By Row Hawkins
I had no way of knowing it that morning when I stepped out of my truck in the darkness of pre-dawn, but a two year campaign was only hours away from being successfully concluded. It had all begun one morning the season before, when just after first light, I heard a gobbler sound off on the property I was hunting near Shuqualak, Mississippi. I rushed to set up, absolutely sure I was in business, and would soon have the bird in my sights. I was wrong! The turkey never made another sound that morning. The following morning was a repeat of the day before, as were many mornings to follow. It was always the same. The turkey would gobble as he flew down from his roost, and never utter another sound during the entire day. To make matters worse, no other bird in the area gobbled either. From what my turkey hunting mentor, Mr. Earl Persons, had told me, I knew that meant the non-gobbling gobbler had intimidated every other Tom in the area to the point that they were afraid to gobble. I further surmised that the old reprobate had to be a bird of unusual wisdom, age, and physical size. He eventually came to haunt my dreams, and often was a detriment to my successfully concentrating on my work during the day. For this very reason, I do not recommend turkey hunting to anyone who is not already a member of this slightly demented brotherhood.
Since the turkey of my obsession refused to gobble, or respond to my calling, I decided to commit the unforgivable, and ambush the old bruiser if I could. It was all to no avail, and the season ended with the turkey still alive and playing the role of the strong silent male. During the following summer and winter, I concocted numerous well laid out plans, all designed to end with the gobbler doing his once a day gobble from the big Chufa field in the sky. The opening day of turkey season finally rolled around once more, and found me prepared to engage in battle to the death with my old opponent. It became apparent, though, as the season progressed, that the continuing conflict was more likely to result in my own death before that of the gobbler. None of my grand plans came close to success, and my pursuit of the turkey was soon reduced to sitting silently in the woods, hoping that by some unlikely chance, the old bird would simply walk by without suspecting I was about and give me a shot from ambush. Obviously, my abandonment of the Bible’s admonition not to covet, in my case coveting a turkey, had progressed to the point of my failing to retain the slightest shred of honor as a member of the 10th Legion, the name given by a great author and turkey hunter to that gallant band of hunters who ethically pursue the wild turkey. In a way, none of that really mattered, because in my mind, the Old Gobbler, whom I now accused of being in league with Lucifer, had ALREADY caused me to resign my commission as an officer and gentlemen of that elite fraternity.
With another season all but gone, I now took to the woods, with much the same attitude General Robert E. Lee must have had as he approached Appomattox court house, that of reluctant surrender in the face of a superior force. Little did I know what was about to transpire, for the end of the long campaign was now in sight, and victory was just before being snatched from the jaws of defeat. On that morning of ultimate triumph however, I had once again turned back toward my truck in utter dejection with bowed head and shuffling feet as becomes a prisoner of war. Then, upon passing the field that bordered my old enemy’s domain, I, purely out of habit, glanced out over the open ground, and there stood my adversary, totally oblivious to my presence. I did not hesitate, but dropped to my stomach with the intention of crawling as close as possible to the old renegade, before attempting to shred his head and neck with number four shot. A row of bulldozed saplings lay along the north edge of the field, and taking advantage of this cover, I crawled toward the point of maxim range for my three inch magnum. I have never been accused of being slender, and the cover apparently was too low to hide my person in its entirety. For when I paused a moment to look over the hedgerow, my gobbler had spotted me, or at least had seen movement, and was staring intently in my direction. Now, I was foiled again! Realizing that anything I did now would not matter, I, on impulse, took out my Lynch box, and clucked twice. To this day, I still have difficulty in believing what happened! The Old Survivor took off toward me as hard as he could run! Halfway to my position, he stopped. I again clucked twice, and once more he kicked into overdrive, and came on like a charging elephant. At a range of only twenty yards, with the turkey still running toward me, I raised the Model 30 Savage, dropped him in his tracks, and stopped the only charge by any game creature I have ever experienced during my hunting career.
The campaign was finally over, and I took the turkey to town in triumph. The gobbler was huge, and his spurs were the longest I have ever seen. Mr. Earl said he was either six or seven years old, but although I can’t believe it today, I made no record, written or mental as to his weight or the length of his spurs and beard, both of which have been lost in my many moves over the years.
Soon after taking the gobbler, I was discussing his behavior on the day of his demise with Mr. Frank Nester, another of Shuqualak’s old breed of turkey hunters. I said I just could not understand how he could behave so stupidly that one time after defeating me so often. Mr. Frank looked off into the distance, as though reluctant to tell me, but finally said, “To tell you the truth preacher, your calling sounds more like a gobbler than it does a hen, and I “spect” that turkey saw your backside sticking up over them bushes, thought you was another gobbler, and come over to give you a “whuppin.” I “spect” he was right, for pride does indeed come before a fall.