out of gun range. I moved behind a big oak tree, so the bird couldn’t see me. Then I took my turkey wing out of my vest and made the sound of a hen flying down. The turkey turned, started walking toward me and then stepped behind another tree 15-yards away. I leaned out from my tree and prepared to shoot. The turkey came out from behind the tree, and I squeezed the trigger, sending his spirit to that great turkey cemetery in the sky.”
To learn more about turkey hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ print, Audible and Kindle turkey books at http://johninthewild.com/books/#turkey. For a free copy of John E. Phillips’ “The Turkey Gobbler Getter Manual,” go to http://johninthewild.com/free-books/.