Soldier vs. Gobbler: Guess Who Wins
Everyone has their big fish stories – you know, the one that got away? – well, here’s my story about missing my very first gobbler of the season.
It starts when I convince premier turkey hunter George Simmons to let me hunt with him. The guy moves like a Navy Seal and puts you right on top of the birds. When he picks me up at 4 a.m., it’s raining and thundering, but he’s still willing to give it a try. We’re on a large tract in Gadsden County and have to cross a creek. Well, I’ve got this $50,000 electric leg that doesn’t mix well with water, so he carries me across on his back. We walk up this huge hill, and sneak into a pre camouflaged ground blind. Lightning is still popping. As daylight breaks, we spot some turkey hens, maybe 4 or 5 on the skyline. George is purring a little and the hens are looking around. Then we hear the gobbler behind us.
I’m thinking, OK, it’s going to happen, I’m with one of the best hunters on an ideal piece of property. I see the Tom coming up my left, he’s got easily an eleven inch beard, but he’s not gobbling. A satellite bird trying to get in before the big boys. We watch him for an hour and he doesn’t see us, or gobble. Meanwhile, a gobbler is gobbling within 200 yards, but will not show his face. Neither the mature gobbler out of sight, nor the satellite bird is willing to participate. By now, George and I are ready to stand up and stretch, but we wait. Finally, the satellite bird starts moving in – fast. George and I had switched guns, earlier because he had a tighter choke and a scope, which made his weapon better for long distance, and my shotgun was better suited for short range. That turkey is moving, making a beeline toward the hens, and I’m trying to get the gun out the window. “Shoot,” George is whispering, “Shoot him.” The gobbler passes in front of the blind at seven, maybe eight feet; I can see his eyeball, black as coal. He’s throwing out his fan and I see his head turn blue then bright red, then blue again. I finally get his head in the scope and shoot… miss. I try a swing shot and the gun blind stops it. Had I never switched guns, I may have been able to shoot the bird with the open sights shotgun. One of many lessons learned from this hunt was, if a mature gobbler is that close and will not stand still, do not try a head shot with a shotgun that has a tight choke and a scope. Take the easy body shot, at this short of range I could of blown a window right through that turkey, instead of missing.
My opportunity is over.
Within two hours, my cell phone is lighting up – bad news travels fast – first, a buddy from Georgia texts me then one from Orlando. So the Army veteran can’t hit a turkey within an arm’s distance?
There’s always next season.
- Luke Murphy