Turkey Down!…No Wait!…Turkey Up!

Story by Dwayne BecKett

Written by Alan Walker

    The sequence of events that occurred on this particular hunt, was a comedy of errors combined with copious amounts of luck and mixed with a dash of the bizarre.

I had passed that stage of my turkey hunting career where I runned-and gunned up steep ridges and then down into accompanying hollows and creeks, and had quietly resigned myself to the more peaceful approach of hunting from a box blind in the brush on the edge of a food plot.  Such was the case in April 2014 when I was hunting with two friends on the banks of the Talapoosa River in Alabama.  The green field I was hunting that morning was about 200 yards long and about fifty yards wide.

The morning started rather routinely, with no hint of the most unusual events which were about to unfold.  I set up my decoys (a hen and jake) about 30 yards from my blind well before even the first hint of daybreak.  My two hunting companions were similarly set-up: one about 400 yards and the other 800 yards down the river.  We were anxiously anticipating the exhilarating sound of the first gobble – that glorious sound all turkey hunters anticipate for ten months of the year.

 At about 6:05, while it was still quite dark, I looked to my right and noticed a dark object at the upper end of the food plot – about 80 yards away.  In the early-morning darkness, my brain almost immediately identified this object as a tree stump.  However, being familiar with the food plot I was hunting, I knew there were no stumps in that area.  I did not give this unidentified object much thought and proceeded to look away.  However, when I looked back again to my right this object was moving. No stump I thought! I then realized that this dark object was, in fact, a long beard in full strut!

I figured there must be hens nearby since this tom was strutting, but none were visible at first.  However, just a few minutes later two hens emerged from the hard woods. “I’m in business!” I thought to myself. I tried various hen calls but got very little response from the gobbler.  When I tried calling to the tom he would look my way but would then quickly return his attention to the two hens. Unfortunately, after several more minutes, the tom began to act nervous and then turned and ran back into the woods from which he first emerged. “Drats!” I thought to myself and wondered why the tom had run away so abruptly.  I didn’t have to wait long for the answer.

I caught motion out of my peripheral vision where a logging road entered the field close to where the hens were.  Once my brain caught up with what my eyes were attempting to communicate, I realized it was the area boss tom that had just entered the scene at full strut.  I was back in business!…or so I thought. However, when I tried to call to him, he would look my way and gobble, and then turn his attention back to the two hens.

After several minutes, a third gobbler stepped out on the edge of the food plot to my right between the blind and where the hens were.   Again, like the first tom, he seemed nervous and kept a close eye on the dominant gobbler.  Eventually, this subordinate bird must have figured the boss tom was too much for him and he slowly began walking along the edge of the field – right toward my blind.  I remained very still because I had my heart set on bagging the boss tom and didn’t want this subordinate bird to bust me, thereby spoiling my chances.  The subordinate tom eventually walked right past my blind – so close in fact I could have patted him on the head as he walked by.  Fortunately, this subordinate bird never had a clue that the blind he just passed by was occupied by yours truly.

I then turned my attention back to the boss tom on the upper end of the food plot who had made no progress in closing the distance between him and me.   After about 10 minutes, I again noticed movement to my right and a fourth gobbler stepped out of the woods onto the food plot.  He also was nervous and kept his eyes on the boss tom. After several minutes he too began to slowly move away from the dominant bird along the edge of the field, and like the previous bird, was headed right by my blind. Just like the first tom, this subordinate long beard also walked by my blind so close that I could have reached out and grabbed him by the throat. Also, like the bird before him, he walked past my blind without even the slightest hint that I was there.

At this point there were three toms in the food plot: the boss tom on the far end of the field with the hens, and two satellite birds – one of which had just walked past my blind at point blank range. Now, I have been known to talk to myself from time to time, and it was at this point I began negotiating with myself. On one hand I found myself saying “shoot one of those satellite turkeys.  Don’t go home empty-handed.”  On the other hand, I heard a voice saying “wait on that boss bird to move this way.” Back and forth it went until the deliberations in my head reached a definite conclusion.  I decided to shoot the satellite bird that had just passed me and was only about 25 yards away!

I know what you are thinking… “easy shot”…maybe even “perfect shot.”  I raised my gun and with a pull of the trigger sent my three-and-a-half-inch magnum turkey load from my Winchester toward a spot (I thought) right above and below his waddle.  Now I hit the tom all right but did not send him to the ground flopping, so I shot a second time.  He then fell to the ground, performed the usual “flop-dance” routine and then proceeded to lay still. “Got him!” I thought.  I then proceeded to make my way out of the blind and toward my prize. I remember thinking that my buddies were inevitably going to give me a hard time for having to use two shots. “Oh well” I thought, I could at least brag that I had harvested a beautiful mature tom.

That is exactly the point where things got a little bizarre.  As I approached the turkey, I thought that I would give his head a little nudge, you know, to make sure he was good and dead.  He wasn’t.  The instant I nudged his head with the edge of my boot the gobbler jumped up and proceeded to run away.  Well, I wasn’t going to have any of that! I took careful aim at his neck as he was running away from me and squeezed off my third shot, a miss. I then shot a fourth time, but he was not back on the ground. Fortunately, he then stopped at the edge of the woods.  He stood there with his head drooped over to one side. I fired my fifth and last shot at his head.  The tom did not fall but started a slow trot straight toward me! I laid my empty gun down and grabbed his legs as he came by me. Since my gun was empty and we were in the middle of the food plot where there were no sticks, rocks, or natural weapons, I decided to use the butt of my shotgun on his head.  Unfortunately for me, he made a sudden jerk and got away and started a slow trot toward the hardwoods. I had to catch him before he entered the woods, so I laid my gun down and took in after him at full speed. As he entered the woods, he stopped and I grabbed his legs one more time. Being in the edge of the woods I found a stout stick that I used as my third and final weapon of the day.

After this incident my companions started referring to me as “ole five shot.” Another turkey hunting friend commented that he was going to buy me an axe handle to carry on future turkey hunts.  Oh well, at least I got my turkey!