John's Journal...

The Misery of a Miss

My Greatest 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 simply smile and nod his head. Then both men know that they belong to the Misery-OfClick to enlarge-A-Miss Fraternity.

I'm convinced and become more so each year that the Lord in His infinite wisdom created the wild turkey gobbler to help a man keep his life in perspective and his ego in check. You show me a turkey hunter who claims he doesn't have a big ego, and I'll show youa man who will lie about something else. Those who write about turkey hunting, myself included, have an even harder time dealing with the egos associated with gobbler chasing. When I finished my first of four turkey-hunting books, I felt really good about John E. Phillips and his turkey-hunting mastery.  Someone who writes a book on turkey hunting either knows plenty about the sport or has acquaintances with numbers of people who are experts on the sport. I believed my turkey-hunting skills would rival those of most hunters. But today I realize that the turkey-hunting ego disease infects a large number of sportsmen at the beginning of turkey season.  I found a cure for this delusion on my first turkey hunt to Missouri many years ago with Brad Harris, well-known hunter and videographer. Harris had built a reputation as one of the nation's best turkey hunters, and I felt fortunate to have an opportunity to hunt with and learn from this master of the sport. I also thought Harris could learn a few things from me.Click to enlarge

At first light, we set up on a turkey that we'd heard calling from the roost. In less than 15 minutes, Harris had charmed that gobbler out of the tree and had the bird on his way to us. While coming toward us, the gobbling bird picked up two long-bearded buddies, and all three headed straight for Harris and me. Although the first two birds had beards 8 inches or longer, the last was the dominant gobbler and came in full strut. Havingjust published a book on turkey hunting, I didn't even consider taking a shot at one of thesubordinate birds. I opted for the biggest trophy – the pompous, strutting gobbler. With the bird at 20 yards, I squeezed the trigger. The world exploded with gobblers everywhere in the air but nowhere on the ground. Harris, always the gracious host, didn't say, "I can't believe you missed."  Instead he left the door open for an excuse by asking, "What happened?"    I mentally went through everyexcuse but couldn't find one to fit the situation. Finally I told Harris, "Brad, I don't know what happened. I can't believe I missed the bird." "That's okay, Bubba, we've got plenty of time before we have to Click to enlargequit," Harris responded. "Let's go get another one."

Then my turkey-hunting ego went down the drain along with my self esteem. To save face, I felt I had to bag a bird before the end of the day.      At 9 a.m., Harris had another turkey in front of us. Harris sat 10 yards to my right, and the bird came walking straight to us from my left. The turkey stopped approximately 20 yards from me and 30 yards from Harris, stuck his neck up and looked straight at Harris. "That's a dead gobbler," I thought as I pushed the safety off and began to squeeze the trigger. But half an instant before the explosion, I watched as the turkey jerked his head back.  I'd missed again – two birds in one morning. I no longer had any pride or ego or felt any importance at all. Missing was bad enough, but missing twice after just finishing a book about how to take turkeys – and in front of a legend in the turkey-hunting industry – was as bad a deed as a turkey hunter could commit. For once in my life, I didn't know what to say. I realized that anything I said would be wrong and viewed as a lie.  I could only ask, "Brad, what are we gonna do now?" Harris shook his head in disgust and said, "I don't know about you, but I'm going to take a nap and try to forget today. When I wake up, we'll start over again like it's anew day, okay?" "Yeah," I said as humbly as I could utter the words. Although we both lain down in the leaves, like a convicted criminal six hours before going to the electric chair, I couldn't relax.  I was 100-percent miserable.

Tomorrow: The Redemption Gobbler

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 3