Fall turkey hunt source of great moments

My friends Sam and Jackie Barker of Missouri have just informed me that their bordering state of Kentucky is granting hunters several days of fall turkey hunting this year. It will come sometime in November, I believe, but I have learned through many years of fall hunting that almost any time from Oct. 1 until Jan. 1 is fine for this wonderful sport.

I don't understand why all of the turkey states don't give their hunters a few days to hunt the wily birds in the fall. We have hunted them in Mississippi in counties along the Big River in the Delta for many years, and this has certainly done nothing to harm the turkey population. On the other hand, it has probably helped keep the birds a bit wilder and prevented them from congregating in such large groups that make disease more common and faster-spreading.

For reasons that I still don't quite understand, not nearly as many hunters take in fall hunting as do spring hunting. I admit they are two different ballgames, but both are great.

Spring hunting is a very serious undertaking and worth the effort, but fall hunting is, in the words of Tom Kelley, “light and frothy and nothing but fun.” He is so right. Nothing I've ever done was any more entertaining than getting a nice drove of young or old gobblers well-scattered and then sitting down and calling them back.

Sometimes you will have a half dozen birds all calling at once, and your biggest worry is trying to watch for where the first one in range is going to pop up!

Even more exciting is to be fortunate enough to walk quietly in the dark to a group of trees where they are rooting. In one old cypress brake that I love I have sometimes walked into a roost with as many as 200 birds. Believe me, the noise they make at dawn, squalling and flying from tree to tree in waves, stirs every gene in my somewhat barbaric soul.

I'll never forget the first time Arkansas had an open fall season. The state planned a one-day season in October, and I could hardly wait. It was a very dry year. Most surface water had evaporated. A little bayou on our Arkansas club land had dried up and left one small pool not more than 30 yards across.

Flying over the place a short time before that open season, I was astonished when I looked down and saw that pool absolutely surrounded by old, mature gobblers. I counted 21 and immediately planned to be guarding that pool come opening day.

I was there in the dark, well-concealed in brush and vegetation, in good gunshot range. I sat there waiting for them to come. I waited and waited, and at noon nothing had shown.

Not able to stand it any longer, I got up and strolled off through the woods. When I returned at about 4 p.m., there they were, all 21 of them. There was, however, no way I could get close enough for a shot.

I had a decision to make and I made it. I crashed through the brush toward the pool, shooting my old automatic as fast as it would shoot and reloading and firing some more. Those old gobblers scattered all over that bottom.

I walked across the dry bed and found a nesting place in the vicinity of where most of them flew. Within 10 minutes, a couple of them started calling, and I began answering, imitating them as best I could.

I then realized that I only had two shells left. They were in the gun, and if I got a shot, it had better be good.

Finally it happened. One popped up in reasonable range, and I cut down on him. Instead of falling over flapping, however, he took off running crazily with me in hot pursuit. Well, with the last shell I downed him, and I learned a lesson I'll not forget: Always carry enough shells, because anything can happen fall turkey hunting.

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