Spring Turkey

This story is about one of my (Steve) first Spring Wild Turkey hunts. If you read the stories about the early years of camp six pack, you will remember that I slowly evolved from a photographer to a hunter. This was a process that took about 10 years. I moved from camera, to archery, to turkey hunting with a shotgun, then to wild hogs and deer. I'm going the other way now, probably my last years of hunting will be with a camera again.

Back to the story. Its march, in the early 1980's, Spring turkey season in the Big Cypress. Spring turkey hunting is all new to me. I had read a few magazine articles on turkey hunting and practiced my turkey call, but I wasn't even sure the  turkey sound I made was even right. I had gotten up early before daybreak and hiked about a mile north of camp in the early morning twilight. This area at the time was a cattle ranch we called "Drake's". Mr. Drake had a small herd of cattle and used to burn certain areas of the ranch to create browse for his cattle. Turkeys also liked these burns, so "Drake's" always had wild turkeys on it, in more abundance then the rest of the swamps in the area. On "Drake's" ranch is a large hardwood hammock, that we call the "Sugar Mill". It is called that because the early users of the area, use to grow and mill sugar cane around it.

The hardwood hammock itself is a primal place. Undisturbed and much like it must have been in the days of the Calusa Indians. Thick hardwood trees shut out the sunlight creating a constant shade under the canopy. In places, ferns grow waist high, with vines hanging down from the trees, like in a Tarzan movie. The cattle, (big Brahmas), created trails through the Sugar Mill. Wild hogs, deer and even panthers followed these trails, leaving tracks as they went. If there is such a thing as a Skunk Ape, I'm sure this is where it would live. On this day I am following a cattle trail through the Sugar Mill, planning to set up a blind and call turkey from the other side of it. As I was quietly slipping along in the Sugar Mill, I decided to practice turkey calling, before getting to the site of my blind. I took out my call and "yelped" a few times. I was startled, not 20 yards away a wild turkey "yelped" back. Not sure what to do, I quickly looked around and seeing a larger tree a few steps away, I quickly sat down with my back to the tree. Facing the direction of the "yelps", I dropped my head net over my face, shotgun in my lap and call in my right hand.

The area I was in was thick. I could see 15 feet in all directions with small tree trunks, vines and ferns blocking my view here and there. Twenty feet away and the vegetation was too thick to see beyond. After a minute, to double check I really heard a turkey "yelp", I used my call to yelp again once. Immediately a wild turkey "yelped" in answer, louder then before. I slowly lowered my call to the ground and placed my hand on the trigger of the shotgun and snapped the safety off. As I moved my eyes back and forth looking, a turkey and then a second one appeared just 15 feet away. They were standing tall and looking for a hen. Taking one step every two seconds or so, they were angling past me. Knowing I could not move at all without them seeing me, I froze. My plan was to let them walk away, until I could move and shoot before they could react.

My plan wasn't going to work. The first turkey looked in my direction and it's eye, sideways to me, went from the size of a green pea, to the size of a dime. It didn't know what it saw, looking at me camouflaged from head to toe, but it didn't like it. It stepped sideways from me and bumped into the other turkey. Now both of them were looking at me with dime size eyes. Thinking the first of us to move will have the slight advantage, I swung my shotgun to my shoulder. Now two turkeys have jumped straight up into the air and are trying to fly up to daylight in the canopy of trees. As the bead on my shotgun follows the second turkey, I pull the trigger just as it passes behind the top of a cabbage palm tree. The top of the tree explodes as the shot from a three inch magnum shell hits it. I am left looking at the turkeys clearing the canopy, as vegetation falls from the sky, a second shot impossible. I have a half ejected shell jammed in my gun, in my excitement, I re-cocked the gun before the used shell completely ejected. My heart beating hard from the excitement. I am now hooked on spring turkey hunting and it still remains my favorite kind of hunt.


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This page created December 2, 2001 Story by Steve DeLine