By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
I’ve often written that hunting, especially spring turkey hunting, is virtually a memory factory, turning out gems like a process designed by Henry Ford. One morning’s adventure in April, 2003, has always stood out for me beyond many others, though, and for a variety of reasons.
I was grown and married before I made turkey hunting’s acquaintance, but I’ve been blessed all along to have excellent teachers.
The spring of 2003 was my third in the turkey woods and, on the morning in question, I was learning at the heels of Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland and Eddie Briggs, the latter a former lieutenant governor and a legendary turkey hunter in his own right.
Cuz and I were Eddie’s guests on a tract of pine land in the Wahalak community between Shuqualak and Scooba. Over the course of many acres there were planted pines in various stages of growth varying by block, and it seemed all came complete with gobbling turkeys.
After a few unproductive setups we were on the move and deciding what to do next when a turkey gobbled on his own 200 yards away and the hunt was back on. We closed the distance by 50 yards, set up in a triangle pattern – with me at the point toward the turkey – and then they began calling what proved to be a gobbler with many springs’ experience.
After a few exchanges of yelps and gobbles, the masters in whose care I was hunting applied the silent treatment and the turkey proceeded to gobble on his own without moving any closer for the better part of an hour. He gobbled four or five times per minute for the next 45 minutes but never took another step. He then went quiet for five minutes or so after that, until Eddie broke the ice with two very quiet, subtle yelps, the second of which was cut off by a gobbling explosion and the turkey was on his way.
I didn’t have a turkey gun of my own at the time, but our company had just put on a writer’s hunt that was co-sponsored by a shotgun manufacturer specializing in over-and-under turkey hunting models. The guns weren’t due to be shipped back for another week so I was carrying one that morning.
The shotguns looked great and who could argue with the functionality? With a barrel selector switch and screw-in choke tubes, you could have any distance scenario covered.
I was thinking about buying one for myself until I shot the turkey with it that morning and both barrels went off at the same time.
Two 31⁄2-inch 12 gauge magnum turkey loads fired in tandem, one through an extra full choke and the other through an improved cylinder, make a great pattern at 30 yards – no arguments there.
Patrick F. McManus once wrote that he started deer hunting with a borrowed .45-70 whose owner was eager to loan it out because “it got meat at both ends.” This shotgun was its soulmate and, after brief consideration, I was happy to return it to its maker with my thanks, but no thanks.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.