The lusty tom was gobbling his fool head off in the pre-dawn woods hoping to let every lady in the vicinity know that he was big, bad and available. I was guiding James Sr. as we scrambled up the rocky hill to be in position to attract our boys’ attention before the sun peaked its bright head over the horizon. We reached an even level with the hot gobbler and I placed James a few yards in front of me as the morning began to brighten. I couldn’t help but marvel at how his Ghillie Suit blended so well into the forest floor. At 5 yards, I was having a hard time making him out, maybe this isn’t a gimmick after all; though I sure snickered at 4am when he first modeled the new camo for me. From that day forward he would be forever know as “Swamp Thing”. I wish there was a more exciting story to tell, but two yelps of the diaphragm later, the big tom glided off the roost to land 20 yards from swamp thing. Bang and time for breakfast! We actually went out after breakfast and called another long beard in for James’s brother-in-law Mike, nice opening day.
Forward to week two of our four week season here in New York. I now have the privilege of guiding 14 year old James Jr. in a quest for his first ever wild turkey. Mind you, Jr. is an accomplished hunter with an African safari already under his belt, but no turkey. Prior to the hunt, James the senior had ribbed his son good, tell him that he would have his monster tom of opening day mounted “dominating”(not exactly the word he used) the smaller bird he expected his son to kill on his first ever turkey outing. We actually started at the base of the same mountain opening day had been so kind to me and Jr’s father. We were not as lucky and chose to move to a new local at 10am. I was not so optimistic since we were getting such a late start in our new hot spot. As we entered the woods I started my favorite run and gun method of hunting. Call aggressively, get a response, or move. We had just hit our second spot when the woods erupted with a cacophony of turkey calls all around me, Jr, and Jr’s Uncle Mike who was along for the ride. I have hunted in some of the finest turkey woods in the mid-west and east and have killed or guided hunters to over 100 long bearded trophies, yet never in my life have I heard the amount of turkey language that was going on in every direction. Yelps, gobbles, cackles, kee kees, and sounds I have never heard before or since. It is no exaggeration but I believe there were hundreds of turkeys in those woods, all talking at once, and we were in the eye of the hurricane. Jr and I hit the ground at the base of a tree while Uncle Mike laid down about five yards away from us. Why I called, I still don’t know, because there was no way to compete with all the noise around me, but immediately an enormous tom started strutting toward us in full display. The only problem was, Uncle Mike was laying face up between us and the love struck tom. Our gobbler was not going to be denied, and proceeded to strut right over Uncle Mike’s legs, stepping over them like two more logs in the forest. As he cleared the awe struck Uncle I noticed Jr’s barrel was beginning to weave in little circles. My 14 year old client had been holding his Father’s Browning up for a long time now, and his muscles were beginning to fatigue. I watched the barrel doing bigger and bigger circles as the gobbler strutted at 10 yards, completely oblivious to everything around him. I hissed shoot, and again shoot, and again shoot, as the barrel wavered more and more, when finally the blast came, the big bird dropped in his tracks. Now at 10 yards, a 12 ga has a very small pattern, yet I only found one pellet hole in the old long beard’s head, sometimes it’s better to be lucky. We jumped up celebrating our good fortune and such a remarkable hunt as the forest around us continued to echo with turkey talk.
When all was said and done, James jr. had shot the biggest turkey I had ever seen in New York. It is also the finest turkey hunt I have ever been part of in a successful turkey hunting career spanning over three decades. As we said to James Sr when the call was made, “who’s your Daddy now?”