MEIGS COUNTY, Tenn. – For the most part, it was a routine turkey hunt, if there is such a thing. Two guys on a Meigs County farm opting to hunt different fields, but still within sight of one another. Perhaps 200 yards separate their hiding places. Ross Malone is situated in a portable blind while the author, Richard Simms, is tucked in the brush beside a big tree on an adjacent field.
What follows is sort of the tale of two cities… the views of a hunt from differing perspectives, sort of like two cameras watching from different angles.
MALONE: I hear the first gobbles just after 7 am. Twenty minutes later they begin sailing off the bluff out into the field. Two gobblers, then three along with a dozen or more hens. The “Big Boy” gobbler is moving north fast, toward Richard but stops. Suddenly he turns and chases a smaller gobbler toward me and then the Big Boy melts back into the woods.
SIMMS: The northwest wind is cold in my face. I hear gobbles but it is hard to nail down the direction in the hard wind. Finally, about 7:30 I ease up where I can see over the levee to my south. I’m shocked when I see the field full of turkeys. I can’t see them when I’m sitting down so I stay hunkered a moment and watch as a strutting gobbler seems to ease in Ross’s direction.
MALONE: I start to call to him and he starts to strut. I keep calling and he is moving slowly toward my decoys and stops. From inside the blind I can easily put my range finder on him. He is 20 yards away, looking toward the hens. I’m holding out, hoping the big dominant gobbler I saw earlier will return. I decide to give this one a pass, hoping he will work his way to Richard.
SIMMS: All I can do is ease up a few inches where I can peer over the levee every few minutes to see if the turkeys remain in the field. A running text conversation with Ross gives me occasional status updates. At one point he says, “Call hard!” I do and my heart pounds and I ready my gun when Ross texts that they’re heading for the levee that is barely 20 yards away.
MALONE: There’s no way to say why but the birds won’t cross the levee. They begin feeding south into the field in my direction again. It’s about 8:15 when the jakes (one-year-old male turkeys) are heading toward my hen decoys. The older gobbler I passed up earlier isn’t happy about that. He cuts the young jakes off at the pass, still strutting but easing closer.
SIMMS: I’m sensing these birds are never going to make a move my way. My instincts tell me they will feed a while longer and then ease back into the woods from whence they came. I text and ask Ross for his opinion and he tells me the birds are moving away from the woods.
MALONE: I call occasionally and one jake makes another end run around the gobbler toward my decoys. The big gobbler cuts him off again.
SIMMS: I decide it’s time for a dramatic move on my part and try to circle out into the woods and set up where I think they’ll go. I belly crawl into a shallow ditch to stay hidden behind the levee. From the ditch I can stand up behind a screen of honeysuckle and easily see the field with no chance of busting the birds. I see the main gobbler easing in Ross’s direction.
MALONE: I put the call down and pull up the range finder. The biggest gobbler is at 44 yards but a jake is in the line of fire.
SIMMS: I see a jake dash toward Ross’s hen decoys and the gobbler rushes in, chasing the young bird back toward the flock. Even from a distance it is very clear to me the gobbler is well within range of Ross. I text him, “Shoot that [expletive deleted] turkey!”
MALONE: I see the text from Richard to shoot the bird. I decide it must be his day to die. But I need the gobbler to come out of strut to shoot. He moves toward me, a few yards closer now and the Jake is not in the line of fire. He comes out of strut and I pull the trigger.
SIMMS: Ten seconds after I send the text, basically ordering Ross to shoot, I see the gobbler jump into the air. At that distance and with the wind blowing hard, there is a sound delay. A second after the bird jumps and flies I hear the shot. I think the bird is hit but obviously not well. I immediately realize the bird had to take off into the wind, actually quartering closer to Ross’s blind. The bird crumples and a second later – again in reverse order – I hear the second shot ring out. I breathe a little sigh of relief. The deadly scene played out in only a second or two but in my memory it seems like it moved it slow motion.
MALONE: The bird is down but his head comes up. A third shot sends him into a death flap. What a crazy way to kill this big bird.
It was a wild morning show that lasted almost an hour-and-a-half from start to finish. But the end result was a gobbler down and awesome memories for everyone.