Chasing Montana Merriams Chapter Two

Ridge Assault

As I sat watching the sun disappear and darkness setting in, I could hear a Merriams gobbler hammering out several distant gobbles 200’ above me but a good quarter to half mile away. It sounded like he was up on the high ground, out on a ridge finger coming off the back of the alfalfa fields. I had a good idea which ridge he was on and mentally marked him as the bird Grant Carmichael and I would go after the following morning. We were now at the end of our second day which for the most part had been uneventful.  Although Grant had taken a bird the previous afternoon (See: Chasing Montana Merriams Part One) and we’d heard another bird that morning, I was starting to be concerned because, I’d only seen a few birds throughout the rest of the day, none of which were gobblers.  From my elevated position, I could glass for a half mile in one direction and close to a mile in the other and where I’d seen groups of birds in the past, I only saw a couple sets of hens. I knew the prairie area in Montana that I’d hunted for the past 10 years had experienced a die off and now it appeared it had caught up with the river birds as well. It just wasn’t like it used to be and I knew we had our work cut out for us. We should be hearing more birds than just the one above me.

High Ground Morning Hunt

The next morning we arrived well before first light and parked up on the high ground instead of dropping down to the river. We worked our way along the rear of an alfalfa field turning out onto the prairie and off onto the ridge base, where I thought the gobbler from the evening before was roosted. This area is mostly open with prairie sage and dotted with Ponderosa pines. The ground is a mix of sand with millions of varying sized stones and rocks which makes for interesting terrain. There are numerous ridges and brush filled coulees (“draws” if you’re from the south) that finger off the high ground out towards the lower agricultural flats that run along the river. Mule deer trails follow along the edge of the high ground where the ridges and coulees start to break off and run up and down from the river area through the coulees as well. Birds often walk the ridges and fly over into the timber in the adjacent draws to roost, and fly back off the limb, and over to the same ridge at day break. From there they may stay high and move out into the upper fields or follow the trails and drop down to the river area.

Even though it was dark, the moon was bright enough for us to cast a shadow so we were concerned that we might be serving notice.  I didn’t know exactly where the gobbler was because I’d heard him from a distance, so we worked our way out 100 yards onto the main base of the ridge, and stopped under the overhanging limbs of a pine tree trying not to crunch any of the 5,000 pine-cones that lay at its base.

Merriam’s often gobble much earlier than Easterns and we began to hear what sounded like two birds at a distance while it was still dark. They were a longs ways off and several draws over so we just held tight hoping our intended target would sound off. After a few minutes we began to believe we’d been spotted in the moon light knowing we should have heard something out of our targeted bird by now. We were both getting worked up from the feint but constant gobbling from the other birds, and agreed we should take off after the gobblers and try to set up on them before they flew down.

The Ridge Assault

We jumped up and took off at a fast jog mixed with periods of fast walking.  We were following the edge of the tree line dropping up and down out of coulees as we worked our way towards the birds.  We covered a long distance quickly and were both winded by the time we got close enough to pin point where they were. Day had already begun to break so we knew the birds would be on the ground soon. We began our final approach by dropping down into the timber of the next to last coulee working our way down the draw and then climbing out and up to the top of the next ridge finger. The birds were loud now and it sounded like 3 gobblers as they continued to hammer away. They were off in the draw just beyond the next ridge across from us in trees 100 yards away.

As close as they sounded they would be at least 50 yards from where we were if they landed on the adjacent ridge so we’d have to push and get over and be in range when they hit the ground. We eased across the narrow ridge top we were on using a clump of short pine trees for blocking cover from the roosted birds in case they were roosted higher than the far ridge crest. We dropped down into the last wooded draw and slipped out of our vest and quietly crawled up our side of the targeted ridge. Grant was 20’ to my left as I eased my head up slowly to take a peek. They gobbled again as my eyes searched allowing me to lock in on them only 50 yards away. I believed we were on the ridge they had pitched off of and should pitch back onto but just in case we planned to encourage them to come our way by calling to them and making them think hens were roosted in the draw just across from them.

The adrenalin was pumping and our nerves were on edge as I made a soft yelp on my crystal. All three gobblers gobbled right back so we knew this was about to get interesting. I made another call a little louder this time which caused them to hammer right back. There was no doubt they knew where we were so I carefully laid my call down making sure it wouldn’t roll down the slope (it’s happened before) and got my gun partially up. Getting positioned was awkward because of the steepness but Grant and I both got as ready as we could careful to stay below the crest of the ridge.  When they flew down they could be right on us and we didn’t want to blow it before they got down by being seen above the ridgeline.

I was peeking over the crest trying to keep my head sucked down inside my neck which is not easy to do, when I heard wings flap and saw first one gobbler and then the two others fly down our way. They didn’t fly onto the top of the ridge but instead just dropped out of the trees onto the lower opposite side of our hill, just out of site. My adrenalin regulator was really being tested now as it was nerve racking because I didn’t know where they’d pop up on the ridge. I could see down the ridge fine but if they showed up right across from me they’d be in bayonet range 6’ away. I turned and signaled to Grant that three birds were on the ground, but he had watched them as well and knew what was unfolding with his gun ready.

