Here it is turkey season once again, the humbling season for most good hunters, sometimes with aforethought. After a half-century of hunting wild turkeys, I’m going to have to change my techniques. I think I’ve got to learn to set down to shoot turkeys.
Understand that wild turkeys DO something to your old Uncle Bob! I have fired well over a thousand rounds of shotgun shells at turkeys in my time, which averages out firing over 20 rounds a year at turkeys. While I have killed close to 250 gobblers, the average of four shells per turkey is somewhat misleading, for I really have at times killed a turkey with a single shot, like you see on TV. Plus, there have been several times when I killed two birds with one shot, unintentionally. Not that I haven’t tried to do that on purpose, it just hasn’t ever worked when I wanted it to. Anyhoo, my average is closer to six shots per turkey than four shots, and there were several years when I actually averaged over seven shells for each gobbler I brought home.
Point here is, I knew when I went to the woods that if I got a shot at a gobbler, it invariably would not be a fatal encounter unless the tom could be kept in gun range for another volley. Therefore, my set-up technique involved leaning against a big tree or large log that protected my backside (turkeys have a history of ambushing me!), sticking up a few paw-paw branches in front of me to break my outline, and removing any obstacles to foot-racing from the immediate area. I am not a hurdler. Matter of fact, the paw-paw branch blind needs to be light enough to run through with ease.
When the turkey is called into range (and closer is better, for me) I wait until he goes behind a tree within 25 yards before raising my gun, and when I do pull the trigger from that sitting position, I charge! Going from a sitting position to a dead run, with a pump shotgun at port arms, requires a great deal of supple effort and coordination.
I recall one Opening Weekend when it snowed six inches the night before and our camouflage jumpsuits stood out like sore thumbs, so we all took bedsheets to the woods as camo, tucked over us like barber cloths as we sat against our trees. I called up seven gobblers together that morning, who all took turns strutting and gobbling as they approached from a half-mile away. I was shaking like a leaf by the time they got within range, then I shot, jumped up, and charged. The bedsheet wound itself around my legs within two steps, and not only did I not get a single turkey, I broke an antique turkey call Mr. Floyd Hughes had given Big Robert years before.
Several years I have gone to the turkey woods with a wounded knee, which seriously limits one’s ability to rise charging with the initial shot. Once I crippled a big gobbler just enough that he couldn’t quite get out of gun range, despite my jumping up, shooting, falling down routine. That one took about nine shots, I believe.
There was one gobbler whom I caught a glimpse of in full strut as he approached through a deep draw. I lost sight of him, but had my gun up and ready when suddenly his old red head stuck up from the edge of the draw, like a submarine periscope. I dropped the barrel a couple of inches and fired, just as he ducked back down. My shot hit the ground and the brink of that draw exploded like a claymore mine. As usual, I was charging as I pumped, and when I hit the edge of the draw, the gobbler was still crouched down, eyes closed, completely untouched by number six shot, though obviously shell-shocked. It still took me seven shots to collect him!
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours working on the lawn mower, and noticed that my knees just don’t have the suppleness left to quickly charge turkeys after the shot. Numerous cartilage and ligament tears, operations, busted kneecaps, a broken thighbone and perhaps even old age, Lyme Disease, and the Greenhouse Effect have all taken their toll. Rising is an effort, even done slowly. There’s no question that I’m going to have to change my turkey hunting techniques.
Or my ammo: are claymores legal? What about blookers? Maybe I can hire an assistant to chase for me. Or take in an apprentice who wants to learn from The Master!