John's Journal...

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

Day 4: The Fool-Me-Once Turkey and Eddie Salter’s Last Chance 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 Fool-Me-Once Turkey:

Click for Larger ViewMy father felt learning to hunt and fish was important. He took my brother Archie and me into the woods and out on the water every chance he had. We spent many enjoyable days afield. When my son John was of age, I wanted to share with him my love of outdoor sports. For his first turkey hunt, John and I were using a lease we shared with a couple of other sportsmen. On the morning of this particular hunt, there were several other hunters in camp, so we left early for the woods. At first light, we heard a turkey gobble and went to him.

Click for Larger ViewTaking a stand about 75-yards from the bird, I gave a few tree calls, and the turkey answered. We waited awhile for the turkey to fly-down. I made a fly-down cackle, and the tom gobbled again. Then the turkey began to gobble on his own. So, I whispered to John, who was sitting between my legs, “Get your gun on your knee, son. We’re going to kill this turkey.” However, for about 45 minutes, the turkey gobbled but wouldn’t come any closer. Then I heard another hunter calling to this same turkey. “Come on, son,” I told John. “We’ll move somewhere else and try and call the turkey in from another direction. Then either the other hunter will bag the bird, or we will.”

We changed locations and once more called to the gobbler. The turkey was just as responsive to the calling as he had been earlier and gobbled frequently. But he still wouldn’t walk into the area where we were calling. Finally after 2-1/2-hours, the turkey strolled off and finally gobbled again, but almost out of our hearing range. Confused and frustrated, John and I returned to camp. Shortly, another hunter came in and asked if we had been trying to call a turkey down by the creek. When I said we had, this hunter said he was the other caller attempting to work the same bird. “I didn’t think either one of us had much of a chance of bagging that turkey though, because I shot at him right there last week,” he said. Then I understood why the gobbler wouldn’t come to either one of us. Turkeys avoid places where they’ve been shot at previously. And, no amount of calling will bring a bird to where he doesn’t want to go.

Eddie Salter’s Last Chance Gobbler:

Click for Larger ViewEddie Salter of Brewton, Alabama, and I had been hunting hard for 3 days. Although we had seen three jakes, we hadn’t even heard a longbeard, let along had one in our gun sights. Time was running out as I had to leave for home within the next few hours. As we were driving through the countryside looking for turkeys, Salter spotted a big gobbler with a jake and some hens out in the middle of a field. “You want to try for him, John?” Salter asked. “We might as well,” I said. “Because this is the last chance we’ll have before I leave.”

Click for Larger ViewWe slipped along the edge of the woods and watched the turkey through binoculars. The tom was 200-yards away in a clean pasture. I knew our chances of taking this bird fell somewhere between slim and none. But before we could even set-up and make an attempt to call the bird, fate intervened. Someone on the other side of the field fired a shotgun. I don’t know whether they were shooting at the turkey or some other critter, but the gobbler rose straight up from the ground like a Huey helicopter, turned in midair and flew straight for where Salter and I were standing next to a pine tree. “I’m not believing this,” I said as the big tom shortened the distance between us. When the old gobbler was straight overhead, I squeezed the trigger on my 12 gauge, and the bird folded.

Tomorrow: Allen Jenkins’ Phantom Gobbler

Check back each day this week for more about "Catch Crappie Now in February, But Watch the Weather with John E. Phillips "

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 4