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Georgia Turkey Hunting Tales



Name: Dean Mundhenke
Location: Georgia - Crawford County
Time: March 25th, 2006 - 2:40 pm
Subspecies: Eastern
Weight: 20.875
Beards: 10.125"
Spurs 1.125" left, 1" right
Distance: 29 yd.
Decoys: None
Calls Used: Cornbread's Strumpet / Irving Whitt's Trumpet / Primos
Gobble Tube



Not sure why but since the beginning , twenty years ago in the year of our Lord 19 and 87, I've taken to naming the turkeys I've encountered more than once and the buggers being the crafty devils they are, a majority of the hundred I've taken aim at have required at least more than one agonizing and painstakin' effort to get in gun range.

Although CottonTop died proud on opening day of the spring 2006 season, a rarity for me, this being only my second bird to succumb so easily to my desires, he had this handle of CottonTop for about two weeks prior. Pre-season scouting with long time turkey huntin' club member Ben Norton, we came upon this most beautifully topped wild turkey several times. In all sightings, whether struttin' or just standin', CottonTop sported the most vibrant patriotic colors I've ever witnessed on a bird. His crown the whitest of white, so clean, so crisp, the blue and red even more pronounced. He always held it high and mighty, rightfully so as should I have been born with such a beautiful head, I too would have donned it in the most flattering sunlight, as CottonTop did.

After spyin' this bird four times in two weeks, for the lack of conversation, I mentioned to Ben we should name this bird. CottonTop was his immediate reply. Myself, I believe I would have gone with Uncle Sam due to his patriotic colors but Ben being the sensitive soul he is, I just nodded agreement. CottonTop he would be.

Although camp friends, beer buddies we be, the rivalry and desire to sling this bird would be fierce. In the turkey woods, it's a "one man's game", as the noted author and turkey killin' machine Ken Morgan so accurately stated with the title of his masterpiece with the like named book.

Opening morning started off like most mornings on our prominently deer huntin' green patch sittin' membership. The old retiree's takin' to the gas line in hopes to catch one of the many toms' they'd seen while riding the roads. I opted to go the "OtterWay", a favorite spot of mine on the backside of the property named by a good friend Skip Hogberg when he saw two otters playin' down the creek one day. It's hence been known as the "otter way", as it's the other way from all the paths of the first weekend jackals.

Birds were gobblin' ah plenty at 6 sharp. I had four on the right, four on the left. The left side birds were hotter than a Saturday night special. Double, triple gobblin' from the yelps on a new call named the Strumpet built by a fine fellow and grand friend Craig "Cornbread" Corbett. Cuttin' on the diaphragm got them even hotter. Oh, how dearly I wished to chase them. But alas, they resided on "OPP" property. Property I dared once but never again to step upon. I had hopes they might venture my way just the same and gave it a noble effort. The sound of gunfire soon erupted and my hopes became fleeting wishes.

An hour passed as I contemplated my next move when a gobble from the right side came down the holler. It was a gas line resident. I threw caution to the wind and said the hell with those stump sittin' fools, I'm chasin'. Crossed the "otter way" on Horse Creek and eased up the steep hillside onto the line to glass and lo and behold if I didn't see a gobbler bird way down 400 yards on the line. It's was CottonTop's domain. He stood motionless for a bit, as I did. Surprise was my thought when, with a burst of speed, he bolted for the wood line and I knew no movement from me had caused the sudden departure from his evident strut zone. Wonderment and the challenge pulled me down the line. I eased on towards his last position, scooting in and out of the pines lining the heavy clover rich gas line, glassin' with every peak to see if my friend had returned.

Not fifty yards, in a dip, did I see the reason for his sudden behavior. One of our esteemed 25 year club members' truck was parked just inside the line, bright red and glowing for the entire world to see. I'd heard his Flow master pipes muffle every gobble at 7 pm when he Johnny come lately came to hunt. Then I saw him "Turkey Hunting". He was walkin' the line, Natural beer in one hand, nothing in the other. He'd walk, amblin' 'round lookin' at clover, kickin' a rock or two. Picked up an empty and headed to the truck. Clangy clang clang as the empty beer can did bounce around in the bed. Then squawk, squeak, squeak from some sort of turkey call he had on the hood of the truck. Then out he'd amble some more. Coming as close as five yards to me, I feared a conversation was about to take place. An event I'd soon as not start, as while an esteemed deer hunter, he merely turkey hunts to be with the boys and he is a very loud talker. Every turkey up and down the line would have heard us talkin' should he spy me. He just mumbled something, went back to the truck and soon departed. Thank God.

I later learned that as he drove back down the line he spied a gobbler. From his own lips he told the tale of how he got out of the truck and called at the bird and for some unknown reason the bird turned and walked into the wood line. HA! He then got back into the truck and saw the bird again. The Turkey Gods sent forth protective powers for when the opportunity for a window shot presented itself to the slob hunter, he tried. The Gods graciously and rightfully allowed the bird a narrow escape from a shameful death when the old fart could not find the safety on his shotgun. Thank God for small miracles.

