Confessions of a turkey hunter

Confessions of Turkey Hunter – My Second Bird

To say I was fired up on Opening Day of 1993 would be an understatement. Although I had somehow killed a bird on the very first morning of my first season the year prior it was a fluke and I knew it. Aside from that one encounter, it had been an uneventful season. But this was a new season and I had done my homework and I was ready to hit the field with a new and improved game plan.

I dropped down off the hillside and entered the Flint River Swamp with high hopes and although I didn’t hear anything at first light I knew there were birds around. I worked my way down the logging road hitting my owl hooter every 50 steps or so and then turned into the woods about 50 yards before I got to a clear cut. I had not taken 20 steps when a bird that couldn’t have been more than 60 yards away gobbled on his own. I immediately panicked not really sure what to do so I just dropped down in front of a tree facing towards the gobbler and pulled out my Lynch Fool proof box call.

I felt cold water soak into my pants and realized not only was I sitting in the swamp but I was pretty much surrounded by ankle deep water with dry mounds protruding at random spots. Knowing I could not move I accepted that I was just going to be wet and tried my best to do a soft yelp without squeaking as I had never called under such pressure. The second I made a sound with the Lynch box the gobbler cut me off. My heart and mind were racing now because although I had already killed a bird it had happened in a very non traditional way and this was the first time a bird had gobbled at me that I knew was close enough to come in. I eased the call into my lap with the paddle fully open hoping it wouldn’t make any noise and raised my Winchester 1300 onto my knee.

I was already struggling to keep my composure when he popped into view only 30 yards away at which point I started to hyperventilate. I could not get my breathing straight or keep my gun still and my barrel moved like I was waving a flag every time I breathed. I thought for sure he would see this but somehow he didn’t. To make matters worse he was headed in a direction that would take him to my right and even if I could turn which I couldn’t, I had a big palmetto bush right next to me. About the time I concluded I was totally screwed he made a hard right and started coming across out in front of me. My insides were going through what felt like nuclear fusion and honestly I felt like I was going to explode but somehow kept myself in check. Finally he moved around and was 20 yards out and turned away with his fan towards me. I swung my gun around and got lined up. When he turned he seemed to notice something and pulled his head up and when he did I fired and he went down.

I came up on my feet like a gymnast at the Olympics and ran over to him. I was lucky because he had fallen onto one of the few protruding mounds which kept him from getting wet. I just stood there shaking in muck and ankle deep water looking at him still not believing what had just happened.

He laid perfectly still right up to the moment I touched him at which point he miraculously came back alive and went berserk. I had no idea this was coming and not knowing what to do I latched onto his neck with one hand and held on to my gun with the other and tried to choke him to death. He immediately started flogging me and I could tell the choke thing wasn’t getting me anywhere but I was afraid to let him go thinking he would fly off. I was frantically trying to figure out what to do when his flapping wings knocked my hat off and my facemask slid down over my eyes. Realizing I was now blind and in the process of being flogged to death, and not wanting to drop my gun in the water, I tried to fling him and snap his neck like a pheasant. That didn’t work as I realized he was a lot heavier than a pheasant and I jammed my index finger in the process. Out of desperation I slammed him as hard as I could into the mud and water and then started trying to stomp on his head. After stomping around blindly like a kid in a mud-hole, my boot finally connected with his head and I sat down on him. I’m not sure if he drowned or choked to death but I stayed on top of him for a couple minutes after he stopped moving just in case it was a trick.

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When it was over I had mud in my barrel, looked like I had been swimming in a mud hole, and the bird looked like he had been dragged behind a boat. I remember seriously considering shooting him again just for the hell of it.

Although I was glad to have killed my second bird and glad to survive the ordeal, I realized I still had a lot to learn. It goes without saying that this was not a hunt I would have wanted on video. I felt foolish but was thrilled to have had my first encounter where a gobbler gobbled and strutted and reacted to my calling. As bad as he looked afterwards, this event had completely hooked me on turkey hunting in a way that no type of hunting ever has. Almost 20 years later, many of my hunts run together, but I remember this hunt like it was yesterday. Traumatic experiences will do that for you.

