DR. JOHN RHENEY COLUMN: The turkey nobody wanted
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DR. JOHN RHENEY COLUMN: The turkey nobody wanted

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My hunting buddy Glenn Puckett and I had tried several times to get my wife Breta a turkey. She wasn’t able to hunt a lot this year for various reasons. The first weekend we came really close. I wrote earlier about that hunt.

For a couple of weeks, Breta suffered with seasonal allergies. I told her not to cut the grass with all of the pollen still out! With about two weeks left in the season, Glenn had carefully planned a hunt for Breta. She went to bed the night before with all intentions of getting up the next morning and going with the two of us. After my second cup of coffee, I went in to wake her up. When she refused to open her eyes, I figured what was coming next. She said, “Why don’t the two of you go, I don’t feel very good.”

Already up and knowing Glenn was as well, I hopped in my truck and headed to his house. He was waiting in the drive and of course asked, “Where’s Breta?” I stopped shooting turkeys several years ago when I hit #100. Glenn, having hunted them for 50 years, has pretty much stopped killing them and just loves to guide. I told him, “You take your gun and we’ll go call one up for you.” Off we went.

Upon arriving at Glenn’s tract, we went to his usual listening point. He pulled out his old hooter and went to work. Way off in the distance, we heard a bird. Not at all where we expected it. We had about a half-mile walk against a rising sun, so we headed down a little deer path. A root was looped up and caught my boot. I went down like I was pole axed. My knee hit another root. I lay there in the dark trying to decide how much I hurt. Glenn was like, “Get up, let’s go!” I paused for a moment and then we were off and running again.

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When we got within 100 yards of the bird, we noticed there was a little island of pine trees between us and him. We decided to slip into the pines. Once there, we noticed several large mounds of dirt. It is always better to sit with your back to a tree in case an unknown hunter is in the woods with you. Turkey loads can kill or maim and it’s best to cover your blind side. We each picked a tree.

So to give you a visual, we each sat with a large pine tree behind us on the south end of the 40-yard-wide pine island. There were three 4-foot-tall dirt mounds in front of us blocking our view from about 11 o’clock to the 2 o’clock positions. There was a small path or road circling behind us to the 11 o’clock position where a small food plot started and circled around to the 5 o’clock position. The gobbler was just across the road in a large pine at about 40 yards to our left. Glenn was seated to my left about 5 yards where he could see down the road.

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I kept my call in my vest. This was Glenn’s rodeo as far as I was concerned. The turkey answered Glenn’s every call but wouldn’t budge from his perch for about 20 minutes. Just about the time it seemed he must fly down, a hen erupted from the tree just in front of me and flew down into the food plot 50 yards out in front of us. The gobbler soon joined her. Glenn raised his 3-1/2- magnum 12-gauge and I expected to hear the blast momentarily.

Then something unusual happened. Two gobblers came out of the swamp in front of us. I picked up my call and clucked as Glenn was now transfixed on the scene in front of us. One of the recent birds dropped his wings and walked straight toward the mouth of the road. He closed to within 45 yards and I putted to make him raise his head. Still Glenn didn’t shoot.

The gobbler hesitated for half a minute and then turned to our right to join the other three birds. Glenn slid his shotgun toward me and then crawled over to the mound in front of his tree. He motioned that the birds were moving down the food plot to my right. I turned and aimed the gun at the opening. Then Glenn motioned me to the left side of the mound he was on.

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The birds were apparently coming back to the mouth of the road. I settled in just in time to see a fan nestled on top of the shotgun bead. The gobbler was whirling around with his buddy about 45 yards out. Child’s play for the big 3.5-inch magnum. I really didn’t want to shoot the bird. I motioned to Glenn to take the shotgun. He motioned to me to shoot. This went on for a minute or two and then all four birds turned and headed back down to the swamp. They continued to gobble for a few minutes.

As we rose to walk back toward the truck, we both recounted what a great hunt we just experienced. Neither asked the other why he didn’t shoot. If Breta or my niece or a kid would have been with us, we would have joyously taken the bird, but with several hundred turkeys between us, shooting had become anticlimactic. It was a good day.

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Dr. John Rheney has been writing his outdoors column for The Times and Democrat since 1984.

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