I recently had the pleasure of escorting a pair of octogenarian turkey hunters to the woods and listening to their stories. Between these two brothers, they shared experiences with me from over a combined 120 years of hunting these big, beautiful birds all over the country. Anybody who knows me understands just how much I appreciate a good story and these two did not disappoint. Mutt, 82, and his older brother Garth, 84, were true turkey hunting gentlemen and great sports.
No, sadly, they didn’t score their Osceola, while hunting with me that day, but neither cared a bit about that. They just weren’t into a hard hunt, although they did see turkeys. Instead, we sat under the pines in folding lawn chairs as they joked, teased, tormented, and storied.
“When we started turkey hunting, as boys back in the late forties, it wasn’t a sport. It’s kind of like coon or ‘possum hunting; just something every boy learned and did,” Garth told me. “Yeah, cause there had just been a big war,” Mutt continued. “Anyway youngins could help out bringing home meat for supper, was important to a lot of families.” “Wasn’t a lot of special clothes and gadgets and fancy weapons,” Garth picked up the story again. “We’d sneak up on ‘em when they’d go to a roost in the evening and pop ‘em off the limb with a little .22 rifle.”
The two chuckled a bit and conceded that if you tried such tactics today, you would face some mighty stiff penalties; likely even jail time. So, we grew up with turkey hunting and stuck with it as it developed into the sport it is today,” Mutt spoke with pride. “We both joined the National Wild Turkey Federation its first year in existence. What used to be a pretty low population, wild turkeys are found in abundance in most any place you look.”
I wish you all could have been so blessed as I was for their visit. We sat in our folding chairs as they burnt through an awful lot of topics, nearly every time though, they would circle back to turkey hunting.
Garth: “Back in the fifties when Eisenhower put that big interstate through. Sure tore up some fine turkey habitat.”
Mutt: “Met John Wayne once while I was working in Los Angeles. Said he’d never been turkey hunting….”
Garth: “I was stationed in Long Bin, while I was in Vietnamese Nam. It was wet and miserable and coming on Easter, but all I wanted to know was if they was gobbling good back home.”
Mutt: “My first wife once complained that I spent too much time in the woods. Told me she was gonna find me something to do to keep me home. A year later, Garth was best man at my second wedding. We was together 49 years before she passed. She loved turkey hunting too.”
Most of their stories made me laugh at the way they grinned with shining eyes as if reliving the moment, in the telling of it. Some stories were a bit somber and there were a few stretches of time when sat quietly, just listening to the woods, soaking up as much as they could, “while we still can,” Mutt stated soberly.
They’re headed back home to Arkansas now with a promise to look me up next year when they return. I truly will be looking forward to that day! And folks, if you have any stories of your own to share, I would love to hear them! Reach out to me anytime, at [email protected]. God bless and good huntin’!