My heart was pounding as I saw movement as one bird topped the rise 25 yards away. A few seconds later a second bird came into view. Because of the low light, distance perception was tricky but there was no doubt they were in range.  I could only see heads and necks of two birds looking our way. Based on our team plan my bird was on the right so I counted to 3 just loud enough for Grant to hear and we both fired. Both birds disappeared and we both jumped up. I saw a head still looking at us and fired again not knowing if I’d missed or if it was the third bird. As Grant and I both charged over we realized we had all three birds laying or flopping on the ground.

When it All Comes Together

I’ve hunted Montana many times and taken many birds there before the sun came up. I can tell you that watching the sun rise with the scenic view Montana provides while sitting with your bird is a wonderful feeling. Grant and I took the time to take in the moment and just sat with the birds taking it all in. It was as pretty a day as you’ll see out there with no wind but cool dry air. The elevated views and big sky sunrise is second to none I’ve ever seen. The heavy feathered beautiful Merriams don’t hurt the occasion either.  I’ve shared this same glorious moment with others and alone many times.

Hunting Montana Merriams
Photo: Grant sits on the ridge where the birds were taken
Hunting Montana Merriams
Photo: View from high ground showing lower river area

Hunting Merriams

As I mentioned, Merriams in Montana have the beautiful white tips and heavy feathering that Wyoming and South Dakota Merriams carry and what most look for when they go after this bird. I know a few l other states do as well. Where ever you hunt them out west it’s likely to be a great experience.

Merriams like to gobble, cover ground, and will respond well to a call. Like any birds, a lot depends on the pressure aspect. Prairie birds especially are fun to hunt and can provide for some great action. I don’t hunt them because I consider them easy. I love to hunt Merriams because they are beautiful birds that occupy beautiful country, and I enjoy the adventure that comes from chasing them on the western ground they occupy.

The Grand Slam Network
Photo: Grants awesome photo with the birds hanging from a cottonwood tree

As mentioned earlier, my experience has been that birds out west often approach and leave a roost area by the same path. This is often true with any birds but with Merriams it has been almost like clockwork. So the basic take away being if you see where birds walk in and fly up from to roost, you’ll want to be waiting for them in the same place or on the same route when they come down.

Bobby Parks Turkey Hunting Montana
Photo shows Bobby following the same path I believe the birds would have taken

The sad news is that the immediate area I’ve hunted has seen a significant decline of birds, which from the best I can gather is at least partly due to avian pox. How wide spread this is I’m not sure but the prairie area I’ve hunted has been decimated. The river area, at least where I’ve hunted in this region now appears to have been affected.  What the future holds for this area is a question mark in my opinion.

Even though the latter hunt was more of a run and gun effort similar to what we undertake on the open prairie, I wished Grant could have experienced more of it along with the constant trolling that comes with it.  In the past we’ve had to cover miles of ground to find birds. We did ride around in the hills and checked out several areas that used to hold birds. None were found and at this point even if they were I believe it would be best to leave them alone and hope they’ll reproduce.

The 2013 Montana hunt was a memorable and enjoyable hunt complete with good weather which is not always the case.  We both tagged out early and made a quick dip into Yellowstone Park. Hunting with Grant Carmichael was a pleasure and created memories that we’ll both carry with us for a long time to come.

Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak
Ol Tom

Hunting Montana Merriams
Photo: Yellowstone buffalo that was looking like he might want a piece of me.

Reverse Engineering the Hunt

How to Use Google Earth to Scout

There was a time when my brother and I called one of our public land hot spots “The Killing Hole.”  The reason was simple – you could setup in this area most mornings and hear birds sounding off in all directions.  Even on the quiet mornings, if you sat tight, birds were going to work through the area at some point.  We had stumbled on this spot scouting the good ole fashioned way – covering as much ground as possible looking for signs that turkey were in the area.  In about a three year transition, however, the dynamics of the killing hole changed.  The hole went from a near guaranteed opportunity to work a bird, to a spot where birds were, but you were likely to get walked over by other hunters, and in its present day it feels like birds avoid the area after the first week of season.  It didn’t take long before we knew we had better pick up some new hunting spots close to home in a hurry.

As you will read in this article, I was able to reverse engineer the hunting experiences we had in the killing hole by applying firsthand knowledge of the area’s terrain to what was shown in an aerial view on Google Earth.  In doing so, Google Earth was used to quickly identify areas that should hold turkeys based on similar terrain, and boy did it pay off with a fine eastern to tote back to the truck!


The Killing Hole’s Terrain

The killing hole is nestled in the foothills of northwest Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest on public hunting land.  Cuts in the mountains above produce gently flowing creeks that work their way into the flatlands.  Loggers didn’t cut the timber in close proximity to the creeks, which created wooded buffers between roads, clear-cuts and the creeks.  In the mornings, birds would be roosted in the trees near the creeks.  Sometimes they pitched down into the clear cut and others they seemed to vanish into thin air.  In the evenings, turkeys would work their way through the clear cuts, visit the creek for a drink of water before scratching around a bit and flying up into their roosting trees.

