I started hunting at a young age. When I was 5 years old my dad would let me tag along when he went dove hunting, and I would bring my orange tipped-barrel cap gun to pretend I was shooting the birds.
When I was 8 or so, my dad handed me the single-shot .410 that he learned to shoot with, and I began to (try to) shoot doves on our hunts together. I’d also take that gun into the woods to target squirrels and rabbits.
Around 12 years of age, my dad bought me a .243 rifle, and to my delight, began to take me deer hunting. Hunting deer with a rifle would remain my passion until I purchased a bow in college.
Add in a few duck hunts here and there, and that’s how I spent my time in the woods until my sophomore year of college.
In the spring of that year, I let my best friend Hill convince me to try turkey hunting- something I had never done, and didn’t even know anything about.
We went to his hunting camp in West Alabama a couple of weekends, and each time the routine was the same. We’d wake up at the ass-crack of dawn, walk into the woods, and “listen.” As I’d never turkey hunted before, I wasn’t quite sure what we were listening for, but it didn’t matter. Those first few mornings we never heard, or saw, anything.
But the third time we went turkey hunting was different, and it was that morning that made me understand why turkey hunters hold the sport in such a high regard.
When I Met Tom
Hill told me that his Uncle owned land 45-minutes outside of Birmingham that we should try to turkey hunt. I rolled my eyes, as the boredom and disappointment of our previous “turkey hunts” replayed in my mind.
But his excitement was contagious, so I called my sister and asked if we could stay in her Birmingham apartment that night. We rolled in around 11 p.m. and passed out on her floor.
That next morning we woke up late, which I didn’t have a problem with, as I valued sleep more than what I expected to be an unsuccessful hunt. Hill was pissed though, so he drove his Bronco down I-20 at 100 miles per hour.
Still, we arrived at our destination around sunrise- 45 minutes late- and we didn’t even have our camo on. We parked on the road and quickly exited the car to get dressed when I heard an unfamiliar sound unlike anything I had ever heard before.
It sounded like a low grumble- like a rusted metal can full of rocks rolling down a hill, distant thunder, or a life-long smoker aggressively clearing her throat.
The sound would appear, echoing around us and piercing the stillness and silence of the morning, before vanishing and returning us to peace.
When I turned to Hill to ask him what that was his eyes were as big as saucers and his mouth was wide open. He didn’t have to say, and I didn’t have to ask- it was a turkey, and it was close.
The gobbler went off again, somehow sounding closer. We threw on our clothes, put on our boots, loaded our shotguns, and ran towards the hot bird.
In between the bird and us ran a river. On the way, we had planned to carefully navigate the water to avoid being soaking wet for the rest of the hunt, but our urgency evaporated any common sense or reason left in us. We jumped into the thigh deep water and waded as quickly as we could.
The thunder rolled, closer again.
On the other side of the river we walked up a small ridge, and crawled down the other side. The reds and yellows of the morning sky silhouetted the old growth forest in front of us, casting shadows over a large field.
We sat at the bottom of a tree on the field’s edge when Hill finally explained to me what was going on.
“The bird is close. I think he’s still on the limb, so hopefully he didn’t see us come in. He hasn’t gobbled in a few minutes so maybe he’ll fly down soon. Be listening for the sound of…”
Wings. In front of me, it was all I saw, and another new sound was all that I heard.
It sounded like a small helicopter landing in a forest. The sound of flapping of feathers and snapping of twigs sent my heart into a seizure and my body into paralysis.
50 yards in front of us, a bird bigger than anything I ever expected to be able to fly landed on the ground. I raised my gun, and learned more about hunting turkeys in a few moments than I had in my lifetime before then.
The bird turned its head and stared directly at us. Hill whispered, “shoot him,” and I jerked the trigger.
We both watched as the bird flew out of our sight and into our nightmares.
My best friend stared at me, jaw dropped once more, this time in disappointment.
The Start Of an Addiction
My first dates with Tom didn’t go well- I got stood up the first few times, and when he finally did show, I scared him off.
But the sound of that bird, and the memory of watching it fly down stuck with me forever. And ever since, chasing turkeys in the springtime became one of my favorite things in the world to do.
If you just read this story, and now you want to try turkey hunting, I have a quick tip for you: go with someone who knows what they’re doing.
Turkey hunting is extremely difficult and frustrating, even if you’re an expert. Having someone who knows what they’re doing will make your first turkey hunting trips much more enjoyable.
But if you don’t have a turkey whisperer like my friend Hill in your life, I highly encourage you to hire one of our top-notch turkey hunting guides. They will be able to put you on your first bird, and hopefully you’ll be able to seal the deal.
If you get a chance to go on a turkey-hunting trip with one of our turkey hunting guides, be sure to take a bunch of pictures. We spend too much time in our offices these days, and live vicariously through our customer’s hunting experiences.
And if you enjoyed this article, be share to let us know in the comments below, and share it with your hunting buddies!