Editor’s Note: Financial advisor Trey Dorman of Birmingham, Alabama, has hunted turkeys since he was 12-years old and guided for 24 years at the Lakes of Leavellwood in West Greene, Alabama (https://leavellwood.com/ – 205-372-2323). Leavellwood offers outstanding turkey hunting, trophy deer hunting and trophy bass fishing.
One of my favorite types of clients to guide turkey hunting is youngsters. I love to see youngsters harvest their first gobblers. I’ve seen several young people take more than one gobbler. Recently on Alabama’s Youth Day, 11-year-old Tucker Andrews from Loxley, Alabama, had made a return trip to hunt with me at Leavellwood Lodge. Three years earlier, when Tucker was 8, he missed a turkey when hunting with me. On Youth Day in 2019, we went after the Jefferson Turkey.
Each year in Alabama, there are three or four days of youth-only hunting for turkeys before adults are allowed to hunt these birds. The rules state that the young person must be accompanied by an adult, but the adult can’t carry a gun. He only can guide and call for the youngster. We were hunting in Jefferson, Alabama, after getting-up early on the first day of Youth Turkey Hunting Season and went to this property Tucker’s family owned. We heard a turkey or two gobble early in the morning, and I told Tucker, “Let’s just sit tight, and wait right here. We’ve always found turkeys in this little hardwood bottom, so let’s just wait and see if the turkeys we’ve heard gobbling will move into this little bottom. Maybe a turkey that we haven’t heard will come into the bottom. Since we’ve got good cover, let’s just wait on them.”
We sat in that bottom for about an hour before I started hearing hens calling. I whispered to Tucker, “Let’s see if there is a gobbler with these hens.” I called aggressively to the hens, and the hens started calling back to me. I was cutting and cackling – trying to sound like a dominant hen that was trying to take the gobbler away from the other hens in the flock. Between me and the hens, there was a lot of calling happening. Finally, the tom turkey gobbled. About 5 minutes later, I could see hens coming through the woods, and I whispered to Tucker, “Get ready to take the shot.” We had set-up in a pop-up blind, and I had a hen decoy laying down and a jake decoy in front of the hen. The hens kept coming toward us and walked right past the two decoys in front of us. The gobbler was behind the hens. Once he spotted that jake decoy, he ran up to it and jumped on it. The gobbler had his feet on the back of the jake decoy and started pecking the decoy’s head.
I told Tucker, “Aim at the turkey’s head and neck, and shoot when you’re ready.” Tucker pulled the trigger, and the gun went, “Snap.” Tucker didn’t panic. He remained still. I was sitting right behind Tucker, so I reached up in front of him, took his shotgun, brought it back to me, ejected the shell that hadn’t fired, put another shell in his shotgun and let the receiver slam shut. I handed the shotgun back to Tucker. To my surprise, the gobbler was still standing on the decoy’s back pecking at its head. About five or six seconds went by as Tucker aimed, until finally the gobbler stuck his head up. Tucker fired, and that ole gobbler rolled off the decoy’s back. The gobbler was dead, the decoy was no worse for wear, and Tucker was smiling from ear to ear.
What made that hunt so memorable to me was the fact that I didn’t know any grown folks who could sit still after their guns snapped and wouldn’t move a hair when their gun misfired. I don’t know many seasoned, veteran turkey hunters who would have had enough composure to not panic or get upset when a gobbler was that close, and their guns failed to fire after they took their shots. I don’t know who was more excited and prouder of that turkey hunt – Tucker or me.
What I Learned from Tucker’s Jefferson Turkey:
* If you’re in a place where you always see turkeys, you don’t have to go to the gobbling birds to harvest one. Turkeys have certain places they feel comfortable enough to walk through, and if you get in those spots, there’s a very-good chance you can harvest a gobbler whether you call or not.
* If you hear hens yelping, clucking and purring during the spring, you have every reason to believe there’s probably a gobbler with them.
* If you carry a hen decoy and a jake decoy when turkey hunting – especially when hunting with youngsters – once the turkeys arrive, their attention will be focused on the decoys and not me and my young hunting companion.
* If I take a pop-up blind that totally covers me and my young hunter yet has windows that we can look and shoot out of when we have a gobbler arrive, we can be successful. Youngsters aren’t wired to sit still for a long time, and in that pop-up blind they can move around, color, draw, play video games or do whatever they want to until the turkey starts coming.
* If you don’t panic, jump up and down or holler, but rather sit still and do whatever you need to do, you still may bag a tom.
To learn more about turkey hunting, check out John E. Phillips’s book, “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting,” at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IXXJWOQ/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p2_i10
available in Kindle and print. You may have to cut and paste this link into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of this book for free). To learn more about other turkey books by John E. Phillips, go to www.amazon.com/author/johnephillips.