Using Google Earth to Scout New Turkey Hunting Areas

After realizing the killing hole had become the hotspot for many other hunters, recovery efforts were needed in order to locate new spots that were likely to hold turkey.  The quickest way for me to do this was to use Google Earth and scout virtually using my computer.

I launched Google Earth, and after a search and some scrolling, the screen was zero’d in on the killing hole.  Zooming out a bit, the formation in the hills that created the small creeks down below in the flatland stood out, and after assessing the general area, similar terrain down the ridge a ways looked promising so I locked the coordinates into my GPS to use in the morning.  With double the distance to walk (maybe 1.5 miles) to the new listening post in the morning, I left a little earlier than usual.

I apparently misjudged the time it would take to walk to the new post, as I arrived later than anticipated breathing heavily (I had be covering the 1.5 miles as fast as I could to beat daylight). I began the process of softening my steps and calming my breathing as the remaining distance to the listening post closed.  Since the sky was starting to lighten up, I decided to draw my crow call and delivered two sharp blasts just short of the post for the sake of time.  A surge of adrenaline rushed through my body as a tom exploded 80 yards to my left, which was just over the property line.  Seconds later, a group of birds near the creek to my right answered.  Talk about a mad scramble, the morning sky was turning to daylight, birds were sounding off, and because I didn’t know the area well, I wasn’t sure where to setup.  Unfortunately, this particular morning the birds hit the ground and vanished.  Patience is not a virtue of mine, so after the lull I eased around the area and took inventory.  It looked promising with all the turkey tracks in the mud and scratching along the creek.  I smiled to myself as I realized the virtual scouting experience might actually pan out.

Success 24 Hours Later

The next morning, the departure time was adjusted and I arrived to the post plenty early.  Going in stealthy that morning, I eased in and sat down and waited.  Time passed and the bob white quail started their morning routine.  I should have heard a bird or two by now, so I pulled out a box call and yelped 3 times.  A bird gobbled, but because of his distance, it was chalked it up to coincidence.  It seemed as if he were miles away.  Just to be sure, I checked him with two sharp cuts and four yelps, and he answered promptly.  After 10 to 15 minutes of waiting the process was repeated.  This time he had cut the distance in half, but was still a ways out – the hunt had every indication of being one of those quick morning hunts that you’re back at your truck with a bird while some of the other guys are pulling in late.

My back and legs were starting to cramp when he gobbled off to my left, still out of sight, but close.  The setup wasn’t great but there wasn’t much to choose from in this particular area.  Based on his distance, I only had a few seconds to ease my barrel to the left and hold tight.  Moments later the fan eased up to the road about 30 yards to my left.  When he hit the road, he raised his head up as if something was out of sorts, and with the fastfire on him, I eased the trigger and rolled him back on the clay road.

I rushed over to him as he was doing the death flop.  My hand felt the business end of the spurs before my eyes saw them – at that time I knew I had a trophy on my hands.


Why you should use Google Earth to scout virtually

In turkey hunting on public land, there aren’t many shortcuts to harvesting a mature eastern turkey.  It helps to know the land you’re hunting and how the birds use the area during the spring (which can be different than how they use it in the fall).  There are tools, like Google Earth, that you can use to your advantage by scouting virtually and identifying areas to hunt without seeing the property beforehand.

Using Google Earth in the Field

If at all possible, install Google Earth on your home computer and do your scouting before the hunt.  In doing so, you’ll be able to identify areas you may want to visit or even print maps to carry on the hunt (this is easy to do and works well).  In some instances, printing maps in advance may not be possible and having Google Earth on your smart phone will pay huge dividends.  In their Idaho hunt, Bobby and Wesley installed Google Earth on their smartphones because they were on an adventure hunt covering lots of ground in unfamiliar territory.  Having Google Earth on their devices allowed them to see fields and other types of terrain [while on the hunt] that might hold birds that they would have otherwise missed.


When technology is not available

Cell phones and GPS batteries die and cell service is not available everywhere, which is why learning the terrain turkey use for a given area is important.  In the big country out west, there is lots of ground to cover, and if you aren’t careful, you can spend days trying to locate birds.  Take note of the terrain when you find birds.  Outside of your typical agricultural planting and food plots, you will discover certain types of terrain hold birds for various reasons.  By knowing the terrain attributes that hold birds, you can shave hours and even days off your scouting efforts.

In the end, technology doesn’t replace the need to understand turkey habitat and behavior, but leveraging technology with that knowledge of the wild turkey will produce killer results!

Grant Carmichael
Grand Slam Network
Mossy Oak Pro Staff

Chasing Montana Merriams

Chasing Montana Merriams – Part 1

Over the Tracks

As Grant Carmichael and I eased down the right side of the raised rail road tracks staying in what was the equivalent of a wide ditch, we hoped to avoid detection from any turkeys on the lower ground to our left or from the quick rising coulees and high ground on our right. The area on the left of the tracks was a long flat strip of ground covered with Cottonwood trees and Russian olive bushes that ran for over a mile, with the river running parallel of the tracks forming the back edge. The strip was 100-150 yards deep and was 30’ lower than the track elevation. There was a long narrow lake bed that ran for 250 yards, although at the moment I didn’t know just where we were in relation to it or if it was wet or dry. We avoided standing or walking up on the tracks to look as we risked being busted if birds were around. In years past this strip was an area that turkeys occupied and roosted in. We were working our way down to a spot that birds traveled back and forth from the strip to the high ground, with plans of setting up and beginning our 2013 Montana Merriams turkey hunt. Although I have hunted Montana for the past 10 years, this would be the first time that my friend and Grand Slam partner had teamed up for this hunt. It was Grant’s first trip to this beautiful state and his first crack at these gorgeous white tipped birds.

