John's Journal...


What To Do When All Else Fails

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: When hunting with my black-powder shotgun, I always wait until the bird comes in 10 to 12 yards closer to me than I do if I hunt with a conventional shotgun. My killing ground becomes 10 to 20 yards. I've chosen to play the game of hunting turkeys with black powder this way because I've bagged enough gobblers that I don't need to shoot every tom I spot. I consider playing the game fairly more important than bagging a bird. The rules I set up for hunting a tom with black powder help to stack the odds even more heavily in the turkey's favor.

Bo Pitman, the manager of White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Alabama, and I had hunted for two long and hard days to get a gobbler close enough to take with my black-powder shotgun. On the morning of the second day, we called in a gobbler and three hens within 30 yards. But they wouldn't come close enough to where I needed to take the shot. At 10 a.m. on the second day, Pitman suggested we start walking and calling on some woods roads to cover ground and try to locate a gobbler. We had traveled about 1/4-mile along a backwoods clay road Click to enlargewhen the road started to climb. About 6 yards in front of me, Pitman cut on his slate caller. Immediately, a turkey boomed out a gobble. "Get down, get down," Pitman hissed at me in a whisper. "We're right on top of this bird." But I couldn't find a place to hide. I didn't see a tree to lean up against. I had to sit I the middle of that clay road. Luckily the road cut through a hill. The turkey stood above us and couldn't spot us on the road. If we moved off the road, the tom would see us. Pitman sat almost at the top of the hill with me just below and about 8 feet from him.

No turkey hunter in his right mind would take a stand without any back cover to break up his silhouette. Most hunters would want some front cover also to help camouflage them. But Pitman and I had no other option. "I can see the bird," Pitman whispered. "He's less than 20 yards from you. You can make that shot." I whispered back to Pitman that I couldn't see the turkey, although I heard the bird continue to gobble and drum. In a few minutes, Pitman told me, "The turkey looks like he's only 12 yards from you. Shoot him." "Is he standing to the left or right of my barrel?" I asked in a hushed tone. "He's straight off the end of your barrel," Pitman whispered out of the corner of his mouth. "You're right in front of him." "I still can't see him," I said. "Please kill this turkey, John," Pitman begged. "I can't stand the suspense any more.".

Click to enlargeI mounted my shotgun and waited. The turkey took two steps up the hill toward me and stuck his neck up. "Now, you can shoot him," Pitman said when the bird approached at 10 yards. "No, I can't," I said as slowly as I could. A small sapling about 1-1/2-inches in diameter stood in front of the turkey's neck and head. Even though I could see the gobbler from his beak to his toenails, I knew if I squeezed the trigger, the sapling would eat the lead intended for the turkey's head. The tom finally had had enough of this game. He saw me as a blob of camo sitting in the middle of the road that had been vacant. The hen he had heard calling a few minutes earlier now had disappeared. The gobbler putted and took one step forward, cocking his head, preparing to break and run. But he gave me enough time and clearance to squeeze the trigger. The gun went off, the gobbler went down, and Pitman arrived on the bank holding the bird before I could get up.

"I can’t believe you waited that long to take the shot," Pitman said. "I knew the turkey could see us. I'm surprised we didn't spook him sooner. I've never seen a turkey shot that close with black powder. Although you might have shot him while he stood behind the sapling, I think you did the right thing by waiting and making the bird give you a clean shot."

Click to enlargeWhen you've got a bird on the ground, you can smell the scent of burnt powder, and you've played the game fairly, then you've won. Pitman and I had worked the bird in close. But more importantly, we got lucky. My black-powder shotgun did the rest.

To learn more about turkey hunting, call Night Hawk Publications, (205) 967-3830 or write 4112 Camp Horner Road, Birmingham, AL 35243 to order John E. Phillips' three turkey-hunting books, "Turkey Hunting Tactics," "The Master's Secrets to Turkey Hunting" and "Outdoor Life's Complete Book of Turkey Hunting." You can visit to read book excerpts.


Check back each day this week for more about GETTING LUCKY ON TURKEYS WITH BLACK POWDER

Day 1: The Enjoyment and Challenge of Hunting Turkeys with Black Powder
Day 2: How to Solve Black-Powder Turkey-Hunting Problems
Day 3: How I Play The Game of Turkey Hunting with Black Powder - Rules #1-3
Day 4: How I Play The Game - Rules #4-7
Day 5: What To Do When All Else Fails



Entry 294, Day 5