I resumed my hunt calling at select bottom holler spots for the next 5 hours hunting the 400 yards up the line til I ended up where I'd last seen CottonTop. When I closed in on the territory of the last spotting, I changed tactics. Since he had not gobbled, I knew not his whereabouts. I just slowly crept inside the wood line, spyin' the line with nocs every five or so steps. Once I reached a bordering pine, I spied a red head not 25 yards out. He wasn't CottonTop, that's for sure. He sported a deeper red and white, not much blue and an older look to his waddles. Trouble was, it seemed he'd spotted me, as well. He was throwin' me that old curved neck look where his breast is way out front with his feet two steps ahead of his head ah ready to leave at the slightest movement. I tell ya boyz, nocs are hard to hold steady when you are lookin' at a tom that close. But I believe I didn't spook him, however he did slowly depart into the pines.

I figured I'd backtrack a bit and see if I could spot him again. He could have gone down the line, as he was on a slight knoll. I guess it took me a good 30 minutes to ease back the 25 yards. No sight, no sounds.

As I eased back onto the line, I spooked what had to be a twenty pound swamp rabbit that nearly caused immediate and sudden death to ol' Redbeard via a heart stoppin' heart attack. Jehebumus, did that scare the behibememes outta me. Once I swallowed my throbbin' heart, I poked my head into the line and there indeed was CottonTop in a turnip patch in half strut, 100 yards out, across a creek. He proudly just stood there. Head high, breast pumped and wings and tail in half salute. Wasn't sure if he be the same bird I'd just seen or not, I felt not. Didn't care much really 'cuz I knew he be CottonTop.

Thought about my options a minute, I could ease back down the line, get in the creek and bust his arse but that tactic I deemed a last resort. I remembered an old trick JT Byrne, the famous turkey dog breeder, had made me swear an oath of secrecy on before he spilled its truth last fall. I decided that was worth a shot and as I eased into position I got the trick going and yelped at the ol' boy a few times with a Woodhaven Pollard special and got no acknowledgement whatsoever. He stood perfectly motionless, almost as if stuffed. That crossed my mine a time or two, as stuffed birds have been popular in the video's as of late, but quickly dissipated as I knew none of those deer hunter's would go to that expense. Recalling part of the trick was to sound like a jake and me having the perfect kee kee instrument in Cornbread's Strumpet hanging around my neck, I remarkably sent out the most perfect kee kee and jake yelp I've ever heard. My performance shocked me more than the bird actions as he spread his fan half cocked and dropped his wings and peered my way. I worked the trick as he searched the upward slope for his caller. Repeating the same call, he did the same and immediately disappeared into the wood line. For good measure, I gave a few light shakes on my Primos Gobble Tube tryin' my best to mimic a faint jake gobble. Plan acting according to tales so far, thus I readied, abandonin' the secret instrument of death. I planned on a 30 minute wait 'til I would consider lookin' again and ponder once again plan B.

I suppose it was 10 minutes of silence when I heard a cluck from my left, across the line. I returned the "where are you" inquiry with a perfect cluck from an Irving Whitt trumpet and left it at that. Not a minute passed when I heard a strong gobble from the creek below. Havin' Walker Game Ear's in, I couldn't really judge his distance. I kept them in just in case he came via the woods, as I could be ready if I heard the tell tell slow walk crunchin' of the forests' carpet of leaves.

Little good that did, I thought, as soon as I picked up my trick in the hat again to possibly entice any lookers , did I hear a sudden departure through the woods to my right. Crappola, was that CottonTop? Did he come in that silent as they can do so effortlessly glidin' on the crispest of leaves without making a sound? Sounded like a bird leaving. I was not happy. Then optimism reared its pretty head and I reasoned it to be that wrascally wabbit. They do run in circles when chased. Perhaps, he'd done that. I remained motionless with dire hopes.

Thirty minutes of silence came and went and I tired of the wait and as eating in a restaurant when lighting a smoke with the food soon arriving thereafter, I did the same with wishful thoughts. Although, the Zippo would never be struck as no sooner than the Lucky touched my lips did I spy a white CottonTop pop over the grass, 35 yards out. Damnation, caught with mask on chin, the Lucky fell to the ground as he went into strut again and his head disappeared below the grass. I slipped it up and slid down against the tree aligning bead with expected path. He obliged by struttin' two or three more times before he walked right into the sights at 29 yards. As he peered my way, a rush of Turkey Heaven was sent into his gorgeous Patriotic beckon of pride.

Tippin' bird was the order of the day as I quickly dashed for the dead bird rodeo and with a score of all 10's unscathed, in a flash faster than a rider is thrown from a bronkin' buckin' bull; CottonTop was fannin' my backside as he departed his earthly domain. An immediate and joyous praise was sent to our God and Creator of this magnificent creature and whoops of joy echoed down the line.

As I returned to my tree and relived the hunt and thankin' the Lord again and again, I thought about that noise and have later learned that it was indeed the turkey I'd first seen. He's since been donned the moniker of Moses as he has spurs visible from nocs at 100 yards and a wide grey beard that paints the earth as he walks. Hopefully my son will have a tale to tell come next week when we do our best to introduce ourselves properly to the old gent.

So there ye be, the tale of yet another named gobbler, CottonTop: The Centennial bird. The 100th bird I've taken aim at in the 20 glorious, yet sometimes punishing years I've been blessed to partake in chasing the wariest bird to walk the earth. A fine bird sportin' a 10 and 1/8th inch arched pencil beard, two ounces shy of 21 pounds with 1 and 1/8th fat sharp spur and the other in like description, an even inch.

Measurements be damned, that bird indeed was a trophy merely for his beauty alone. I only wish his crown of glory could see another day but alas, his story can not be told with being slung. Thank the Lord. Amen!





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