By Bobby Parks
GrandSlamNetwork.com
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol’ Tom Field Expert

Grant and Ryan Turkey Hunting New Mexico

Roosting Turkey in New Mexico

Use this method for roosting turkey in New Mexico and kill more turkeys this Spring!  New Mexico is an awesome state to harvest your Merriams turkey for your grand slam! There is lots of public land to hunt turkey, elk and other game. One of the most effective ways to locate merriams turkey in New Mexico is to use a high pitched crow call when roosting them in the evening. You can literally drive the roads boarding public land, stop every 1/4 mile and locate birds for the mornings hunt. Watch this video to see how one of New Mexico’s finest turkey hunters, Ryan Bates, roosts his merriams!

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New Mexico Turkey Hunting

The Grand Slam Network crew represented us Georgia turkey hunters with some New Mexico turkey hunting for the 2012 season opener! What a BLAST! We left out of Atlanta, scouted the day before turkey season opened, and started killing merriams opening day! The hunt continued for a few days until we were chased out of NM and back to reality!

The first few days were cold – and WINDY [I'm guessing 30-40mph winds]. The 25 degree mornings started somewhere around 4 or 5am. After downing coffee, packing a water and snacks, groups would start to pull out of camp to the birds roosted the night before. On the windy mornings, it was hard to hear birds on the roost, and success came from skirting the NM mountain ranges calling into cuts before dropping down and over to the next ridge. Birds would seek cover from the wind in the deep cuts with steep banks.

My first bird came from one of these cuts – he came strutting up the cut to the sound of a raspy box call. After they’d gobble, and I knew they were still a little ways out, I’d stick one hand under my backside to provide some relief from the cold – my hands were freezing! Our strategy payed off! The Benelli smoked him and had to chase him down the hill as he flopped. Ryan and I later slid down the slope on our rear [it was too steep to walk down on some parts]. We were able to get most of the footage on film, but unfortunately didn’t get the kill shot!

By the time lunch came around, we had usually walked for miles up and down mountains, shedded camo layers, and were ready to make our way back to camp for food and a nap. BUT of course, we had to stop on the way back to camp and glass the stutters seeking attention from the ladies in the canyons. At least once, several of us made the hour round trip to a cell signal to call back home and provide updates to our families. One day I opted to hunt, what Ryan called the kill’n hour (2pm), which apparently had some truth to it because I landed my second Merriam! I glassed him up a road strutting for some hens, and around the kill’n hour, the hens left Mr. Tom, and he responded to some soft yelps and purrs and came in on a string!

After lunch and a nap, groups would start to talk over the evenings plans, run a few calls, and on some days make some mouth calls from Jim’s stash of latex, frames, and hole tape. By this time, it would be 70 degrees and dropping. We’d make our way back to our evening spots. Bobby came back with an evening bird – a NICE one at that!

For Ryan and I, we’d hunt our evening spots and then break away to roost birds before it got too late. By this time herds of elk piled out of the hills into the pastures. Dinner consisted wild game cooked in a BBQ pit. As the evening progressed, every one would start gearing down by swapping stories of how their day unfolded.

What a blast! We met some great turkey hunters – both LEGENDS – and the newly addicted. I really appreciate everyone’s hospitality! I lucked out by getting to hunt with one of NM’s finest turkey killers, Ryan Bates. The dude flat knows the land, knows how the birds work and where they hangout.

GA GSN boys! [thats just how we roll!] :D

What a bunch of rough looking dudes…

Roger and Grant's Late Season Turkey Hunt in Georgia

Late Season Turkey Hunting in Georgia

I can’t think of a better way to spend Cinco de Mayo than some late season turkey hunting in Georgia!  Can you?  Each member of our group was able to harvest a nice mature tom up until the last day of our hunt in middle Georgia where Roger and I doubled up on a pair of toms.

