The walking bird
The first gobbler I ever killed was dropped about 30 minutes after I missed the first gobbler at which I ever shot.
This incident, too, was on Pond Hill. It was opening day of the 1988 season, misty and cool. I walked relatively silently along an old logging road and as the sky lightened I made a couple yelps on a slate call.
Whammo! Not more than 20 yards from me, roosted in a tree from which I was obscured by heavy pines, a gobble made me jump. I didn’t know what to do so I sat down in the middle of the road and waited.
The gobbler flew down straight away from me and immediately turned and started walking back toward me. I was so excited that I shot too far and missed.
In fact, I missed three times, continuing to shoot at the bird as it flew.
Sure that I must have at least struck the bird, I began doing a grid search through the woods. The subsurface leaves were still dry and I was making quite a racket. This went on for a good long time and then I heard a gobble very close.
A bird with 1.25-inch spurs walked right to me and I shot it. I’m convinced the gobbler heard me and thought I was another turkey walking through the leaves.
My first gobbler of 20 pounds or more came in 1990 from Hampshire County, W.Va., on property owned by the late Jay Kidwell.
I had called this bird toward me in 1988 and again in 1999, but didn’t get to pull the trigger. The first time, hens with him got a bit fidgety and he refused to come around the corner of the hill that was well within shotgun range.
The second time, I watched him strut on the other side of a downed tree. He was coming to my calls, but when he cleared that tree he flew out of there like he was launched from a trampoline. I have no idea what spooked him.
The day I got the gobbler I was running late and not sure that I could wade the Little Cacapon River, climb the big power line right of way and slip into the woods before flydown time.
But I got there just as the May morning was beginning to brighten.
I used an owl hooter and the big boy went crazy in a not-too-distant tree. So I got positioned and yelped.
That really set him off. After the first bunch of gobbles the next one was muffled so I knew he had flown down.
Soon I could see his flashbulb head moving behind a fallen log. When he displayed his tail fan, his head would disappear. For a while I watched a fan-head-fan-head-fan-head show.
The only thing I can do with a mouth call is cluck. So I clucked and that was enough.
The gobbler cleared the tree and turned toward me. My father’s Winchester Model 50 is a tight shooting old squirrel gun, but on this day it sent #4 shot at a gobbler and it was tag time.