First Turkey
This story took place in the early years of visiting the Big Cypress Swamp, during the late 70's. It was on a trip to Stewart's camp, with most of the guys along. It was in November during the regular hunting season in the Big Cypress. The hunting regulations then were the same as the state wide rules. It would be a few more years before the Big Cypress would become a game management area. I actually had not hunted up to this point, but had  just started to hunt using archery equipment. I had been and still do, hunt with my camera equipment at times.

It was Saturday afternoon, a nice clear day with the weather a little on the cool side, just enough so you were comfortable wearing a long sleeve camo outfit. Some of the guys had headed out to hunt the afternoon and a few others were still hanging out in camp. Jon and Hoss had decided to walk hunt to the south. John had gone to a stand nearby, but I didn't know exactly where. I decided to take my camera and do a still hunting of the pine island Stuart's camp was on. I was going to see if I could bag some game on film. I headed north, slowly slipping up the buggy trail that runs up the middle of the pine island. This particular pine island is about a quarter mile long and varied from about 100 yards to 200 yards wide depending on where you were along the trail. On the outside edges of the island were prairies and a few cypress heads, a good combination for game. I slowly traveled north and after a while I reached the end of the island. The buggy trail from there goes out into a mix of cypress and myrtle trees, with prairie grass. The trail goes another eighth mile to another camp. At the time I did not know the owner of the camp, so as I slipped along the trail, I stopped short of the camp.

I decided to turn around and head slowly back. I still didn't know the area very well and still stuck to the buggy trails when traveling around. As I slipped back I saw the head of a turkey above a palmetto bush. Turkeys will stand up tall and look around when they hear or see something that is out of place. I was something out of place to this turkey and it was looking me over good. I had frozen when I saw it, so I wasn't frightening it very much. As it stood there looking at me, I slowly raised my camera to take its picture. This was frightening to it and it took off running. When a turkey runs it puts its body horizontal to the ground and runs very fast. To my surprise there were about 4 or 5 turkeys running in a row. They made a beeline to the pine island and quickly disappeared in the palmettos. I was still hoping to get a picture and was excited about seeing some game. I slowly walked to the pine island and walked along a few steps at a time, listening as I went. I had travel about 100 yards when I could hear the turkeys clucking and purring to each other. They do this to keep track of each other in thick vegetation. I now realized that the pine island was too thick for me to get a picture of the turkeys, but the thought occurred to me, that I could slip back to camp and get my archery equipment and maybe get a shot at one of the turkeys.

So that is what I did. I quietly walked down the buggy trail past the turkeys and when I was far enough away from them, I walked back to camp quickly. When I got to camp Bob, Bruce and Tom were still there. Knowing a group of guys wouldn't be able to slip up on the turkeys, I didn't tell them anything. I went into the cabin and picked up my archery equipment and tried to slip out unseen by the guys. Bob saw me. he said "Where are you going with your bow". Not wanting too, but being honest, I told him I saw some turkeys. Bob says "Hey guys, Steve saw some turkeys, lets go get them". Bruce and Tom quickly said "Yeah!". Bob had an extra shotgun, so he said for me to use it rather then my bow. I agreed, thinking that we were never going to see them again anyway. Now back then, you could take turkeys of either sex in the general gun season, so most of the guys loaded two buckshot loads and then a turkey load as the first shot in their shotguns. If you saw a turkey you could shoot right away. If you saw a deer or hog you could eject the first shell and then shoot. That's the way the shot guns were loaded, though I didn't know it. In fact I had never shot a shot gun at that point.