Dusty McGehee: Outside the Box Birds (Part 1)

 

As the turkeys in our area become harder to come by, sometimes we have to adjust and do things a little different.  I’ve been fortunate enough to bag my limit of two birds, but both were not the “typical” ways I prefer to hunt them.

My first bird, which was killed in Union Parish, went against all methods I prefer to hunt.  I headed to the hunting club for the first time on the second weekend of the season and listened on the Arkansas state line.  I enticed one gobble, but he was in the wrong state, so I headed back south.

I drove into the middle of a pine plantation and walked a mile to the border where some beautiful hardwoods were.  I made a few calls and heard a bird as far as I could hear onto property I couldn’t hunt.  I sat there for 20 minutes to see if that bird would head my way and he never did.  As I was making the long trek out, I got about 300 yards from my truck, and I heard a Canada goose flying over.  I knew if any bird was close, the goose’s honking should solicit a shock gobble.  As the goose was fading out of hearing distance, one sounded off, so I did a 180 and headed that direction.

I entered a part of the hunting club I had never stepped foot on.  The thinned pines were relatively thick with an ATV trail going in the general direction I heard the bird.  I started slipping down the trail, looking at an aerial map on my phone.  I figured out he was down in a creek bottom about a mile away.  As I slipped through the pines, I paused when I got to the top of a ridge to listen for him again.  I heard him gobble and began to take a step, and I heard something that made me freeze.

Ffffft zooooooom!  It was the unmistakable sound of a gobbler drumming about 150 yards away.  I scrambled to find a suitable tree to lean against and got set up.  I made some calls but there was no response.  This bird was drumming his tail off but never said a word.  I knew he must have been showing out for his girlfriends, and I just hoped I was setup in the correct location.

After 10 minutes, I see a bird heading towards me up the ATV trail.  I click the safety off and said to myself “this is too good to be true.”  I was correct, as it was just one of his hens.  She got about 15 feet from me and decided something wasn’t right.  She didn’t spook too bad and just eased back towards the drumming gobbler.  I sat patiently for another 15 minutes, and the drumming kept coming closer.  I knew I was in a race against the clock because the forecast called for the winds to pick up around 9 AM.

Slowly but surely the drumming was coming closer.  Also, slowly but surely the wind was beginning to pick up.  I’m squinting through the underbrush of the pines, and I finally see the culprit of the noise.  A beautiful longbeard, about 100 yards away; in full strut with the sun beaming off his feathers.  I made a few calls to no avail.  Just like I had thought, he was showing out for some girls he was eyeing.

As soon as he had gotten out of my view, the winds picked up to 20-30 mph.  The only way I could keep tabs on this silent mouthed gobbler was now gone.  I sat patiently for 20 minutes and decided to go into full “Indian mode.”  The wind was blowing so strongly that I thought I could actually sneak up on him.  I wasn’t sure where he went but I knew he did not come my direction so I thought he may have headed up the trail.

I sneak out into the trail and start making my way slowly up it.  I’m taking about 5 steps per minute and surveying each inch of the understory.  I make it about half a mile down the trail and I see a deer stand.  I’m looking at it and looking all around when some movement catches my eye.  It’s a hen about 25 yards away and she is looking right at me.  I’m frozen like a statue and see another hen to my left about 15 yards.  Neither of them get spooked because the wind is howling so I go to the ground.

I have no clue where the gobbler is, but I assume he is within vision of these hens.  I belly roll across the trail to get to a vantage point where I can see the hens and get ready.  I make a few calls but again, am met with silence.  I knew I was staying there for the next hour, so I got comfortable.  I hadn’t been there 15 minutes and I see one of the hens making her way across the opening in front of me.  I catch movement behind her and BOOM I see a gobbler go into full strut. 

My heart is pounding, and he is heading to my right almost out of sight.  I try to stop him, but the wind is blowing so bad, he doesn’t hear me.  I shift into the trail and make another call, but he still can’t hear me and continues further out of sight.  I go for broke and scoot out into the middle of the trail and make a noise that probably sounded more like a peacock than a turkey, but it stopped him.   I settled the red dot on my 20 gauge on him and let it rip.  He immediately went down so I sprinted to him and put my hands on him.

It was a 2-3 year old turkey with a 10 inch beard, weighed 20 lbs, and had 7/8 inch spurs.  This was an unorthodox method of killing a bird and definitely not my preferred way, but I felt like I earned him.  With the conditions Mother Nature dealt me that day, there was no other way to do it.  Had the wind not kicked up so bad, I could’ve done it in a more “traditional way” but on the flip side if the wind wasn’t that bad, there is no way I could’ve gotten that close to them.

Sometimes you just have to play the cards that are dealt.  This was the first bird I have killed on the club in over a year.    It wasn’t the most exciting hunt by any means, but there was something primal about stalking up on your prey like they did thousands of years ago.

Turkey season is winding down in 2 more days.  I’ve got another story to tell but will save it for later.  Good luck to those hunting this final weekend!

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Dusty McGehee is a native of Downsville and a 2006 graduate of Louisiana Tech University with a bachelors in wildlife conservation. He is currently employed by WestRock and serves as an environmental engineer at the Hodge Mill. Dusty is an avid hunter and crappie fisherman, fishing crappie tournaments with his son when he is not in the woods. He and his wife Rachel have three young outdoorsmen/women: Anders (9), Ridge (7) and Mae (5). If you have a story idea or question about the great outdoors, you can reach Dusty at dusty.mcgehee@westrock.com.


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