John's Journal...

Wily, Wary and Just Plain Weird – The Turkey Gobbler Hall of Fame

Day 2: The Late Billy Maccoy’s Swamp Wizard and Fred Darty’s Know-It-All Gobbler

Editor’s Note: Every gobbler is a challenge, but some are candidates for the Hall of Fame. Gobblers are individuals. Although many will do what they’re supposed to do, when and the way they are supposed to do it, some turkeys become so expert at eluding the hunter they seem almost supernatural. But that’s what I enjoy about the sport of turkey hunting – you never know what’s going to happen, and you’re playing against an opponent on his turf that’s often as smart if not smarter than you are. While pursuing toms, I’ve also had the good fortune to hunt with and interview some of the greatest turkey hunters in America today. All agree there are some gobblers that never can be killed legally. As Tom Kelley, outdoor humorist and turkey-hunting expert says, “The only surefire way I know of to kill a turkey is to catch his leg in a steel trap and beat his brains out with a pick handle.” Let’s look at some of the hunter-dodging toms; birds that seem invincible and will live in the annals of turkey-hunting history.

The Swamp Wizard:

Click for Larger ViewIf a hunter ever begins to believe bagging a turkey is easy, some bird will surely show him the error of his ways. The late Billy Maccoy and I were hunting out of the Southern Sportsman’s Lodge in Hayneville, Alabama, one morning when an old bird truly tried our patience. I enjoy hunting with a partner where one sportsman does the calling, while the other does the gunning. On this particular morning, Maccoy was to call, and I was to shoot.

The hunt started great, and we were confident it would be an easy, quick day of turkey talking. We heard the tom gobble and went to him. We crossed a waist-deep creek and set up in a grove of palmettos. The bird, which was about 100-yards away, had a clear trail to come to us and was extremely responsive to the calls. So, I felt confident we’d have a bird in our bag within 15 minutes.

Click for Larger ViewSitting about 15 yards in front of Maccoy with my gun on my knee, I faced in the direction the bird should come. Within 5 minutes after we heard the gobbler fly off the roost, I heard him drumming and strutting in front of me just behind some palmettos. However, instead of coming straight-in, the bird walked-off to my left and strutted and drummed behind a screen of palmettos 20-yards away. Every 2 or 3 minutes I saw his head dart through an opening in the palmettos. But I decided not to take the bird unless I had a clean shot.

The old turkey was patient. He knew a hen should come around those palmettos if she expected to be bred. I was not patient. I wanted the turkey to step clear of the bushes. For an hour and 20 minutes, it was a Mexican standoff. Maccoy called, and the turkey gobbled. But the bird never came from behind the screen of palmettos, so I could have a clean shot. Finally, with my nerves shattered and my patience at an end, Maccoy changed calls and gave a slight yelp. The tom stepped in front of the screen and stuck his head straight-up. The hunt was over! I was soaking wet with sweat from excitement and anticipation, but the turkey was in our bag.

The Know-It-All Gobbler:

Click for Larger ViewFred Darty specializes in taking super-smart turkeys, but he had one tom that outsmarted him for several years. “I’m convinced this turkey could recognize the human silhouette. Even if a hunter was camouflaged, the turkey seemed to see through the disguise. The old bird would always come-in, but stay just out of gun range looking for the hunter. Once spotted, the bird would walk off, not to be seen again.

Click for Larger View“I fooled with that bird for several years, until I finally figured out what was required to bag him. I decided that if the gobbler recognized the human form and camouflage patterns, the only way to take him would be to eliminate the human form and disguise the camo pattern. So I buried myself in the leaves, laid flat on the ground and called to the bird from that position. Once again, the Know-It-All Gobbler came-in searching for me. I could almost read the tom’s mind as he looked at the base of every tree and could almost hear him say to himself, ‘No hunter there,’ ‘No hunter there,’ and, ‘No hunter there.’ As the gobbler came walking in to where I was, I kept thinking, ‘Ole boy, I’ve finally fooled you.’ I bagged that Know-It-all Gobbler ending years of frustration for me and everyone else I knew!”

Tomorrow: The Walking and Talking Tom Turkey with the Late Ben Rodgers Lee

Check back each day this week for more about "Wily, Wary and Just Plain Weird – The Turkey Gobbler Hall of Fame "

Day 1: Hunting the Cow Pasture Turkey with Seab Hicks
Day 2: The Late Billy Maccoy’s Swamp Wizard and Fred Darty’s Know-It-All Gobbler
Day 3: The Walking and Talking Tom Turkey with the Late Ben Rodgers Lee
Day 4: The Fool-Me-Once Turkey and Eddie Salter’s Last Chance Gobbler
Day 5: Allen Jenkins’ Phantom Gobbler

ALL CONTENT PROTECTED UNDER THE DIGITAL MILLENIUM COPYRIGHT ACT. Content theft, either printed or electronic is a federal offense.


Entry 601, Day 2