It was mid afternoon as we walked and whispered back and forth discussing our plan when we were interrupted by a gobbler that gobbled on his own 80 yards away to our left. It sounded like he was just across the lake and as glad as we were to hear him, we were not in a position to call to him or get over on his side without being seen. Crossing over and going straight at him seemed like a bad gamble as we could be spotted or heard crunching gravel as we ran across the tracks. Our only option appeared to be moving down the tracks, crossing over, and trying to move back towards him. But if the lake had water in it we’d have a problem getting over on his side. I was trying to remember just where the dam was and finalize a decision when I heard the train off in the distance. This was a timely blessing as these trains run fast and it would be on us in a few minutes. This provided us another option that we’d not have otherwise.

I’m a believer in working with what you have and capitalizing on opportunities when you can and ours was speeding towards us. As unorthodox as it may sound, we decided to use the train for cover. We would wait and use it and the disturbance it caused as a diversion and cross over to the other side. We would then try and call the bird to the opposite bank which should only be 25 yards away. This would allow us to go straight at him without giving up ground but we had to be really quick with our move.

Chasing Montana Merriams
Trains in Montana are often three quarters of a mile long and travel fast.

Once the train got to us we hopped up near the tracks and stood only a few feet from the train holding our hats so they wouldn’t blow off. We were like wide receivers waiting for the ball to snap and the instant the train cleared us we darted around, jumped off the tracks, and initiated somewhat of controlled slide feet first under the barbed wire fence, and down the bank hoping that all the noise and commotion of the train would mask our move. The birds were used to the train and in a worse case its passing might push them back a ways but not spook them. I hoped this provided us a chance to get directly across from the gobbler without a long walk down the tracks and trying to circle back on him.

As we crossed I saw that the dam was 50 yards to our left and that the lake bed was dry. We slid two thirds the way down the bank and stopped, but quickly realized it was too thick to set up so we dropped on down the last 10’ to the dry bed.  With our backs against the bank, Grant got his gun up and began searching the far edge for any sign of movement. We spotted three birds 150 yards to our right down the long narrow lake bed right out in the open. This confused me at first because I didn’t think the birds were that far away or in that direction. As soon as the sound of the train faded, I yelped on a glass call thinking we might hear a gobble from their way. Nothing came from that direction but two gobblers hammered at us from our 11:00 position only 80-90 yards away.

Grant Carmichael Turkey Hunting Montana
Grant Carmichael Turkey Hunting Montana

I called again 30 seconds later and could tell the two gobblers were already moving in our direction. We were lower than the adjoining bank so we wouldn’t see them until they walked up to the far edge which was good as far as I was concerned. They’d have to come looking for us and once they got there they’d be in range.  The dam to our left began to worry us though because the next time they gobbled, we realized they had angled left and it sounded like they might come in from behind it or walk out on it. The dam splits the lake bed and I knew there was a low area beyond it just like we were sitting in. If they topped the dam they would be looking down on us just out of range. As close as they were and as risky as a move seemed at this point, we had to get closer. There was plenty of brush between the birds and us so we jumped up and sprinted 20 yards towards the dam and dropped back down now within easy range.

I called again to “gobble track” them so we’d have our guns pointing in the right direction with hopes of doubling up. They answered so we knew we had gotten away with our move. Within a minute I heard Grant whisper “I see em and I have a shot.” The bird Grant was on came up from behind the dam and walked right up on it, but the second bird stopped short with only the top of his red head visible over the crest. He only needed to take another step or two up and I could be on him but he appeared to be frozen to the earth. The first bird had his head stretched up staring down at us while Grant was fighting off pulling the trigger, trying to give me a chance at the second bird. If his bird moved left or right he would have obstacles in the way. Grant reminded me a couple more times that he had a shot and afraid to delay any longer, he plastered the bird dropping him in his tracks.

Grant now had a beautiful Merriams gobbler and we had both heard a good dose of afternoon gobbling. “Bird One” was down and in the books. Things had gotten off to a great start and although it had happened fast, it had been a fun and exciting hunt. Using the train for cover as we did made the hunt different and it was tense but exciting making the move around it and across the tracks. The decision to make the secondary sprint 20 yards to the dam had added to the drama and paid off.

As we walked back down the tracks with the gobbler over Grant’s shoulder, we looked forward to our next few days of Chasing Montana Merriams.

Special Delivery

I suspect all of us have been the instigator or the unfortunate recipient of an underhanded practical joke while in hunting camp. Well as innocent as I am, it’s worked both ways for me although currently I’m slightly ahead in deliveries versus receipts. Due to my perceived history I make it a point to sit at the camp-house table with my back to the corner and I’m constantly on alert for incoming efforts.

