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Who Wrote the "Book" Anyway?

By: Michael Lee, Quaker Boy Game Calls Pro Staff 

During all types of events in life we hear of things going by "the book". This is no different in the outdoors where we hear of "textbook" hunts, harvests, or catches. Where did this "book" come from? Who wrote it? What makes them the expert to write such a "book"? We will probably never know, but here is a short version on my "book" for the 2005 turkey season here in the south.

March 19, 2005

Forty degrees is what the thermometer read for the opening weekend on Florida's turkey season. My good friend Brandon Dampier invited me to come down and hunt with him in North Florida and help bring in the season.

We arrived on the private farm before daylight and eased into the woods between several fields and creeks. We hit the owl call and it wasn't long before the woods were alive with gobbling birds. Quickly we setup off of a field edge and called. Almost immediately one answered right back. I started pouring the calling to him after that with my Quaker Boy Old Boss Hen diaphragm call. The gobbler was closing the distance and we were getting ready. From the sound of his gobbling, we could tell that the bird was off of the property that we were hunting. With seven birds gobbling though, it was hard to tell them all apart. So we are sitting there, ready for a long beard to pop out of the cover any minute when, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!

What seemed like a great opening morning hunt suddenly went south in a hurry. The property next to us had some hunters on it that opened fire on some of the gobbling birds with a shotgun and a .22 caliber rifle (totally legal in Florida). After that, we only heard a hand full of gobbles far in the distance. We live and learn, but we don't have to like it. This morning would set the table for a tough turkey season for this hunter.

March 26, 2005

Sunrise on opening morning of the Georgia turkey season set the tone for what would be an amazing, yet frustrating couple of months. Setup on the edge of a chufa patch that birds had been frequenting regularly, our confidence was very high for another successful morning in the woods. Charles Clark, Mike Lee, and I had snuck in under the cover of darkness and were ready for the hunt. Charles hit the owl hooter and boom! There was a gobbler roosted right off the edge of the patch. Then several more gobblers began to chime in and by daylight we had six or seven birds hammering. This should be easy as taking candy from a baby right? Nope, not even close.

Just as things were getting good, some of the heaviest fog I have ever seen rolled in. We could barley see the decoys we had out twenty five yards away! The birds were gobbling, so we stuck with it. The bird that we had roosted close to us flew down and went the opposite direction, but as soon as he headed away, another sounded off getting closer. We would lightly call and he would answer, getting closer every minute. Finally we saw movement on the edge of the patch and could barley tell that it was him. He saw the decoys and went the opposite direction! Thinking he was spooked we called and the answered right back with a strong gobble. This long beard was at fifty yards and gobbling strong, but we couldn't see him through the fog! Finally he drifted away and we could tell by the sound of his gobble only, that he was headed into the creek bottom.

Not a bad opening day, but just imagine what it could have been without the fog!

March 31, 2005

My good friend Paul Kish and I headed to the Demopolis, Alabama area for a four day hunt with Montgomery Smith of Cottonwoods Sportsman's Lodge. We arrived to severe thunderstorms and heavy rain for the first two days of our trip. We did manage to get in a late morning hunt on the first day and had two birds gobbling pretty strong. They were just off our property in a cut over and seemed to want us, the "hens", to come to them as nature usually does. We setup where the birds could come into several different openings and called pretty aggressively. Paul is one of the best callers I know and he couldn't get these birds to budge.

Montgomery decided to changes setups and after we moved, we never heard the birds gobble again. Did they see us? Hear us? We'll never know. The next day we woke up to heavy rain storms giving way to high winds and clouds. The woods were beautiful, but the weather was just too strong for us. We managed to call in one Jake on the third morning and that was it. Still a tough season going for me, but there was plenty of time left.

April 9, 2005

This morning would go down as one of the most memorable hunts I have ever had the privilege of being involved in. Charles Clark, Mike Lee, and I set out once again into the Sumter County, Georgia woods. In total darkness we snuck deep into a creek bottom, set up our decoys, and just waited. Not long after settling comfy onto my seat, the woods began to wake up. Birds began gobbling in almost every direction when suddenly one gobbled from an unexpected place. Right over us! We had setup right under a gobbler and hen. He hammered at every sound in the woods, owls, crows, gobblers, hens, anything! Needless to say we were enjoying this setup immensely. Finally the gobbler lowered his head and pitch down about 40 yards away from us. As soon as he lit, he began strutting, but headed directly away from us gobbling the entire time. A few minutes later, the hen he was roosted with flew down and hurriedly followed the same path. With several birds gobbling, we decided to get aggressive and began a series of yelps and cuts. Several birds gobbled and a couple even cut us off. About five minutes later a long beard was making his way in to the decoys. Charles raised his Thompson Center Encore and when the bird got to 20 yards, he made the shot.

This bird sported one inch spurs, a ten and three quarter inch beard, and weighed over twenty pounds. We finally broke the ice and a hunt finally went by the "book". We were proud to get a bird for Charles and to get it all on video was even better. Something was missing though, I still hadn't harvested a bird, and my trigger finger was itching worse than a nudist colony living in poison ivy!

April 15, 2005

So far in the season, I had hunted in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, for a total of over seven days with no success. Paul Kish lined us up another hunt in a different area of Florida down in Osceola country. Trey Wetherington and I arrived on that Thursday night to get ready for two days of gobbler chasing with Paul and Kevin Knighton. We were hunting some private land with outfitter Charles Alvarez of Lake Butler, Florida with high hopes of calling in my first Osceola.

