It has been 25 years since I first began turkey hunting in a serious fashion. I remember because I had to turn down my first invitation to hunt because my wife had her first hint of labor pains with our youngest daughter the night before I was supposed to go to the mountains and chase a gobbler.
a The guy who invited me, when the phone rang the next morning while I was getting my wife’s things together to go to the hospital, he was calling on the portable phone in his pickup truck — the first cell phone I’d ever seen — to tell me he’d killed a nice longbeard and finished out his limit for that season.
We finally got together a week later, and when I heard that first tom triple-gobble on the roost, I was hooked. There is no sound as wild to me as a gobbler belting out his song across the big woods. Even though we didn’t get him, he got me.
My buddy and I got in on a 150-acre lease the next year, and armed with the knowledge gained from a couple of turkey hunting videos, I mostly went at it alone. We’d split up when we got there and meet back at the truck several hours later. It was definitely a trial-and-error deal for me.
The mistakes I made were legion. I moved when I should have stayed put; I stayed put when I should have moved. I bumped birds I didn’t know were there; I set up in places where I couldn’t see them when they came in. I didn’t pull the trigger when I had a couple of shots because I thought the birds would give me better shots; they didn’t.
If I did anything right, it was to stay at it. You can’t kill one if you don’t go.
Once I finally broke through, things seemed to get easier. I started to kill birds regularly. I killed one at 13 yards; I didn’t know he was there until I saw the edge of his fan out of the corner of my eye. I killed one that came in behind me, saw something he didn’t like and decided to fly over my head — full of copper-plated No. 4s, he folded up and hit the ground like a 15-pound dove. I killed a couple of birds that I didn’t deserve to kill, and more than a couple I deserved to kill got away.
I keep coming back because it’s addicting. This spring will be no different, except that South Carolina hunters have a new, March 20-May 5 statewide season and a lower bag limit for the season: three gobblers. I’ve got one hunt set up for the second day of the season in Orangeburg County and another in Williamsburg County the same week. I’m trying to get back a lease I lost four years ago; we took 17 gobblers in 10 years on the property, including my son’s first two birds.
I don’t lie awake at night thinking about deer season. When I finally get to sleep around 2 a.m. the night before turkey season opens, I dream of gobblers. For another season, I hope my dreams come true — yours, too.