John's Journal...

The Misery of a Miss

The Wide-Open Miss
Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Most veteran gobbler takers belong to a secret fraternity, but few will admit their membership. This fraternity's painful and memorable initiation develops a bond for life that comforts the members and will help you when you join the group. You can recognize members when they use certain secret passwords like, “Been there, done that,” “Yeah, buddy, I know how that feels,” “Get over it, I've done it too,” and “Only the people who don't hunt them don't miss them.” Members of the fraternity also communicate differently. When someone describes how he's missed a turkey, one of his fraternity brothers will sClick to enlargeimply smile and nod his head. Then both men know that they belong to the Misery-Of-A-Miss Fraternity.

Most veterans in this turkey-hunting fraternity remember the misses they've made much longer than they'll recall the great gobblers they've bagged. I'm no exception. I went on my first Merriam's turkey hunt many years ago in the mountains of New Mexico with Allen Jenkins, the president of Lynch Calls in Thomasville, Georgia, and his friend, Dale Faust. Really charged-up on the first morning out of camp, I heard one of those beautiful birds with the white-tipped tail feathers talking to the high mountain timber.        "There he is – let's go get him," I said to Faust as I started running up the mountain. I knew I was in good physical shape. I'd run 3 to 5 miles per day for 3 days a week and turkey hunted 4 days a week for some time. But after a 100-yard sprint, I felt as though someone had turned my oxygen off. I could hardly breathe and panted like a dog after a 15-mile coon chase. My legs trembled, and my chest pounded.        

As I struggled for air, Faust finally arrived by my side and said, "Bubba, I think we'll get to that bird quicker if we take our time and walk a little slower. The air in these mountains is quite a bit thinner than it is down home." I looked up and said, "You know, the Good Lord in His infinite wisdom has given these people here in the West some of the most-beautiful scenery in the world.  But He sure has short-changed them when it comes to air." We sat down at a little plateau and began to call to the turkeys. In less than 10 minClick to enlargetes, I saw the white crown of the turkey's head and the white-tipped tail feathers of a tremendous-sized Merriam's coming toward me.  I'd never seen a turkey as big as this Merriam's. Immediately I mentally had that bird mounted on my wall. The gobbler stepped behind a small bush, and I got my gun on my knee, my cheek on the stock and my finger on the safety. When the bird stepped outinto the clearing, I pushed my safety off and slowly slid my index finger over the trigger. With the bird at 20 yards and in a perfect position for the shot, Faust clucked. The bird's neck went up. I had to move slightly to my left to shoot around a small saplClick to enlargeing. At the report of my 3-inch Magnum, wings caught air, and although this bird is not aerodynamically designed to fly, it did.        

"I can't believe you missed that turkey," Faust said. "He was standing in the clearing with nothing between you and him. You had plenty of time to shoot and absolutely no reason to miss." In my heart, I knew Faust was right. Although I looked everywhere for an excuse, I couldn't find one. Finally, after 20 minutes of standing around and trying to determine what had happened, I went back to the spot, sat down and reenacted the shot while Faust watched me. When I made the same little move to shoot around the tree, Faust declared, "Now, I see the reason you missed. You're canting your shotgun. You've rolled it off your shoulder, and you're not looking straight down the barrel at the bead." I came off the mountain that morning like a whipped puppy – head down, ears almost dragging the ground and tail tucked between my legs. Back at camp, although two other hunters had bagged their gobblers, the story of my miss superseded all other conversation. The next morning when I woke up, I discovered that someone had poured dry dog food in my hunting boots to show my place in life – lower than a whipped dog. Two days later when I bagged a nice Merriam's gobbler, I still found my victory overshadowed by the misery of the first day's miss.

Tomorrow: My Greatest Miss

Check back each day this week for more about "The Misery of a Miss "

Day 1: Missing with the Crowd and the Joy of the Get-Back
Day 2: The Wide Open Miss
Day 3: My Greatest Miss
Day 4:The Redemption Gobbler
Day 5: Credentials for the Misery of a Miss Fraternity


Entry 453, Day 2