Back in 2002 I took a friend hog hunting at our club on the Flint River.  He wanted to know if they would attack you and at first I said yes and suggested that he always keep a climbable tree in sight just to make it more exciting and interesting for him. Then after feeling guilty for lying I told him the truth and that a pig attack wasn’t really likely.

I took him to an area and dropped him off and suggested he move into the wind and follow along the edge of a clear cut which the pigs moved in and out of. I left him and drove about a half mile away and started hunting for hogs as well. After a short stalk I walked up on a couple of midsized pigs and shot both of them thinking that they would be just the right size for my smoker.

I dragged them to the road, loaded them in the truck, and sat for a while trying to give my hunting partner more time to shoot a wild hog. About an hour later I headed back to pick my buddy up.

On my way I passed through what used to serve as the rear entrance of our club and at a crossroads that at one point used to be our “sign in” area. There was an oversized mailbox mounted that we didn’t use anymore and as I drove by it a little light bulb came on in my head. I stopped, got out, looked at the mailbox, looked at one of the pigs, looked at the mailbox again, and figured it was worth a shot.

If you want a real challenge, try cramming a 50 lb. pig in a 24” mailbox. It took several attempts and I had to bend a little strip of metal to help keep the lid closed. The effort was further complicated because the box was tilted toward the front so the pig kept trying to slide out. Finally I was able to back away and the lid stayed shut. I wiped the blood off the edges, sat in the truck and watched it a couple more minutes to be sure it would stay shut, and then went to get my friend pretty happy with my upcoming entertainment program.

My buddy was waiting and as he walked over to the truck he mentioned that he had seen a few pigs but could not get a shot off. He asked if it was me that he heard shoot a couple times and of course being the honest and forthright person that I am I acknowledged it was me and that I had a pig in the truck and had missed another one. He wanted to keep looking at my dead pig but I couldn’t wait to get back to the crossroads as I intended to ask my buddy to check the mail.  Finally he jumped in and as we drove back down the road I was hoping that the compression packed pig surprise had not popped open.

As we pulled up to the crossroads I was relieved to see everything was still in order. I asked my buddy if he would mind checking the mailbox, to see if any other members’ might have signed in and explained that any coming in the back gate would sign in using the mailbox. They wouldn’t but he didn’t know this so he just jumped out and kept talking to me and looking around as he walked right up to the mailbox and grabbed the lid. The instant he pulled on lid the pig’s head popped out and fell on his hand and then the whole pig came sliding out like it was greased and pressurized and landed right at his feet.  He jerked his hand back so fast it’s a wonder his fingers didn’t fly off and he looked like he had been plugged into an electrical outlet. He jumped and did the man scream thing followed by some impressive back pedal movements that Michael Jackson would have been proud of. For a big man he could move surprisingly well when he wanted to. He began to verbally abuse me at this point and appeared to be threatening to hurt me. I couldn’t really hear what he was saying because I was laughing so hard I had I had tears running down my face. What I would have given to have had an I-Phone or video camera then!

As long as I live I’ll have the mental video re play of this memorable event. I’m pretty sure he has the same video memory only with a different perspective.

Like I said earlier: When I’m in hunting camp with my friends,  I sit with my back to the corner and I’m always on the lookout for incoming efforts from those who “owe” me. The bad news is my “pig in a mailbox” buddy moved away. The good news is I have new friends and guest hunting with me this year.   It should be a fun season and of course it’s always great to help create memorable moments.

My First Trip to Alabama

Years ago I accompanied a friend on his first turkey hunt on his newly joined hunting club over in Alabama. This trip was planned a month ahead and because my buddy had no turkey hunting  experience I suggested he watch a few videos and read what he could so he would have an idea of what to expect.

A few weeks later as we made the drive over from Georgia; I munched on trail mix and explained the basics involved with chasing turkeys.  We pulled into camp around mid afternoon and met the club president who invited us into his camping trailer and gave us the history and background of the club and property.

15 minutes later all three of us jumped in my truck and took off for a quick tour of the club property. As I drove I continued to munch on my trail mix but about 15-20 minutes later I started having digestive issues which I’m pretty sure were due to the dates or raisins. Realizing what was coming down the pike, I rolled my window down and as a common courtesy; I suggested they do the same. The club president didn’t take this very well and demanded that I stop the truck immediately, which I did because he was already opening the door and it looked like he was going to bail out into the ditch before I could pull over.

He launched himself out of the truck like we were under a chemical warfare attack which in a way we were, and stood with his arms crossed leaning against the tailgate. I wasn’t really expecting anyone to be thrilled with the event but was a little surprised he was taking it as he was. After what I guess he thought was an appropriate de-fumigating period he climbed back in but didn’t seem to think as highly of me as he did when we first arrived.  I had to stop two more times and let him go through the evacuation procedure and stand outside the truck with his arms crossed at which point he told us that we had seen enough of the property and was ready to go back to camp. I believe he would have walked if he could but it was too far.

On the way back we saw 3 gobblers and several hens in the back corner of a large pasture. When we asked if we could go after the birds he told us it wasn’t part of the property although I know he said it was when we went by it the first time. It occurred to me then that the date and raisin debacle was about to cost us a chance at a gobbler. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like to eat health foods.

