I could not hunt the opening day of the 2010 turkey season due to an obligation to teach a deer hunting and management seminar in Alexandria. Definitely poor planning on the staff that organized this outdoor event, but since retirement allows one to hunt whenever, I agreed to do it.
I was in the woods two days later at the Turkey Box Patch, and had a tom gobble and circle around the patch that morning. I thought to myself that he would come back at some point, but I didn’t realize it was going to take all day.
I had just yelped when he gobbled a single time in response to my hen call. I could tell the bird was on the woods road that came into the patch from the northeast corner. I had both my camera and dad’s old double-barreled 16-gauge shotgun, and my plan was to document the event. This old gun had never killed a turkey and basically sits in my memory cabinet, but I was set on killing a gobbler with it. It shot only 2 ¾-inch shells; I had a couple of No. 6 shot in the chambers, and knew the bird had to be close.
I waited for the tom to come running in to the set-up of decoys, but instead of following the plan, the gobbler turned and exited just as fast as it had appeared. Had I had my Mossberg 500 with the turkey barrel, it would have been tagged when it turned to leave, but it wasn’t to be.
That gobbler never showed his face again during the season.
I was in the same spot for the opener of the 2011 turkey season (lesson learned from last year regarding opening days). On Thursday, I had heard four different toms gobbling in the nearby woods, but on this opening day, I was greeted with only song bird calls. I left at 10 a.m., and headed to our 25-acre Terra Nova Tract to see if any turkeys were out and about, but it too was void of turkey fowl, so I went to work on the boundary line.
Monday afternoon, I was back in the Turkey Box Patch, and after a little calling, a hen came in at 3:30 p.m. and fed across the patch. I took a few photos of her and thought that this was a good sign.
At 4:30, I started calling every 15 minutes, and alternated calls. I had not heard anything, and I started hoping that I would hear birds fly up to their roost before dark. I had yelped with the wing bone call at 4:45, so at 5:00 I yelped with my Lawrence’s Choctaw Turkey Caller box made from black cherry wood. I had bought this call several years ago from Mr. Lawrence at an outdoor show, and I liked the raspy sound it made.
At 5:15, I looked over to the trail at the northeast corner, and there was a big tom standing in the middle of the trail looking into the patch. I put my glasses up, and saw it was a very good gobbler.
The hunter calculator in my head began clicking and churning out my options. Should I grab the camera and photograph the bird, grab a call and make it come in to the decoys or grab the gun and shoot it.
When the Tom put its head down to peck something on the ground, the calculating stopped, and when it picked its head up, a load of No. 5 shot from a 3-inch Federal Premium 12-gauge shotgun shell put him on the ground.
Obviously I had opted for the gun.
After tagging the tom, I then began the after-the-hunt photo session. I knew it was a heavy bird when I picked it up, and sure enough it weighed in at 21 pounds. The beard was 12 inches (one hair beyond the foot mark), and the spurs were 1 1/8-inch or so. Definitely a great Florida Parish gobbler.
By now you may be wondering what exactly the old revelation that helped me bag the gobbler was. It could be that sometimes it’s just your day and a bird may walk into your lap, or shoot first and take photos later. But actually the revelation that brought me success was the vintage Western Auto Supply Co. Revelation 12-gauge bolt action shotgun that I used to kill the tom. Mossberg manufactured many shotguns like this for other companies; in fact I have a Westernfield 20-gauge bolt action shotgun just like the Revelation that Mossberg made.
This Revelation shotgun was discarded years ago and picked up by a friend who eventually passed it on to me because he knew I had a smaller version of it. The barrel assembly was held to the stock with camo tape, and the tape was wrapped all around the wooden stock.
My son Ruffin and his PawPaw cleaned the stock and varnished it last summer. Then he found a proper bolt to attach the barrel assembly to the stock, and we purchased a new clip on the internet. We did not use it during the hunting season, and this past February I took it out and shot it; I was thinking I would hunt pigs with it, but I soon discovered why it was discarded: The gun kicks like a mule.
I made the mistake of firing a 3-inch buckshot load through it, and then made the mistake of trying a different load because the results were the same. We did shoot one of the 3-inch turkey loads through it, and it had a good pattern. It has the old C-lect twist choke, and in the full choke setting, the pattern with the 3-inch five shot was excellent.
When turkey season came around I decided one shot wouldn’t be so bad, so I have been toting it on my hunts. I killed the turkey at 41 steps and, as previously mentioned, the tom stayed on the ground. I don’t plan on hunting squirrels or other critters with it, except it might be suitable to collect a Canada goose!
It certainly is not as fancy as some of the new shotguns on the market today, but I am from the old school. I still have a flip-phone, no texting, twittering or whatever people do with phones. When people talk about the ’70s like it was ancient history, I just have to shake my head and grimace. Here’s a revelation for you, a bird in the hand is a bird in the hand.
I have heard a lot of talk from North Louisiana turkey hunters who say the season opened too early and that it ends too early. The season ends April 16, which is much earlier than usual. Normally the turkey season ends around April 25, but because it opened so early this year, it has to end early.
The season was changed a couple of years ago due to politics, a few hunters wanted to open early, like Mississippi. Mississippi opens on March 15, but it runs through the end of April. Generally once the hens start nesting, the toms really start moving around to find receptive hens, and the late season hunting can be good. Well, I guess I won’t have to decide in late April whether to use my camera or gun; only camera season will be open!