John's Journal...

Turkey Hunting with Bo Pitman of White Oak Plantation

The Cussing Gobbler

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Bo Pitman can’t remember when he hasn’t hunted turkeys. For more than 20 years, he’s guided and hunted turkeys at White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Alabama, a 30,000-acre-plus hunting lodge that has some of the best turkey hunting in the nation. From March 14th to the end of April, Pitman’s in the woods of White Oak hunting turkeys every day. With stands of hardwood timber, pine plantations and fields dispersed throughout the property, White Oak’s ideal habitat for the Eastern wild turkey. Each season, 30 to 50 hunters bag from 35 to 55 turkeys off this property. I don’t know any other place in the nation with more gobbling Eastern turkeys than White Oak. This week, we’ll ask Pittman what’s required to take a longbeard, and what we need to know to increase our odds for taking gobblers this spring.

One of the biggest problems turkey hunters face is being still and patient enough to take a turkey. Our whole society’s motivated by “Get it done quickly, get it done now, and those who wait, lose.” But when you’re hunting turkeys, just the opposite is true, because you have to wait for that turkey to come to you, if you hope to get a shot at him. If you don’t get a shot at him today, you have to go back tomorrow and wait for him again. I’ve spent from daylight to dark not moving more than 100 yards because to be where a gobbler wants to go, you have to know where the gobbler wants to go before he knows it. This is especially true of really old turkeys. Turkeys learn more than people think they do, especially old gobblers. A gobbler that’s survived until he’s 4- or 5-years old knows every hen’s call in the area where he lives. He also can tell the difference between a turkey call and a hen call. He knows each trick and tactic played byClick to enlarge turkey hunters, and although he may have his core area, he rarely ever does the same thing every day. The Cussing Gobbler is a classic example. This ole turkey got his name, the cussing gobbler, because he’d beaten me and the other guides so many times. There was no way to describe this bird without invoking some kind of hatred and frustration resulting in derogatory and profane names for the gobbler. Normal words generally used to describe turkeys just didn’t fit this old gobbler. I met very few people who hunted this turkey and didn’t curse him because he’d beaten them so badly. Without question, he was one of the finest and the smartest gobblers we ever had at White Oak.

I believe this turkey was 10-years old or older, because he was a mature gobbler when I first started hunting him, and I hunted him for five years. Although we’d get close from time to time, we never could take him. I learned a lot about how to hunt mature, smart turkeys from this gobbler. This bird would fly down out in the middle of a field and gobble his brains out. He was one of the best gobbling turkeys we had in the region. Many mornings, I watched him call in his hens, breed his hens and then leave the field. If I called to him, he’d take off running. He was one of those big-headed toms that had a head like a bulldog and a big heavy frame. There were two fields where he usually always hung out. I’d spend 5 to 10 days each season trying to take that turkey in those fields. Finally, I realized that the only way I’d get that old bird was to set up an ambush for him and not call, because he definitely wouldn’t come to a call. There was a small woods road cut between the two fields. This little road offered the easiest way for the gobbler to travel from one field to the other. Usually, I’d hunt this road one or two timeClick to enlarges a season by simply creating a blind on the side of the road and putting my hunter in the blind with me to see if the Cussing Gobbler would walk that road that day. Finally, one day I was hunting with Steve Harper of Sanford, Florida, and I told him about the Cussing Gobbler. Steve made the decision that whatever it took, he wanted to try to bag that turkey. The next morning, Steve and I woke up before daylight and went to sit in that little blind beside the road. I told Steve before we went out hunting, “We may sit here all day and see nothing, because I’m sure this turkey doesn’t walk this road every day. If we don’t see him today, we’ll go back tomorrow, and we may have to sit in that blind all day in that same spot again. But if you’ll be patient and sit still, we’ll be able to kill the cussing gobbler.” Steve agreed to the plan.

On the morning Steve and I went to hunt him, we got in our blind before daylight, heard the bird fly down out in the field and listened to him gobble like a politician trying to drum up votes. Every time that bird gobbled, I’d have to mentally fight the urge to pick up my slate call and give him just one or two yelps. As I started reaching for the call, a voice deep down in my soul would say, “Don’t do it, Bo. If you call to him, you won’t take him.” So, from daylight until 4:30 pm, we sat still in that blind and listened to that turkey gobble, breed hens, strut and drum. Finally, at 4:30 pm, I saw the Cussing Gobbler coming down the road. I told Steve to get ready. I knew that tClick to enlargeoday was the day this old bird that had been tormenting me for so long was about to go to that great roost tree in the sky. Steve had his gun up and was ready to make the shot, but I wanted the turkey to get really close so that there was no way Steve could miss. When the bird was at 35 yards, I told Steve he was almost within killing range, but we let him come a little closer. Finally, when the old gobbler was at 25 steps, I told Steve to take him. For the rest of my life, I’ll always see and remember what happened.

At the report of the shotgun, the Cussing Gobbler turned quickly and started running back down the road the way he’d come. He gathered himself up, got his wings out and went airborne. The bird flew about 300 yards, landed in a big tree and stood there looking back toward where the shot had come. I still can see that gobbler now standing in that tree with his neck bobbing back and forth, looking for us. I turned to Steve and said, “That’s good. You didn’t hurt him. You missed him clean, and it looks like he’ll survive another season. That @#!?&*@ ole turkey just out-turkeyed us again today.” Just as we were getting up to leave, I looked back at the @#!?&*@ Cussing Gobbler and he began to rock back and forth. Then all of a sudden, like someone had hit him right between the eyes with a baseball bat, he fell backwards out of that tree. The bird didn’t flutter or flop. He just fell stone-cold dead off that limb. We went over and recovered him. He had some of the longest spurs of any tom ever taken at White Oak Plantation. Over the years, that @#$%*&@ ole turkey taught me that an old turkey can learn. He learned the voices of the other turkeys there, all the calls of the hunters in his area and all the tricks that turkey hunters tried to play on gobblers. From that turkey, I learned that if you’re willing to wait, and if you learn to hunt on turkey time rather than your own time, you can take old gobblers.

For more information on hunting at White Oak Plantation, call (334) 727-9258, or visit, or email

Tomorrow: Understanding Turkey Time

Check back each day this week for more about "Turkey Hunting with Bo Pitman of White Oak Plantation"

Day 1: The Cussing Gobbler
Day 2: Understanding Turkey Time
Day 3: Stuff You’ve Gotta Have
Day 4: Why Your Gun Doesn’t Shoot Straight
Day 5: Stingy Calling



Entry 392, Day 1