Late yesterday afternoon, an hour or so before dark, my wife Loretta and I ventured from Paint Lick in Garrard County to Berea on Highway 21. We rounded a bend that leads to what I call “the big bottom” and there they were — the most wild turkeys I have ever seen in one place at the same time.
We are quite accustomed to seeing flocks of 30 or so turkeys somewhere in a field along the way. We have shot so many photographs of them I don’t even bother keeping a camera in my lap anymore, but I do keep my eyes peeled because I enjoy the sightings. This time, however, I wished I’d had my camera ready because this was no run-of-the-mill flock of turkeys.
The big bottom is, by my estimation, 10 or 15 acres. It was literally covered with turkeys; so many that it was impossible to take anything near an accurate head count, but at least 200 and probably more. As far as I could tell they were thinning the winter wheat that some farmer had sowed or maybe they were caucusing to select a Republican nominee for president. We all know the party needs something viable to put on the ticket with the other turkeys come election day. Desperate times call for desperate means. A feathered bird would, at least, be more authentic and probably get more votes than any of the current frontrunners.
Speaking of desperation, I used to hunt wild turkeys and spent more than $600 on a shotgun set up specifically for the sport. When preparing to go on a hunt, I decked myself out in camouflage, blackened my face, wrapped my shotgun in camo and looked pretty much, by my estimation, like a tree stump when I sat down. I practiced calling turkeys for hours on end with a variety of calls. Loretta has run me out of the house on numerous occasions as I tried to learn to gobble in the living room. Points East
Opening morning of the spring gobbler season would find me crouched, an hour before dawn, at the edge of Junior Helton’s big woods, hunkered down and with slate or box calls between my legs and crow or owl calls between my lips pretending I was wild bird.
Male turkeys often gobble on the roost if they hear an owl or crow nearby, so imitating those birds is a good way to locate them and sneak in closer. After daybreak, I would switch off to my prize turkey calls and try to imitate a hen turkey looking for a mate. I actually bagged a few tom turkeys over the years before I discovered the meat had about the same consistency as the leather and laces in my boots. Since I don’t believe in harvesting game that I can’t eat, I gave up my turkey hunting habit nearly 30 years ago.
I have given most of my collector box calls to my nephew and a few friends. I still have my Browning semi- automatic 12-gauge magnum shotgun that kicks like a mule (my late Uncle Willie would say it killed on both ends), but I intend to sell it before season opens this spring. I don’t have a thing against turkey hunting unless someone takes aim at the dozen or so that reside around Tom Miller’s place and peck on the glass around his patio demanding corn. I realize it’s an oxymoron, but Miller’s wild turkeys are tame and anything but game.
Nor could I, even if I knew it would be as tender and juicy as a Thanksgiving butterball, bring myself to shoot one of the convention gathered last evening in the big bottom. The huntergatherer instinct has completely left me.
But do get in touch with me if you are looking a top of the line turkey gun and you are willing to promise you will cook and eat anything you shoot with it.