Fun Friday: Turkey Hunting & the Importance of Enunciation

He wanted his daughter's first tom turkey to be an unforgettable experience ... and, well, it was!

by
posted on February 16, 2024
Fike Get Around On Him Lede

Spring gobbler season is almost here, and every year I relive a painful moment from the past. Someday I hope it’ll be as funny to me as it is to everyone else who hears it. It definitely underscores the need for clear communication in the blind …

Years ago, when my daughters were young, I was bound and determined to help them get their first spring gobbler. Several birds would thunder from the roost on a nearby hill not far from my house on workday mornings. They were taunting me, as turkeys do, and making me all the more determined to call one in for his final dance with my daughter.

My daughter was probably 8 at the time and she wielded a compact Remington 870 in 20 gauge loaded with a turkey load. I knew if she got a shot, a bird was going home with us. So, each Saturday morning, we would get up before sunrise and go looking for a customer. So of course, for five weekends in a row, all we heard were distant gobblers that had a harem of hens locked up out of her gun’s range.

On the sixth Saturday morning, we had an interested gobbler that took his sweet time making his way up out of the gully below towards our position. It was painful for me after six weeks of calling and chasing birds to have to wait, but I knew that we were on his time, not our time.

The gobbler was firing back at my soft yelps and inching his way up the incline through the leafy trees, but he would stop every once in a while and wait to see if the “hen” would come to him. I played hard-to-get and it was working. His approach was just tantalizingly slow. You might say he was cautious and perhaps a wise old bird.

I have to give it to my daughter. At 8 years old she was a trooper to get up early every Saturday and trudge up and down hills chasing what appeared to be a bunch of ghosts that were impossible to see. Yet, here she was snuggled up against a massive hickory tree on the eastern side of a Virginia hill, listening intently as that blankety-blank bird gobbled, trying to get us to give away our position.

“Get your gun up and point it down the hill towards that opening,” I told her. She propped the gun up on her little knee and waited with her big brown eyes growing even bigger behind her oversized camo mask. The turkey gobbled thunderously. The skin on my neck and arms was growing sweaty and the hair on my neck was standing up. He was close and I could feel the vibration from his gobbles. This was going to be the morning we closed the deal!

I was so sure he was going to pop up right in front of her in a big opening that I never paid any mind to anything else. I simply used my mouth call to let out a soft yelp and then I shut up. Because he was a turkey and therefore determined to drive me insane, so did he.

Minutes later I squeaked out a soft cluck and was cut off by an incredibly loud gobble that nearly caused a Laundry Emergency in my camo pants. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a bright red-and-blue head sticking up 40 degrees to my right and down the hill from us. He was not where I had planned for him to be. I had broken the first rule of turkey hunting. Never count on a bird to come where you want him!

Still, he was clearly in range and standing right there in plain view. I could tell my daughter could see him, as her whole body was tensed up stiff as a board. Like the good child she was, she was waiting for instruction before trying to shoot. I knew the old bird was going to leave soon if we did not do something, so as soon as he turned his head I hissed, “Get a round on him!”

She never moved. I waited for the gun barrel to swing and send fire and Hevishot down the hill to collect her prize. Nothing happened! I hissed again, “GET AROUND ON HIM!”

She started to move and then hesitated.

“HURRY!”

The old bird was starting to get nervous, but what happened next stunned me and the bird.

My 8-year-old quickly clambered to her feet, turned, and started walking around the tree to come to the side I was on but from behind me. I lost my mind. The gobbler stretched out his neck stunned at what he saw, and he looked as confused as I was before he collected himself and gave a loud “Putt!” He then jumped off the ground and began beating his massive wings, soaring down the hill through the trees away from us.

After I managed to collect myself, I groaned thinking about six early Saturday mornings that were now wasted with an escaped wise bird to show for it. I knew we were never ever going to see that bird again.

A small sad voice was trembling when it asked, “Daddy, why did you tell me to go around the tree when he was right there and I could have shot him?”

I nearly cried myself! And that’s why clear communication in the blind is so critical … next time, I just said, “Shoot.”

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