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Turkey Tactics and Tales Day 2: The Greatest Turkey Fighter of Them All

Up close look at a turkey's head
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Editor’s Note: I think you’ll agree with me about Henry Ott being the greatest turkey hunter ever. Enjoy this turkey tale.

A turkey in the fieldEvery year when turkey season starts, I think of Henry Ott of Jackson, Alabama. Ott, a quiet fellow, highly respected in his community, has never been known for flat-out lying. Like many hunters, though, I suspect he may embellish the facts a little to improve a story about turkeys. But I definitely know of one time when he didn’t have to stray from the truth at all.

Ott had decided to take his 13-year-old nephew, Tommy Deas, turkey hunting. Putting the boy between himself and the turkey, he began to call. “I figured the turkey would come to Tommy and he’d kill him,” Ott said. “But our hunt didn’t work out that way. Instead the turkey came up on my end.” At about 40 steps, Ott poured the lead to the bird. The gobbler lay on the ground flopping. Placing his right foot on the turkey’s head and his left on the turkey’s feet, Ott proceeded to take out his pocketknife. “What are you doing?” questioned Tommy. “The game’s over, Tommy,” Ott said. “I’m putting this old turkey out of his misery. There’s no sense in letting him suffer.” With that explanation, he pushed the blade of his knife through the turkey’s head. The old gobbler spread his wings, quivered and expired. The two hunters then unloaded their guns and prepared to carry the turkey and their empty guns from the woods. But as they went back to pick-up their prize, that “dead” turkey made one flop and jumped up on his feet running.

A hunter and a downed gobbler“I chased him through the woods for about 40 yards,” Ott remembered later. “And as I dove for him on a run, I caught him by the tail feathers.” The mighty old bird suddenly lurched leaving nothing but the tail feathers in Ott’s hand. Quick-handed Ott reached again, however, and grabbed the left wing. Once more the powerful turkey fought back, and this time left Ott with a handful of feathers, a lump on his head and blood streaming down his face.

“As I grabbed the right wing, the left wing hit me on the forehead, bloodied my face once more and knocked me to the ground,” Ott explained. “The tom’s right foot came up next and spurred me in the top of the hand and in my palm. His left foot caught me in the leg and spurred me in three places.”

By now Ott’s arms also suffered from the onslaught of those cutting spurs. However, Ott still fought back. He knew that if he failed, the gobbler would escape, die and rot in the woods. This sportsman fought for his prize like a boxer in the last round, mustering all the strength he could to put his opponent away. So Ott, now nearly exhausted, began to give the battle his maximum effort. Finally securing both of the gobbler’s feet in his hands, he stroked the air with that turkey and landed the final blow, flinging him into a pine tree.

A hunter retrieves his downed birdWith the battle over, you really couldn’t tell who had won. The turkey was covered with blood and had no tail feathers, wing feathers or breast feathers. His own blood covered Ott, and he looked nearly as battle-scarred as the bird.

Many of the gentler sex might consider what happened a barbaric demonstration of man’s attempt to prove his superiority over lower critters. However, if we look more closely, we see that the turkey was mortally wounded and would have wandered off and died. But because of Ott’s valiant efforts, he preserved the bird, which also made a fine meal for Ott’s family.

As people in the past immortalized legendary hero’s through the singing and telling of their exploits, so the people of Jackson, Alabama, will sing and tell about the greatest turkey fighter of them all – Henry Ott – long after he’s gone to that great roosting tree in the sky.

Cover: PhD Gobblers: How to Hunt the Smartest Turkeys in the WorldTo learn more about hunting turkeys successfully, visit John E. Phillips’ Amazon book page at For even more information from many of the top turkey hunters and callers, go to the book, “PhD Gobblers: How to Hunt the Smartest Turkeys in the World” at
and available in Kindle, print and Audible. You may have to copy and paste this link into your browser. (When you click on the book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read and hear 10% of the book for free). On the right side of the page and below the offer for a free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible book.

Tomorrow: Four Ways to Take More Turkeys

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