Helping someone get their first turkey

Chris Pulchny

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I guess it must have been five or more years ago when I was a freshman in college here at Oklahoma State University. I left Stillwater on the afternoon before opening day of turkey season to head home to hunt a bird I had begun to call “curly”.

His beard was strange to say the least I only had gotten a few glimpses of him from the road on my hunting property and it seemed that his beard had almost a curl looking loop in it. Making it impossible to tell exactly how long it was his spurs along with his size showed that he was an old tom. Every time I set up on this bird it was like he knew a Hevi shot load was waiting for him where he could hear a hen sweet talking him. This went on for a few seasons then he just disappeared. The weekend before opening day I went home to scout out birds and went to the farthest part of the property over four miles from anywhere I had ever seen curly. As I watched hens feed across a field to the timber and fly up to roost low and behold there he was and few up right in the middle of the other sixty birds. I knew where I would be hunting the next weekend for sure.

Well back to me leaving and heading south for the season's opening day. I left town later than I wanted and after the 2 ½ hour truck drive, I stumbled into the house around midnight. I walked into my bed room and unloaded my gear and laid everything out I would need after my four hours of sleep I would get and head out to get the bird I had my heart set on. Soon I was ready for bed when I looked over to my pillow and there was a picture my; nine or ten year old brother at the time Dustin had drawn. It was a crude illustration of me leaned up against a tree with curly standing in front of me with GOOD LUCK written on it. I knew what I had to do in the morning.
I set my alarm an hour earlier than I wanted to get up. When it went off I got up and walked into my little brothers’ room and woke him up and asked if he wanted to go turkey hunting? I’ve never seen someone's eyes so wide that early in the morning when he said yes. I told him to get dressed I was getting in the shower and when I was done we would head out. I hadn't realized it would be a long walk on his young legs or that the dark still wasn't his friend. We headed up the steep hill to where the birds had roosted the weekend before, me just hoping they were there. All along the walk I kept seeing a light come one behind me. Every time I had to turn around and tell him to turn it off because the birds would see us coming and usually what you can't see in the dark can't see you either that was a boldface lie but I had to tell him that to keep him from turning the light on and off. We finally got to the last fifty yards of the walk and to say the least it maybe the roughest fifty yards of walking in Oklahoma, an extremely steep graded washed out hill side that seemed to erode out from under your feet I’m not even going to lie and say I walked right up it; I probably fell as many times as he did. Once we made it to the top we were what I assumed was at least one hundred yards from the roosted birds. I pulled out my favorite owl call and gave it the old “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” time tested sound. And the woods exploded 5 yards to our right with a loud gobble! We both hit our knees I scanned the area and seen two very small trees to set up next to about ten yards away I told him to crawl over to them as I sat out the decoys. We sat there and every time that bird would sound off he rattled the rocks around us. As the sky began to get lighter we could see him perched on a limb twenty yards away. Dustin whispered its curly kill him. I then had to tell him to wait, and I wouldn't shoot him off the roost no matter how bad I wanted him. There were hens all around him and when fly down time came they pitched off their roost off the hill side landing as far away as I’ve ever seen a turkey fly. And of course he followed.

I looked at Dustin and told him we would move into the timber and hunt near the fence line and maybe he would hear us and circle back up the hill to see which ladies he had left behind. As we moved into the woods we never heard another gobble, yelp, or cluck for that matter. I was beginning to assume the morning was busted and lost. We found a large oak to set up against and every fifteen to twenty minutes I would let out a few raspy yelps from my slate. After about two sets of calling I looked over to see that Dustin was back to sleep. I felt like I should do the same. But before I would I’d call one more time. On the second yelp two distinct gobbles rang out so close I don't know how they didn't wake him up! I slowly woke him up and told him to get ready birds were coming! Then he said I see them! There was some fallen brush in-between me and the birds and I couldn't make them out he said can I shoot now?! I told him to wait they would work in closer. Soon they materialized out of the timber and it almost seemed at the same time they locked their heads onto the hen and Jake decoy and advanced our way fairly quick. Dustin asked which one he could shoot and I told him I didn't care but secretly in the back of my mind I was hoping he would shoot the lead bird even though he was a great bird I could tell the one in the back was the one I wanted. They came in and circled the decoys 20 yards in front of our barrels and I let out a cluck and they shot their heads into the sky. I said shoot! And like thunder Dustins’ gun erupted and his bird folded. As the other bird lay on the ground the other took off running and it was the second bird! The one I wanted. I swung my bead a touch in front of his head and touched off the shot. He rolled and flopped just like every other turkey any of us has ever shot. Dustin said we got them!

I jumped up and over to my bird to dispatch him once that was over I picked him up and walked to Dustin. He said mine has two beards and look at his spurs! I questioned myself for a second about the bird I had shot and laid it down next to his and he looked at it and said yours has three beards and look at your spurs! I didn't question my judgment anymore! I showed him how to hold his bird over his shoulder by the legs to carry it home but at the time he was still just a young pup and would step on the birds head as he walked causing many trips. I finally told him to carry both guns and I’d carry the birds. That two mile down hill walk with forty plus pounds of turkey slung over my shoulders was great I was glad I could do that with him. Once to the truck he said lets GO HOME! And show DAD and MOM! We got to the house and my parent were in the back we were having a swimming pool installed and to say the least the parents were proud and the neighbors that were there were awestruck at what we had pulled off from a busted morning!

Sadly old curly, I’ve never seen again. I assume he lived out his time on this world and is now gobbling his head off in the Garden of Eden well protected for eternity unless there is a turkey season in heaven, and I sure hope there is! Well good luck this spring and drag out a young hunter and see if you can get him hooked just like the spurs of a big old Tom!

Posted by Chris Pulchny under Turkey Hunting on March 29, 10 10:25 AM | Permalink

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