Talking Turkey from Two Perspectives

Ross Malone with a nice gobbler taken during this first week of Tennessee's turkey hunting season. Outdoor Editor Richard Simms didn't pull the trigger, but felt like part of the hunt as he watched the scene unfold from a distance. (Photo: Richard Simms)

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.

Malone’s gobbler weighed in just shy of 22 lbs. with a 10.5 inch beard. There is actually a system where turkey hunters can “score” their birds using a formula. You can learn more about that at (Photo: Richard Simms)

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.

From a distance some say turkeys are ugly. But up close the array of iridescent colors is spectacular. (Photo: Richard Simms)
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