John's Journal...

Turkey Hunting Ain’t Just About Taking Turkeys

Day 5: Eddie Salter and John E. Phillips Hear the Words, “Daddy, You Killed My Turkey”

Editor’s Note: Do you consider fooling a longbeard and bringing him within gun range the essence of turkey hunting? Or, does turkey hunting have an intrinsic value to you that goes beyond your ability to harvest a gobbler every spring and fall? In my world of turkey hunting, I view my turkey-hunting experiences as part of a continuing-education program. My goal in life is not only to take turkeys, but rather to learn all I can about how to take turkeys and to create memories that last much longer than feathers and meat do.

Click for Larger ViewEddie Salter of Evergreen, Alabama, World Champion turkey caller and member of the Hunter’s Specialties staff, my son John and I sat on the edge of a cornfield late in the afternoon on the last day of a turkey hunt. We’d hunted hard for 2 days and had failed to get my pre-teen son his second gobbler ever. Salter and John sat next to a fallen tree close to the cornfield where we’d watched turkeys earlier in the day. Click for Larger ViewI sat about 50 yards to the right of them and some 30-yards back in the woods. I still could see the two of them if they took a turkey, but I wouldn’t interfere with their hunt. Although Salter called expertly, no gobblers answered. Finally, after fly-up time had passed, Salter and John gathered-up their equipment to head back to camp. I heard footsteps on the leaves. Looking over my shoulder, I spotted four, long-bearded gobblers marching toward the field in single file. Unaware of the turkeys, my son stood-up and put-on his hunting vest, after laying his shotgun down. I knew the gobblers would spook and leave as soon as they saw Salter and John. When the birds walked behind a thicket, less than 20-yards from me, I readied my gun on my knee and waited as I warred with myself. I wanted John to take the turkey, but realistically I knew he didn’t have a prayer of getting a shot as soon as the turkeys spotted him and Salter. The lead gobbler stepped out from behind the brush, looked straight at the two hunters and clucked. Before the cluck cleared the turkey’s beak, I fired.

Click for Larger View“You scared us to death, Daddy,” John yelled. “What are you doing?” With his turkey vest half-on and a scowl on his face, John walked to where I sat and saw the turkey flopping in the leaves. “Daddy, you killed my turkey,” John said. And, all the explanations in the world wouldn’t change his mind. Click for Larger ViewEven today, when we hunt turkeys together, he laughingly tells everyone within earshot, “Let me tell you about the day my daddy killed my turkey” – another turkey hunt not about the turkey but rather about the memory. In my early days of turkey hunting, I hunted like a lone wolf with no one knowing where or how I hunted. After I satisfied my need to prove my turkey-hunting prowess to myself, I searched for opportunities to turkey hunt with others – to learn from them and to teach them, but most importantly, to build memories of hunting this noblest of all God’s creatures with my friends and family. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the joy of turkey hunting ain’t about the turkeys, but rather the people I hunt with, the problems we encounter afield, the difficulties we overcome together and the memories we create.

Check back each day this week for more about "Turkey Hunting Ain’t Just About Taking Turkeys "

Day 1: South Dakota’s Howling Gobblers Create Memories for Brad Harris and John E. Phillips
Day 2: Mark Drury and John E. Phillips Hunt a Drowned Gobbler in a Raging Rainstorm
Day 3: Bo Pitman and John E. Phillips Hunt a Naked Gobbler
Day 4: Bo Pitman and John E. Phillips Hunt a Naked Gobbler, Part II
Day 5: Eddie Salter and John E. Phillips Hear the Words, “Daddy, You Killed My Turkey”

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Entry 606, Day 5