The early morning hours came and we arrived at Hardees on time to meet with Charles to get out after a bird. The land was mostly planted pines with pastures and some thick hardwoods along a small river. It had the look of some prime turkey habitat. This first morning we setup and called in a hen right after daylight, then decided to "run and gun" a bit in search of a gobbling bird. Finally, after about an hour, we got not one, but two birds to gobble back at us using a Quaker Boy Gravedigger boat paddle call. They were gobbling well and we decided to setup in the bend of a road so we could see two directions for them to come in on. Paul was calling and the birds were gobbling for a few minutes and suddenly they just got quiet. This usually means one of two things, the birds are close and coming in, or in this case, they have left.

We got up and peered around the corner looking down a long woods road and what did we see but a coyote standing the middle of the road. Our culprit had been identified and the hunt was over.

We hunted one more day there and got on some good gobbling birds the next morning. They were just off the property line where we were hunting and were coming our way when I saw movement. There came a bright white head, looking just like a gobbler. Nope, it was a Jake. He came in a finally figured that something was not just right. He spooked and ran right back out into the gobbling birds giving an alarm "putt" the entire time. Two days down, nothing to show for it and my Florida hunts were over for the season.

April 23, 2005

The road to Rockford, Alabama was full of rain and thunder as my dad, Mike Lee, and I headed to Rockbridge Lodge to hunt with good friends Bill Spratlin and Jerry Speed. As my luck had gone this spring, the days after a cold front were upon us and that meant high winds. I can deal with rain, heat, and cold, but one thing that totally whips me when turkey hunting is wind. You can't hear the birds and the birds have a hard time hearing you. On the two day hunting trip here at Rockbridge Lodge this would prove very true. At daylight the birds were gobbling and we even were able to get close to one of them. They responded to calling when they could hear the yelps, cackles, and cuts, but as soon as the gobblers hit the ground, they got tight lipped. The long beards had their girls still with them as well and that made things even more difficult.

Hunting "henned-up" gobblers in the 20-30 mile per hours winds proved to be more than we could master as we bumped more birds than we heard gobble. Reluctantly, we headed back to Georgia with our tails tucked. We did enjoy an awesome time with the folks at Rockbridge Lodge anyway.

April 30, 2005

By now I hadn't given up on taking a bird this season, but my feelings were getting hurt pretty badly. Kevin Knighton and I made a late evening drive up to Charles Clark's cabin and met up with him and my dad, Mike. The weather, as usual by now for me, was predicted to be terrible with strong storms passing through most of the day. Saying a little prayer for a few hours of morning hunting, I fell asleep that night.

The alarm clock went off at 5:00 AM and we drug ourselves up and gathered our gear. Charles had taken the top section of a shooting house down and built a ground blind for us overlooking a small food plot that had already produced a couple of nice birds this season. We were covered for the rain, but we needed a long beard to cooperate. Arriving before daylight and getting settled in the blind was easy and it was only a couple of minutes until the first gobbler sounded off. He hammered less than 100 yards away. I called on my owl hooter and he cut me off! This bird was getting pretty impressive with his calling. I gave him a soft tree yelp and the hammered even harder! By now I'm thinking that this may work out well for me this morning. After a short wait, I decided to let the gobbler know that I was for real. Giving him a fly down cackle along with some cuts and yelps, he was gobbling his head off. Then dad chimed in with a fly down and this gobbler was going nuts! We are now thinking that it is only a matter of time before he comes in so we quit calling.

Two and a half hours pass and we haven't heard or seen the gobbler again. Sitting there in astonishment that he didn't come right in, we listened as the approaching cold front was bringing some strong storms our way. Reluctantly, we decided to head for the truck. Beating the rain so far, dad and I decided to slip out into the middle of a field that a lot of turkey sign had been in to look around a bit. The thunder cracked one time and GOBBLE!! A bird gobbled about fifty yards away. I hit the dirt right there in the middle of the field. A few seconds passed and I thought to myself, "What are you going to do in the middle of an open field?" I looked back at dad and he motioned for me to come back over to the edge of the field with him. We backed up and regrouped. Dad, Kevin, and I slowly snuck down a road off of the field edge. The bird was slipping up the edge of the field and we needed to get in front of him in a small creek bottom. Things were going good until the bird gobbled. He was behind us! The gobbler had decided to cut the corner of the field and ended up about 30 yards from us. Right there we sat down and I got my gun up. Then we heard the sound that turkey hunter dread, "PUTT!"

Dad called very soft back to the gobbler and told me to shoot when I saw his head. Amazingly the bird turned back around and presented me with a fifteen to twenty yard shot and I made the most of it! I was jacked up! The bird sported a ten inch beard and one inch spurs. Not the biggest bird in the woods, but I was dang proud! Especially after traveling over three states and having terrible luck.

There are a couple of weeks left in turkey season as I write this, and who knows what may happen in the woods before it is over. One thing is for sure though, this has been one of the best, toughest, and most rewarding turkey seasons I have ever had. If this is what that first author of the "book" went through, then I have nothing but respect for his or her ability and knowledge of this great tradition that has been passed on to me called "turkey hunting".

Good hunting and God bless,

Michael Lee

Host - Southern Backwoods Adventure TV show
Quaker Boy Game Calls Pro Staff, Scent-Lok Technologies Pro Staff


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