After we pulled back into camp, he either didn’t want me to come in his trailer or he started liking us again or simply thought he was safer to get rid of us because he changed his mind and told us that the pasture with the gobblers was now back in his possession and that we could hunt it. He mentioned that the birds might exit the pasture off the back right corner and that there was a narrow food plot that they might head to 75 yards from the pasture. He told us how to get to a logging road that would take us to the plot the far end of the food plot.

Fortunately I was born with a genetic make up that allows me to drive to the “Dukes of Hazard” standard when the situation calls for it. I displayed this gifted driving ability all the way back to the logging road that led to the food plot. As I fish-tailed around the turns and re-arranged everything in the bed of the truck, I told my friend to be ready to hit the ground running and that we had to beat the birds to the green strip. As we blew past the pasture the birds were leaving the field off the back edge just as we had been told so I knew it was going to be close.

I slid up into the logging road and we bailed out jamming shells into the gun as we sprinted towards the food plot. The birds weren’t in sight yet and I knew they would come from the left if they came at all so we backed off 25-30 feet into what little cover we had with my buddy 20 feet to my right.

I really had no idea how my partner would react with the birds so I told him to get his gun up on his knee and point it straight out towards the green strip. I also told him to be statue still, and not to shoot until I told him to. If the birds came in we’d just let the gobbler walk in front of his gun and if the first bird got in front of him I might have a chance on one of the other gobblers if one trailed in.

I threw out a couple of yelps and within a couple minutes caught a glimpse of a gobbler 50 yards away in full strut coming down our side of the strip. Just as I was about to communicate that a bird was coming, my friend (who for some reason is incapable of whispering) said “BOBBY, SOMEONES COMING”. I began to panic and wondered who would be walking in the woods at such an inopportune time knowing they were about to spook our bird. Then it occurred to me that my friend was looking in the direction of the gobbler and was seeing the red and white head of the fanned out bird through the foliage and didn’t know what he was looking at. Apparently he had not watched any turkey hunting videos.

Once this craziness registered I whispered, “It’s the bird”, afraid the bird had already heard him. Then to my surprise he came back in an even louder voice with,” NO, IT’s SOMEBODY, THEY’RE RIGHT THERE”. By this time I was about to go into cardiac arrest and in a terse whisper, I said “IT”S THE BIRD, BE QUIET!” At that moment he realized what was happening and quieted down.

Somehow the bird ended up being alone did not hear us, strutted by 25 yards away, and walked in front of my friend’s gun. To his credit, he did stay still and when I said “shoot”, he plastered the bird.

As we were standing over his first gobbler he said, “I don’t suppose I can persuade you to not ever tell anyone about this can I”?  Of course, completely understanding how embarrassing this must be for him and being the sympathetic and reliable person I am, I said, “Oh you’ll never have to worry about me saying anything”.



Texas Surprise

While I’ve been fortunate enough to be the creator of “memorable Moments” for others, I’ve been the unfortunate recipient of a few memorable moments myself.

Texas Drama

For the better part of a 9 year period I’ve booked a ranch in San Angelo Texas to hunt Rios. There’s a core group with me each time with a couple new guest rotating into the mix each season.  Although we usually fly in on the Friday before opening day, in 2009 my dad and I along with a couple friends from Florida, , decided to fly in on a Thursday to avoid what can be an overly interesting flight scenario on the Friday before opening day. These flights are notorious for being overbooked so you have to worry about getting bumped or if your gear will make it. If you’ve ever flown on a plane with nothing but turkey hunters that sounds like someone just released 20-30 yelping hens you’d understand it takes a special seasoned flight attendant for this ride.

My two friends from the Sunshine State who were on an earlier flight made it in without any problems but due to extremely high winds the San Angelo airport closed before our flight could get in stranding us in Dallas for the night. We flew in the next morning and arrived in camp by lunch time.

The Florida boys seemed especially glad to see us and offered to cook lunch. They started scrambling around in the kitchen and one of them asked if I’d get a Ziploc bag of ice out of a bucket in one of the upright freezers. I opened up the freezer, saw a 3 gallon black bucket, reached in and retrieved the bag and flipped it over to him.

A few seconds later he mentioned there was a second bag of ice in there and asked if I’d mind getting it. Not thinking anything of it because I trust my friends, I opened up the freezer again and this time I tilted the bucket over and put my face right down to the rim to peer inside. The kitchen was dimly lit so it must have taken about a half  second for me to focus but when I did all I saw were diamonds and a huge coiled up rattlesnake about 15” from my face.  I sucked air, screamed like a woman, and threw the bucket on the floor. I’ve had plenty of snake encounters but finding a snake in the bucket in the freezer in the kitchen was a first for me. My two so called friends must’ve thought this was the funniest thing they ever saw because they were laughing until they were crying and slobbering on themselves.

I flipped them something else this time and once I recovered I defined what the word “payback” means in Georgia.