FRIDAY

I leave work in Atlanta and fight my way through traffic to the destination just east of Macon.  The other guys were already in camp and were able to get in a hunt along with some scouting before I arrived. There wasn’t a lot going on in the woods on this particular day, which left everyone wondering how the weekends hunts would go. Regardless, we were there, and we were ready to pull the trigger on ole big beak.

That evening, we talked through the game plan over the cutting and yelping of a few “secret weapons” (We were going through Mike’s bag of turkey calls). It was just a nice evening of talking turkey. And the view – awesome. This was my first time meeting Eric, the owner of the place, and let me tell you, the dude KNOWs his deer hunting. Killing big deer in Middle GA is what he does best. In just the living room alone, he had ~15 bucks mounted that scored 130s to 170s. Amazing.

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SATURDAY

It was early Saturday morning that we received the text message from one of Mossy Oak’s finest, Mossy-Oak-Mike. He setup on a bird off the roost, and called him with his top secret (Hustlin Hen) box call – and SMOKED him. This was the 1st of 5 killed this weekend.

Late Season turkey hunting in Georgia

Late Season Spurs Killed by Mike

For the rest of us, the morning left us with a few distant gobbles, and after several miles behind us, we decided to head back for lunch and to regroup for the evenings hunt.

4 o’clock rolls around and we hit the woods after developing the strategy for the evenings hunt. Roger from Ronnie Smith Outdoors and Matt eased down a bottom, and Eric and I walked down into the same bottom maybe a mile down the road. This is where it gets crazy. Not 5 minutes after I split from Eric, I’m looking for a place to setup and – BOOM!  Loud shot close by – it was Eric. About the time he sat down a bird gobbled [Eric yelped] and the biggest middle Georgia gobbler of the weekend came in looking for the lady, and Eric SMOKED the 2nd bird of the hunt. He walked over to find me, and got my keys so he could head back home, and during the exchange – BOOM! Another shot. It was Matt this time. He and Roger had called in three toms that strolled in under the radar – and Matt laid-one-out! In 30 minutes we had two birds down. I stayed in the woods and worked a bird that was pretty much gobbling on his way to the roost. Based on the vocal birds in the area, we knew we’d be back in the a.m.

Eric and Matt with their late season turkeys

Eric and Matt with their late season turkeys

SUNDAY

Sunday rolls around. Roger and I are the last two that need a bird. Our plan is to hit the same bottom with Matt on the camera and Roger and I as trigger men.  We worked our way down into the bottom early and setup where they’d heard some birds on Saturday. After a fly down cackle from Roger, we heard about 3 toms and a raspy hen. The gobblers were about 300 yards out in various directions.  It wasn’t long before we knew we had a bird to our left up on the hill, a couple out in front and maybe one to the right. Hens became vocal with lots of clucks, a few yelps, and one cackle. Four hens worked passed us heading for the tom up on the hillside. One of them with an 8″ beard.

The hour was action packed with lots of hens within 10 yards and gobblers sounding off in the distance. For a moment, our hopes were high as 2 or 3 toms sounded closer, but shut down moments later when a hen took them off in the opposite direction – so we thought. We all kind of looked at each other. Took off our masks and talked about our next move. Out of the blue, Matt scratched the ground, Roger yelped and [DOUBLE GOBBLE] straight in front of us at 100 yards. Moments later, I hear Roger behind me – “11 o’clock Grant.” I reply, “I don’t have them Roger.” It wasn’t long before they came in at a 1/2 strut at 40 yards. Both guns steady – I hear Roger, “let’em come on in.” And then the green light, “shoot’em, shoot’em.” BOOM! I drop the first tom in its tracks and the other one takes off to our right, Roger has a bead on him and K.Os him on the run.

Roger and I with our late season toms

Roger and I with our late season toms

At the end of our trip, all 5 hunters had a bird down, before we returned home to our families.  It always make for an enjoyable time when every hunter in camp harvests a bird.  Eric and Roger were generous enough to share a few of their honey holes with the Grand Slam Network, and its become somewhat of a tradition to head down to middle Georgia for some late season turkey hunting each Spring.

Roger and Matt with Roger's late season turkey

Roger and Matt with Roger’s late season turkey