I am NOT a bird hunter of any note. As a matter of fact I rarely shoot shotguns since rifles take up so most of my time. Despite this lack of shotgunning and bird-hunting experience I get to go on occasional hunts. I usually view these opportunities as new experiences more than hunts.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why people get so excited about shooting turkeys. Now I understand there are two different situations here – hunting turkeys and shooting turkeys. For some reason I have been more involved in “hunts” that justify the coining of the term – Turkey Shoots. The birds were about as wild as my steel plate targets. Matter of fact I shot some with rifles just to increase the challenge.
Before you turn to the next page, I know many people who live and breath turkey hunting. They get right into the full camo, scent-lock underwear, nifty little field-seats, hyper-tight shooting choke-tubes, mixed shot loads, owl-hooters, box-calls, slate calls, and those little rubbery diaphragm calls that you place inside your mouth (those things scare the heck out of me – I have such a weak gag-reflex that I choke-up putting my store-bought teeth in each morning…).
So, let’s get back to some of my recent turkey hunts. For some reason they have mostly been in Texas. Now if anyone has never experienced Texas in the spring – the words ticks, chiggers, sun-stroke, rattlesnake, hypothermia, sand-burrs and cactus spines are quite common in polite conversation. In impolite conversation there are many four-letter words and quaint local phrases attached to each sentence. These sentences are uttered as a person removes one-half inch long spines from his knee-cap or scratches evil little red dots that progress up
the inside of his arm. I have had so many sandburs between my fingers I could not insert my trigger-finger through the trigger guard.
There is another aspect of turkey hunting that bothers me. Getting up out of a perfectly warm, comfortable bed a few hours after midnight. The Texas turkey hunters I accompanied get up about four hours before dawn, gulp down a gut-bomb breakfast at an all-night fast-food, then sneak around with teeny little flashlights in snake and insect infested needle-sharp spiny vegetation. Why not just sit in the truck and call them out to the road?
Again, I fully understand that would not be the same as being right there – listening to the many sounds of nature as the day awakens. Hearing slithering sounds right behind my butt and wondering if a rattler is homing-in for a snuggling session might be a case of over-active imagination – or is it? Since I do not understand real-life turkey lingo I usually have no idea whether the guide is talking guy or gal turkey-talk. I have sat through many painful hours of putts and cackles that essentially – sounded like putts and cackles.
I have also experienced the slow, deliberate approach of a wary Tom, and the frantic charge of a big old bird that either wanted to seduce a hen or kill a challenger. He came in to ten yards and – I missed him with a twelve-gauge turkey load. Twice. I also recall stumbling around in total darkness to get setup at one particular tree that would be close to a roost. Only one problem – the perfect tree was the roost that morning. We scattered turkeys all over southern Iowa with our less than stealthy approach.
Getting back to Texas turkeys. I recently hunted a ranch that was crawling with birds. We hit the peak of the rut and the gobblers were doing their thing all day long. The real turkey hunters in our group hit a jackpot. Me, I could not get excited about the situation. Everywhere we drove turkeys were strutting or standing around in groups. Seemed like a very target rich environment for a rifle shooter – but I had to use a shotgun.
Fact is, I wanted to get the turkey hunting over with so we did what might be called a modified drive-by calling session. We saw a huge old Tom near the trail we were cruising. He was very clearly lost in lust – doing his thing with a hen and he had two more nearby as spares. The guide stopped the 3/4-ton truck and I slowly walked over to a fence-post. As I stuffed turkey loads into the camo’d shotgun they started doing what turkeys do that time of the year. He then did a very loud gobble and fanned his tail out, strutting like he was “the man”. By then I had the third shot shell inserted and a shucked one into the chamber.
As he did his strutting I lined the beads up and prepared to shoot. “Don’t shoot until his head is out!” yelled my guide so I waited. And waited. Finally the guide started gobbling or putting or something, trying to get him to stretch out his neck in a good gobble. No such luck. I waited, keeping the beads on his head as he walked about. Finally he couldn’t resist telling the world how tough he was. He stretched out his neck in a fine gobble so I positioned the beads and let fly.
That bird had incredible reflexes. His reaction time to that load of six’s flying over his bright-colored head was a sight to see. Only problem – that particular morning I happened to have even faster reflexes. Taking the miss in stride I cranked another load into the chamber and swung ahead of the fleeing bird. The 870 went off and that old Tom rolled liked a bowling ball. He took that pattern right through the noggin! I would pat myself on making a heck of fine running shot, but it was pure luck. I don’t even remember aiming. Things happened so fast and I went into “fill the air with lead” mode.
By now the true turkey hunting fanatics will probably be rolling their eyes at my stories. But, I just can’t get excited about turkeys…
(Editor's Note: Ian has recently joined a psychiatric support group for those who don't have a normal God given love of turkey hunting. There may be hope for him yet. light bulb )
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