John’s Note: Every gobbler is a challenge, but some are candidates for the Turkey Hall of Fame. Gobblers are individuals. Although many will do what they’re supposed to do, when and the way they are supposed to do it, some turkeys become so expert at eluding the hunter, they seem almost supernatural. These toms have advanced degrees in hunter dodging, and in my lifetime I’ve met my share of these birds. But that’s what I enjoy about the sport of turkey hunting – you never know what’s going to happen, and you’re playing against an opponent that on his turf is often as smart, if not smarter, than you are. While pursuing gobblers, I’ve also had the good fortune to hunt with and interview some of the greatest turkey hunters in America today. All agree there are some gobblers that never can be killed legally.
Fred Darty specialized in taking super smart turkeys, but he had one tom that outsmarted him for several years. “I’m convinced this turkey could recognize the human silhouette,” Darty told me.
Even if a hunter was camouflaged, the turkey seemed to see past it.
The ole bird always would come in but stay just out of gun range looking for the hunter. Once spotted, the bird would walk off, not to be seen again. I fooled with that bird for several years, until I finally figured out what was required to bag him. I decided that if the gobbler recognized the human form and camouflage patterns, the only way to take him would be to eliminate the human form and disguise the camo pattern.
So, I buried myself in leaves and laid flat on the ground. I called to the bird from that position. Once again the Know-It-All Gobbler came in searching for me. I almost could read the tom’s mind as he looked at the base of every tree and almost could hear him say to himself, ‘No hunter there.’ As the gobbler came walking in to where I was, I kept thinking, ‘Ole boy, I’ve finally fooled you.’ Then I bagged that Know-It-All Gobbler, ending years of frustration for me and everyone else I knew.
There are some turkeys you can’t give away. They frustrate the mind and taunt the spirit to such a degree that if they’re not killed, a sportsman easily can lose his mind. These birds also can bring discord and confusion to an entire community of hunters. “Some turkeys force the hunter to make an either/or decision,” the late Ben Rodgers Lee, 5 time World Champion turkey caller, told me one time. “You either can call the turkey, or you can kill the turkey. But more than likely you won’t be able to do both.” Such was the case when Lee received a call from a hunting friend in Mississippi who said, “Ben, you have to come over here and kill this turkey.
He’s driving me and all of my friends crazy. I’ve learned everything there is to know about this turkey, except how to kill him. Now I’m tired of fooling with him. I’d like for you to come over here and take him off my hands.” So, like a gunslinger out of the Old West, Lee packed-up his calls and his trusty 12 gauge and headed for Mississippi to bring peace and tranquility back to the life of a man who was on the verge of severe mental problems, because of this turkey.
When Lee arrived, the man filled him in on the habits of the Walking and Talking Tom. “Ben, every time I call this turkey, he flies down, walks across the top of a mountain and starts moving along the edge of a creek bank. Then he walks up an old logging road. I’ve tried calling from different directions, and I’ve done everything I know to do to kill this turkey. Nothing seems to work.” Lee laid out a game plan. “You show me the route the turkey usually takes. In the morning, I’ll go in and set up along that route. You go to where you usually call from and start calling. We’ll see if we can’t get that ole bird.” The following morning, the Walking and Talking Tom went to that big roost tree in the sky.
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About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (AMA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors.