Category Archives: Remembered Hunts

Turkey hunting stories from Grand Slam Network members are shared in our Remembered Hunts Series

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.

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.

When Fighting Purrs Really Work

Georgia Opening Morning 2010

As I sat against a tree listening to the hens still on the limb 60 yards away, I strained to hear that first gobble. I was hearing lots of tree talk from the hens but so far not the gobbler music I was hoping for.  It was opening day of the 2010 Georgia season and I was hunting an 80 acre property bordered by the Etowah River in North Georgia. I had watched this flock of hens the evening before and knew where they were roosted.  I didn’t believe a gobbler was in the group but I hoped maybe one was nearby that I hadn’t seen.

Georgia gobbler that responded to fighting purrs
Georgia gobbler that responded to fighting purrs

The truth is, I had not heard a gobble on the property leading up to the start of the season and didn’t know for sure if any gobblers were even around. I knew that opening weekend would be my best chance on this tract if birds were there because another person would be hunting this same property later and someone hunted across the river. Although I had planned a few travel hunts,  I had not secured any other property in my home state so not only was this my only hunting option for opening weekend, but possibly for the season in Georgia.

After fifteen minutes of listening to the hens, I heard wings flapping and caught glimpses of birds coming down out of the trees. It appeared to be 10 or so hens most of which were landing on the end of the ridge I was on. I could see some of them but mostly just caught movement. Moments after the last bird landed I thought I heard a distant gobble. The hens were making such a fuss it was difficult to hear, but I finally heard gobbles again. It came from a long ways off but there was no mistaking the sound. I had already concluded that no gobblers were with the birds near me so I was anxious to get up and go after him. But, I didn’t want to spook the birds in front of me, so I stayed put until they dropped down over the edge and out of sight.

As soon as the last head disappeared I rolled left, crawled back a few yards, dropped over the ridge, and started “fast walking” to skirt the birds. Once I hit an old logging road and knew I had cleared the hens I took off at a run towards the river. A couple hundred yards later I worked my way up over a rise and stopped to listen. I was out of breath couldn’t hear anything over my own gasping at first but then heard the gobbles again. It was closer now and it sounded like more than one bird.

I hurried across the hill but as I topped it, I could see the river and realized the birds were on the other side and off my tract of land. My heart sank for a few seconds knowing I couldn’t get to them although I was glad to know there were at least gobblers around. I decided to work my way down the hill and then try and figure out what to do. They were 200 yards away from my hill top position but the hill I was on was steep with open hardwoods so I was worried they might spot my movement. I kept trees lined up between them and me as best I could and five minutes later I had worked my way down to the logging road that ran along my side of the river.

 Across the River

The river was 50 yards wide and I could see the birds 80 yards away from the far bank, out in an open field. There were 2 gobblers, a jake, and a few hens. The jake was pestering the gobblers and they kept chasing him off from the hens. He must not have known the hierarchy rules because he was a persistent rascal and would turn around and walk right back to them only to be chased again.

I watched them through binoculars and then yelped on a box call. They were hot and gobbled right back at me. I hit the call a couple more times getting the same response. One of the gobblers started moving towards me but the hens kept slowly easing forward maintaining the 80 yard buffer from the bank and he hooked back to them.  I continued to ease down the road trying to come up with an idea but not seeing a way to break the stalemate.  This went on for another  100 yards before I saw an opening from the river on my side and remembered seeing turkey tracks there indicating it might be a spot they flew across. It was a 30’ wide slot clear of trees and foliage and there was a clearing on the opposite bank as well. I moved down within 20 yards of it and let them work down their side a little further.

I knew yelping wasn’t going to be effective so I pulled out a slate call and began to aggressively do the fighting purrs call. This turkey calling tactic has worked well in the past in various scenarios and it seemed like my only shot at the moment. As soon as I started calling the birds went ballistic and the jake turned and starting walking towards the river. I continued working the striker hard and fast over the slate as the jake continued my way now 30 yards from the group. One of the gobblers broke and started following the jake and a few seconds later the second gobbler broke loose as well. My new buddy Jake kept coming with his gobbling entourage in tow. In fact, the gobblers seemed to speed up which caused my “Hope Meter” to start rising. Once the jake got within 15 yards of the bank he ran a few steps and lifted off heading straight for my opening only 20 yards away from me. God bless fighting purrs and stupid jakes!

Once the leading gobbler saw the jake take to the air, he lifted off still 30 yards out in the field headed across the river! I dropped the call and snatched my shotgun up and faced the opening down the logging road. The jake landed 20 yards away and ran a few steps after touch down with the first gobbler landing in his footsteps. The gobbler ran a few steps off to the right of the road and stopped at which point my gun went off and he dropped. I didn’t know what the other gobbler had done but that answer came a few seconds later when he touched down in their established landing path. At first I wasn’t going to shoot him because I normally just take one bird if more than one comes in. But, my mind was racing, and he just kept standing there. I decided this might be my only other chance if others hunted the property so I talked myself into taking him.

The event was surreal and I could not believe what had just transpired. As I watched one of the birds flopping I noticed there wasn’t a choke tube in my gun and realized I’d forgotten to put it back in after taking the modified out after my last dove shoot. That was a first and I guess it’s a good thing they were close because who knows what kind of pattern I was spraying out. I was elated and felt bad at the same time for taking the other bird and hoped that the threads inside my barrel weren’t messed up. But as I walked out carrying one bird in my vest and the other over my shoulder thinking about what just happened, I began to feel fine with it because I knew that they may be the only two Eastern birds I’d have  a chance at that season. And the unexpected adventure that brought them into range would be one I’d never forget.

Fighting Purrs Work

I have used fighting purrs with mixed results prior to that day and since. In this case it worked really well and the jakes response was the key. I don’t know if the gobblers would have come if not for him but my guess is they couldn’t stand to let him come over to see me and it cost them.  On most days I can’t get them over a ditch or across a fence so I would never have expected to coax birds across a river that wide. But once you see something like this happen, you realize anything’s possible.

Fighting purrs have helped me get birds to come into range when nothing else would with many hunts that stand out in my mind. I used it the first time successfully in Texas 11 years ago when I had three gobblers and several hens that started walking away from me. When I turned loose with fighting purrs all three gobblers turned and came 120 yards down a power line straight to me. In Jones County I had two gobblers and a group of hens at the far end of a pasture that wouldn’t budge for 30 minutes but as soon as I hit the fighting purrs, the entire group came running right to me.  My dad and I got a gobbler to come to us one morning on a hunt when nothing else we tried would separate him from his hens.  Wesley Phelps and I did the fighting purrs in New Mexico when there was no doubt the group was leaving us and it turned a couple of gobblers around bringing them in at which point Wesley greeted one with a load of Hevi Shot. In South Georgia I coaxed a gobbler with a 12” beard far enough in my direction from across a field to get him in range. The call has worked on other occasions as well. It’s even worked for short tugs to coax a gobbler over 20 yards when he would not otherwise move at all. But those 20 yards have made the difference more than once when it comes to getting the gobbler in range.

Fighting purrs is still more of a last resort call for me but an option I have confidence in. It absolutely can work and on those occasions that nothing else does, you have little to lose by trying it. For me it seems to work better earlier in the season than later. Mixing wing flaps into the mix as well or having two hunters perform the sequence together can be effective. But it is definitely something you can do by yourself successfully.

The 2 gobblers that flew the river
The 2 gobblers that flew the river

On that morning in 2010 on the Etowah River, when my chance of success seemed slim, it turned out to be a day when fighting purrs worked really well.

By Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom Field Staff

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The Shepherd of the Flock – The Best Turkey Hunt Ever

I have been truly fortunate to have hunted with some great friends and family members in which many wonderful memories have been created. My dad and I have had many good hunts with a couple that are branded in our minds. I’ve experienced great hunts with Jim and Ryan Bates, Zach Thwaite and had some that enter the “adventure” category with Wesley Phelps. That said; the best turkey hunt ever for me occurred several years ago out west on an afternoon turkey hunt with my wife Mary.

I had already taken two birds and although Mary had bought a license she wasn’t sure if she was really ready to shoot a turkey. We headed out early that afternoon and I decided to just take pictures but brought my dads gun which had a red dot sight on it just in case she decided to try and take a bird. Although she had shot my Benelli several times in practice we thought that the red dot sight might be helpful on her first bird. We found a good set up spot that involved a tree with unique features. Two feet up the trunk there was a formation that created a seat with forks running out that provided both comfort and concealment. Knowing we had a long afternoon ahead of us Mary sat in this tree saddle, put a book in a camoed face mask, and began to read. I sat down against the tree between her knees and let things quiet down for a while and then started calling. I had my birds so I wasn’t stressing to kill anything and only wanted pictures if I had the opportunity unless she decided to shoot a bird.

About a half hour later we heard a gobble so she put the book down and I started working what turned out to be two gobblers. It wasn’t long before they were 25 yards in front of us along with a couple hens. They strutted around putting on a show and I started taking pictures. A few minutes later a pheasant walked by us and started feeding with the gobblers which were in no hurry to leave. About this time Mary says,” If I had the gun right now I think I’d shoot one of those gobblers”.


I eased my head around and looked down and saw the gun lying on the ground to my left. I’m thinking there’s no way I can put the camera down, reach over and grab the gun, turn the red dot on, ease it up to her, and have any chance of getting a shot on one of the gobblers as close as they were. I whispered to her that the chances of us pulling this off were slim to none but I would try and work the gun up to her.

I kept watching all 4 turkey heads along with the pheasant as I slowly started trying to ease the camera down and reach for the gun. It must have taken a couple minutes just to put the camera down with me moving slowly, freezing when a head came up and continuing when I thought I could. The birds were busy feeding and strutting around so I started reaching around trying to find the gun which I began to think had crawled off when I finally located it. Surprised I’d made it this far I turned on the sight, and started slowly pulling the gun over and easing the stock up towards Mary. The gobblers kept strutting and turning their fans towards us and the hens were feeding along with the pheasant with their heads up and down. It took what seemed like forever before I had the gun that started out at 7 pounds now felt like it weighed 50 up to her. I whispered and let her know when to move and ease the gun up. She kept her cool and slowly worked the gun up to her shoulder, raised the barrel, and when one of the gobblers raised his head she squeezed off a shot.

She missed and as they ran off the Winchester 1300 with Winchester Supremes that had just about knocked Mary unconscious landed on my legs. She says I fussed at her but I believe I was just trying to help her understand that it’s not good to let go of a shotgun after you pull the trigger or anytime for that matter. She said she couldn’t help it and that it jumped out of her hands after it rattled her jaw and knocked her into the tree. This gun did tend to work the shooter over and I was impressed that she had taken it as she had.


We settled down and decided to stay put as it was still early and I knew we were in a good spot. After about 30-45 minutes I heard another gobble and started calling. Within 5 minutes we had three gobblers literally running in and before I could figure out what to do all three gobblers ran up to within 10 yards of us. I could hear Mary whispering to herself, “Oh crap, oh crap,” as it did appear we were about to get trampled.

She had her gun up and was looking through the red dot when I see two other bigger gobblers top the rise just 30 yards away. She could not see them and just as I was about to whisper for her to swing over onto the other birds she fired. All 5 gobblers took off running all unscathed. Now I’m feeling bad for Mary and I tell her not to worry about it as it’s very difficult for anyone to hit a bird that close. She had shot well practicing with my Benelli but now had lost all confidence in trying to shoot a bird and was feeling pain in her shoulder, neck, and jaw.

We both sat there taking in what had happened. While we were talking I looked up and saw 4 gobblers along with several hens 200 yards away moving along the bottom edge of a long hill coming towards us. I was surprised as I’d never at that point or since saw so many gobblers in that location. While they were coming towards us a few hens were coming across a field to our right on an intersecting course with the other group and within 60 yards of us. We watched and I held off calling because the gobblers were already heading in our direction although I knew they were going towards the roost and could turn up hill at any moment.

What happened next was a big part of what made this the most memorable hunt. The group with the gobblers started turning to go up the hill so I began to call. They would gobble and drifted closer but would not come in. The other hens met up with them and they all started going up the coulees. This was a large steep climb going up 200’ that no Eastern bird would walk up. They were using a mule deer trail and as the group of hens started up the trail we realized one hen had not made it through the fence and was yelping to the others that had left her. She was 90-100 yards back and the hens she was with were already going up the hill. Two of the hens realized that the stranded hen was having problems and turned around, walked back down the hill, and back out to the fence talking with her all the way. They finally helped her through the fence and all three headed back towards the hill. It was touching to see them go back after her and guide her back into the group.

About this time two of the gobblers who were well up the hill by now started fighting and I mean they were going at it. Why they waited until they got on such difficult terrain to tangle I’ll never know but it was like fighting on a cliff. Wings were flapping and the fighting purrs were easy to hear. After this went on for a minute or two they both literally rolled several yards down the hill. I started to think the fall might have killed one of them and that we might be able to just go over and pick one of them up but they both survived and stopped fighting and one gobbler ran up the hill giving up.

The gobbler that won the fight strutted several yards up the trail and then turned and walked out on a little overlooking mound that was a few feet above the trail that all the other birds were walking. He locked into strut and stood there motionless like a statue for at least 10 minutes and until every bird had walked under and by him. Mary said he looked like a Shepherd watching and herding his flock. He really did look majestic and proud of himself and it was an amazing thing to see. Of course I immediately started thinking we needed to come back and try and kill him tomorrow but Mary for some reason said we should leave him alone. I believe she appreciated the beauty of the scene and event.

We did leave them alone and did not come back the next day although I really wanted to. In my mind he was a giant and bigger than all the other gobblers we had seen but I think the occasion made him seem bigger. In all we saw 11 gobblers, had 7 gobblers in range, missed two birds, had a pheasant feeding with the turkeys, got lots of good photos, saw the hens drop back to help the non Einstein hen get through the fence, and the fight with what truly looked like a proud Shepherd overlooking his flock.

Second of the first two gobblers that came in and were missed

So as you can see now the hunt that stands out in my mind as the “best hunt ever’ didn’t even result in a dead turkey. It was an incredible and memorable hunting session though. For most of us it does come down to enjoying the outdoors, the wildlife, the encounters, and the memories created and shared. It doesn’t always require that a bird goes down. That afternoon with all the action packed into it made for the most memorable hunt ever for me and I’m sure for Mary. It would have been a shame to have seen all this alone.

We learned later that the red dot sight had been bumped off and the misses were not her fought. And the hunt ended on a great note when she killed her first bird ever the next morning on a run and gun prairie hunt using my Benelli. That’s a story for another day.

Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak Pro Staff

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.


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.



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 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