I was on edge and on alert for incoming efforts for the rest of the day and the rest of trip. I felt the need to go check my bunk, the truck I was going to drive, and even raised the toilet lid carefully. But, I noticed they were on guard as well and seemed to examine everything from their boots and vest to making sure their gun barrel wasn’t clogged and that they still had choke tubes. I even heard one of them holler out “all clear” one morning before they got in their truck. I did notice that for the rest of the hunt every now and then one of them would bust out laughing for no apparent reason. I’m pretty sure it was the memory of the “memorable moment” they had provided me.                                                                       

Hornets Nest Heights Determine Snowfall Amounts

According to a research scientist from the University of Central Honduras, it is a scientific fact that there’s a direct correlation to the height of a hornets nest and the accumulated annual snow fall in a given region.

This is based on a “Honduran Snow Fall Theory” founded by Dr. Akebedo Yinstein from U.C.H. who reportedly has traveled and tested this theory in 6 northern states over the past 4 years.

According to the transcripts formulas are adjusted based on north/ south latitudes and can vary in odd / even years, and are less accurate during years with high hurricane activity.

For example:

Ohio requires that feet be multiplied by .075, central Kentucky by .060, and Georgia by .035 on even years and .025 on odd years.

For example: If the average height of a hornets’ nest in Minnesota is 40’ ( 5 nest measurements are required  to establish an average) the predicted snow fall totals would be 3’ (.075 x 40’ = 3’ of snow)

One Honduran Scientist stated that a variable exist that shows if you can bag and relocate hornets’ nest and re-hang at lower heights 30 days prior to the first snow, you can reduce snowfall amounts in most regions. He stated that this method requires that at least 5 nests at least 14” in diameter and in the far 4 corners of each state be re positioned to achieve results.

Dr. Yinstein, who recruited several assistants from various insane asylums in his 6 state studies to assist him in his testing of hornet nest relocations, stated that smaller nest sizes offered conclusive, conscious, consequential, conclusions collectively.

OWR Reporter – Bobby Parks

Turkey Tobacco Study Creates Panic in Southeast

It’s a scientific fact that turkey’s inhabiting tobacco growing areas not only eat the bugs that thrive in tobacco growing regions, but also ingest the leaves of the plants themselves.  According to a study conducted at North Carolina Uni State University, it has now become a preferred food source with the ingestion of nicotine and other tobacco oil residue having a noticeable impact on the birds observed. The report stated that these birds tended to average less in weight and appeared to eat faster but less than turkeys from other regions. Heavy feeding immediately after morning breeding was noted as well.

Turkeys included in the research showed signs of nervousness with many becoming more aggressive towards each other immediately after tobacco crops were harvested. In several instances tractor operators were attacked while harvesting crops causing enclosed cabs to be required as a safety precaution.  84% of the turkeys monitored showed “withdrawal” type symptoms with wider ranges of mood swings. One section of the study mentioned gobblers fighting a hen which is unheard of in other areas. The normally light color of the meat was also darker and streaked in a number of cases and the normally white features in the wings were more of a brown shade of color with a tarry type residue.

One biologist stated that the gobbling from the birds in the area of his study had a distinctive hack mixed into the gobble. Another noted that many of the older birds appeared to drool or slobber on themselves similar to cattle.

In a bizarre case near Hickory N.C., a motorist who stopped off a rural road to empty his car ashtray was attacked suffering serious arm pecking injuries as two gobblers charged out of a ditch in what authorities believe resulted from them sensing the processed tobacco presence.

A.C.M.E Hunting Systems, an up and coming manufacturer of unique hunting systems has been aware of this phenomenon for three years and has developed a “Turkey Tobacco Camouflage” pattern that is used on a line of their clothing and Bunker Blinds. They admitted that several of their pro staffers had received numerous injuries from previous testing but that the camo worked better at getting turkeys in than any call ever made.

DNR officials are reviewing the Hickory N.C. event and A.C.M.E’s findings to determine if tobacco product possession will be outlawed for hikers and hunters in order to protect in what could be an outbreak in turkey attacks. Cigarettes and chewing tobacco may have to be left in vehicles and not allowed into WMA’s or any state owned properties.

A follow up report will be released in February of 2014 releasing the results of their findings.

OWR Reporter: Bobby Parks

Meet Me at the Sheriffs Department

Several years ago I had a friend that joined our hunting club located in central Georgia along the Flint River. This property was loaded with wild hogs and he seemed as anxious to shoot one of them as he was to shoot a big deer. He had no idea where to get started so I told him where one of my secret spots was and that he would be welcome to hunt there. But:  I asked him to focus on killing a big buck and to hold off on the pig killing until after the rut was over. I specifically asked him not to shoot a hog in the place I was sending him because there was a good buck using the area and that I’d be hunting some there as well.

I explained that the best way in to this location would require him to park just off the main highway and I told him where the “bright eyes” markers were that led to the area he could use his portable stand. He had the luxury of adjusting his work schedule and could hunt during the week. Several days later he called me on my cell phone and said he had shot a big boar out of the stand but left him there because he couldn’t do anything with him by himself and he didn’t really want him anyway.  I couldn’t leave work and drive two and a half hours to our lease to help him and I was also a little disappointed that he hadn’t heeded my request about not shooting a hog out in a good buck area that early in the season.

