Editor’s Note: Avid turkey hunter Tracy Groves of Eldersburg, Maryland, enjoys all types of hunting, including bear and deer, but says hunting turkeys is his first love.
A woodsman reaches a certain point in his career as a hunter where he’s found and harvested all the bucks and all the gobblers that he really needs to take to prove to himself that he can find bucks and take them, and he can call in gobblers and harvest them. Various woodsmen arrive at this conclusion at different times in their lives. Many times the birth of a son or daughter signifies the maturing of a woodsman. As those youngsters get old enough to go hunting with Daddy, pinpointing deer and turkeys for the next generation to take becomes far more important than the woodsman harvesting another animal himself. A woodsman learns the double joy associated in calling in turkeys or finding deer for his/her family member, newcomers to the sport and people who’ve never had an opportunity to hunt and take gobblers. The woodsman knows where to set-up, when to call, what calls to use and when to stay silent. He often knows how to manipulate the turkey (if that’s possible) to put the gobbler in front of the person he’s guiding. When a veteran turkey hunter gets that ole longbeard in front of his hunter and within gun range, he’s won the turkey hunting game, regardless of what happens next. If the person he’s guiding harvests that gobbler, the caller gets to enjoy the bird being taken. But more importantly, he can watch the thrill and the excitement that his/her hunter has after bagging that first gobbler, or one of the first 10 gobblers he/she has ever taken. He’s made a memory that will last a lifetime for the person he’s guiding and for him.
My most-memorable hunts have been ones when I’ve taken my daughters Ashley and Lindsey – now young adults – turkey hunting. Neither one of them goes turkey hunting with their dad as much as they once did. However, the three of us have our stories to tell, our pictures to show and our memories to relive.
Ashley started turkey hunting when she was 12-years old, but she didn’t take her first gobbler for several years. Whenever a turkey started coming in, Ashley would get very excited and begin shaking so much that she couldn’t hold her gun still enough to make a good shot. Even though she didn’t bag a bird those first few years, she and I both enjoyed great hunts that we’ll remember forever. Ashley shot at a turkey every year, but she would miss. This missing turkeys is almost a requirement for turkey hunters. Finally, I put a turkey shotgun choke on her Browning shotgun and restricted her field of view. But more importantly, that choke made her keep her head down and her cheek on the stock and put the crosshairs on the gobbler’s wattles before she pulled the trigger.
One morning we went hunting together. The night before, we had roosted the gobbler. We moved to within 40 yards of the roost tree and set-up to call. We got to hear the gobbler spitting and drumming as he strutted on the tree limb, and we heard him fly down from the roost. We had set-up inside a ground blind that morning, and the old gobbler walked within 3 feet of the blind. The gobbler’s wings actually hit the side of the blind as he strutted. Not only did Ashley harvest her gobbler, but that day was one of those rare days when everything worked out to our advantage. This hunt was one of the few complete ones that I’ve ever had the thrill of watching and listening to in my entire turkey hunting career. Plus, I got to share that perfect hunt with my daughter Ashley. Very rarely on a turkey hunt will you have the opportunity to see or hear a turkey on a limb, see or hear a turkey fly-down, watch that same bird strut, drum and feed as he comes to you, observe him breeding a hen and then harvest that same bird. But on that very special day, Ashley and I got to see it all happen. That one hunt, when I didn’t squeeze the trigger, was one of the most memorable hunts I’ve ever had in my life.
To learn more about turkey hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ print, Audible and Kindle turkey books at https://johninthewild.com/books/#turkey. For a free copy of John E. Phillips’ “The Turkey Gobbler Getter Manual,” go to https://johninthewild.com/free-books/.