KEVIN TATE: Spring brings back fond memories of turkey seasons past

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

One of the primary joys of spending time in the outdoors comes from the people you meet, and one of my longtime favorites has been Fox Haas of West Point. At the age of 80, he’s seen quite a few spring turkey hunts but, remaining young at heart, he’ll still tell you two of his favorite hunts are his last one and his next one.
“I’m fortunate that I’m still turkey hunting today on the land I was hunting in my late teens,” Haas said. “That was in the mid-1940s.
“The first turkey I ever killed in the spring, I called it up using a yelper I’d made myself. That really added a lot to it. I’d taken a piece of heavy copper wire and bent it around a hammer handle, then hammered it flat to make it rigid. I covered it with tape and light rubber and that was it.
“The fella I hunted with, the guy who really gave me my start, was an old-timey turkey hunter – Mr. Neil Fredrick. Mr. Fredrick was my mentor. My daddy was a doctor and Mr. Fredrick was one of his patients. When my daddy got sick, Mr. Fredrick took me hunting.
“Mr. Fredrick was the kind of guy who wouldn’t necessarily take you with him. He thought you’d learn better if you did it yourself.
“When I killed my first one, I was hunting with my older brother, though he was in a different section of the woods. I called the turkey up with a yelper I’d made myself, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
“Mr. Fredrick was an excellent caller, but he didn’t believe in a lot of calling. He taught me about being still, being patient and listening.
“I already loved to hunt. Maybe the fact that I went so many times before I had success made it sort of a challenge. Today that challenge still fires me up.
“The first time you make him gobble is the initial surge of blood pressure. Then you have to make a move, get set up and see if you can make him come up. You walk the way you want to, you owl and he answers and, all of a sudden, the mosquitoes don’t bite and there’s no chill in the air.
“It’s a challenge. You’re out there with all the elements the Good Lord gave us.
“With a deer, you don’t really call him. With ducks, if you mess up the first duck, there’s another one coming. But with turkeys, it’s all or nothing on every move, every call, every decision. If you mess up the one you’re working, you’re probably through for the day. But when you succeed, there’s nothing like it in the world. That interaction and intensity are probably what keep me coming back for more, that and simply enjoying the wonders of nature and the spring woods.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I still look forward to it every year.”

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.