John's Journal...

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

Day 5: Allen Jenkins’ Phantom 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.

click for Larger ViewAllen Jenkins had invited me to hunt the elusive white gobblers on the property of his friend, J. C. Brown. Apparently a gene in this Mississippi flock occasionally produced albino turkeys. “We’ve seen white hens on J. C.’s place before, but these three are the first white gobblers we’ve ever spotted,” Jenkins said. Brown had protected these ghostly-white phantoms while they were jakes until they became 2-year olds. Although Brown and Jenkins had called to the birds when they were jakes, they had chosen not to bag the phantoms until they were mature birds. Click for Larger ViewThe plan was for Brown and myself each to try to take one of the birds when the gobblers were 2-years old. We would leave the third gobbler. The first morning we hunted the white gobblers, we didn’t see them. But the second morning, we found them feeding in a field.

“There’s only two birds,” Brown said. “There should be three, and I’ve never seen them when all three gobblers were not together. Someone must have killed one of the birds. I don’t want to take either one of the remaining white gobblers, until I find out what happened to the third turkey.” That afternoon, the game warden called Brown’s home and reported that an adjacent landowner had taken one of the white gobblers when the bird crossed Brown’s property line. The killing of one of the albinos upset Brown so much he asked us not to take either of the other two white birds. Click for Larger ViewLater we were able to call them and watch them for about 45 minutes. Those white gobblers were the most-unusual wild turkeys I’d ever seen.

Hunting the wild turkey is a challenge, but it’s also far more. Toms easily taken are soon forgotten, but those wood wizards, the wily birds with the long beards and sharp spurs, the ones with mystical elusive powers that can drive hunters insane are the ones we all remember. They are the masters of the art of dodging hunters.


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

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Entry 601, Day 5