t may be hard for many of you, who’ve met and know me personally, to believe this; but I was young once. After chasing these Osceola gobblers around for thirty-seven years, my hairline has gone into retreat and my beard is growing grayer by the season. But, I’ve chased these big birds in two countries and seventeen states and invited so many of them old thunder-chickens home to supper, I’ve given up trying to keep count. Through it all, I’ve made some incredible memories, but one memory stands out far above the rest…. My very first gobbler.
I was thirteen years old when I hunted turkeys for the first time. But, I didn’t even come close to enjoying success that first year. It took me a while to catch on to the sounds and activities of the breeding flocks in my area. It was my third season in the field with my homemade calls and an ancient JC Higgins shotgun, handed down from my grandfather, that my first guest of honor for a turkey dinner, rode home with me.
At fifteen, I didn’t have my own truck yet and since daddy didn’t care for turkey hunting enough to give me a ride, I rode my bike. There was a large tract of timber a mile or two up the road from my family’s farm where I’d been seeing and hearing turkeys. I had hunted there enough that I had pretty well figured out the roosting habits of a big old gobbler and knew just about where he’d be flying down to strut and gobble for his lady friends. So that Sunday morning, late in the season, I slung my old shotgun across my shoulders, put the lanyard of my trusty wing bone caller about my neck, tied a lunch sack to my handlebars with an old military canteen full of water, and started peddling.
I made it to where I’d hoped to ambush the tom well before sunup and stashed my bike in a gallberry thicket before settling beneath a big magnolia tree. Sure enough at first light that tom started gobbling from his roost and after a few yelps from my wing bone caller, he pitched down and began strutting fifteen yards in front of me. I was in shock as adrenaline began to shake me up really bad. At the first opportunity, I lifted that old shotgun to my shoulder and squeezed the trigger…. only to remember I’d forgotten to load it.
I sat there, fumbling around in my pocket for one of the two shells my dad had given me, and finally got one slid into the chamber as the turkzilla strutted and drummed and gobbled only that handful of yards away. Finally, the shot was taken and the turkey was mine! I crashed my bicycle three times on my ride home trying to balance that huge bird over one shoulder while carrying all of my other assorted gear, but I promise you; them skinned elbows and knees were totally worth it!
As always, if you have any questions or a story to share, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] God bless and good hunting!