Sometimes it pays to know the “right “people, so after I got off the phone and had time to think about it, I called my “Special delivery” friend (see “Special Delivery “ / Humor in the Field” ) who worked with a guy that was just incredible at doing impersonations. This guy really had “Hollywood “talent and could entertain you and sound like anyone he wanted to.  Together my buddy and I formulated a plan and recruited Mr. Hollywood to help carry it out.

The next afternoon my friend who had killed the hog called me and seemed upset and said, “Man I think I have a problem”. Being the good friend that I am I voiced concern and asked what happened?

He told me that he’d just gotten off the phone with the game warden that had tracked him down through his tag number and obtained his home and cell phone numbers. He continued to tell me that a couple of the timber cruisers that were marking trees along the waterways for future timber cutting had heard him shoot, found the dead pig, saw his truck parked on the highway, and just happened to get his tag number. They according to my friend had reported all of this to the game warden.

The warden had told him that based on the timber cruisers statements that he was a suspect of violating the “Cruelty to Animals” and “Game Waste Act” and that his hunting license had been electronically suspended until further notice. He stated that he was now in their computer data bank until this issue could be resolved. The warden also demanded that he appear at the county Sherriff’s office the following Saturday morning at 8:00 for questioning by the DNR officer and a sheriffs deputy. He was told to bring his hunting rifle which would be confiscated so they could conduct a forensic and ballistic analysis.

Of course being surprised that my friend was being put through the wringer and really impressed with how well “Mr. Hollywood” had done his job, I expressed my concern for him and acknowledged it did sound serious. I suggested that he might want to have an attorney present and mentioned how bad the timing was since the weather was going to be great that weekend and the rut was getting close.

I could tell that he had bought into our recruited Hollywood impersonators acting program and had bit hook, line, and sinker. I began to feel bad about it so I started letting him slowly know that he had been had. I know he wanted to be mad at me and he did have a few abusive words for me but he was so relieved he never got really angry.

I reminded him that next time someone shared their hunting spots with him and made special request regarding such, that he might want to keep those suggestions in mind so bad things wouldn’t happen. I’m pretty sure it sunk in this time.




Please Help Save the Bugs

Outdoor World Reports

OWR: Report: With all the concerns facing us today, the documented increases in wild turkey aggression and their alarming annihilation of the worm, slug, and bug populations in the U.S. are quickly rising to the top. A recent Zogby poll indicated it had moved into the top 10 concerns by environmentalist surpassing ozone deterioration and greenhouse fears.

A study conducted by the SBIC (Scientific Bug Institute of California) has shown that an estimated 2.1 billion insects a year are killed by turkeys in America. The SBIC study also indicated that if this phenomenon continues unchecked many species including crickets and the Southeastern Earthworm could become endangered if not extinct by 2020. Some slugs in the U.S. are already feared to be beyond recovery. A senior scientist, Motobota Snotlik, who was involved in the study, claims that this crisis could set in motion an irreversible impact on the natural food chain and upset the earth’s natural balance.

A documented incident in Florence South Carolina involved several gobblers ransacking a bait store in an effort to get to crickets and worms. The store owner was able to escape with only scratches and pecking injuries and was treated and released at Florence General Hospital. A customer was not so lucky and suffered serious injuries when he tried to escape the attack by running into the street and was struck by a Pinky Dinky ice cream truck. The victim was expected to make a full recovery and was listed in satisfactory condition. Authorities believe the music played by the Pinky Dinky truck may have assisted in dispersing the turkeys from the scene before emergency vehicles arrived.

Scientist are theorizing that the sound made by crickets can be heard at long distances by turkeys who are known to possess a keen sense of hearing, and that bait shops should consider playing Pinky Dinky background music  or install a sound barrier around their businesses in areas with known turkey populations. The music from the song “YMCA” is also thought to be effective in keeping turkeys away.

One scientist claims that turkeys are descendants of the prehistoric terradactyl and a normally dormant gene that created aggressiveness in terradactyls is part of all turkey subspecies’s genetic make up. He theorizes that changing climatic conditions due to Global Warming may have triggered a reactivation of these aggressive genes and tendencies. He voiced concerns that over the next 2 decades this aggressiveness could escalate and involve actual attacks on humans and cause an increase in size of the bird itself. He stated that a “Planet of the Apes “world take over type of scenario is not out of the question.

Although many measures are being considered to address this phenomenon, authorities claim that turkey hunters can help with this effort to save America’s bugs. They recommend that all hunters should practice and improve their calling skills and read and study ways too increase their killing abilities. Other suggestions included improving shooting patterns, using 3.5 “shells and adding assault weapon extensions for faster follow-up shots for group encounters. A local DNR officer suggested that hunters do the following: Ask your non-hunting friends to make donations to your hunting funds. Ask friends and family to assist in finding and gaining permission to hunt tracts of land that turkeys may be congregating in for a future attack. Persuade your employer to provide you with extra paid days off from work so that you can dedicate more time to this important effort.

Encourage everyone you know to donate to the Bobby Parks National Bug Savers / Hunting Fund to further assist him and his team of turkey trackers in leading this effort to save the bugs. The non profit organization, Neck Busters Inc. is also encouraging donations. Contributors will receive a “Save the Bugs” tee shirt and a cap with an “Earthworms Deserve to Live” emblem.

OWR: Writer Bobby Parks