Dusty McGehee: Outside the Box Birds (Pt 2)

 

Turkey season in Louisiana has come to an end and depression has set in.  The ONE thing I live/love to hunt more than anything else… and I have to wait over 300 more days to do it again.  After 26 years of doing this, the feeling never changes.  

However, there is a rainbow after the rain and hopefully is encouraging statewide.  I saw jakes!!!  For those who don’t know, jakes are one year old gobblers.  It’s been a few years since I’ve seen one in North Louisiana and every place I hunted this season had a decent crop of them.  Anders and I passed up each jake we saw and are already looking forward to hunting them next season when they are loud-mouthed longbeards.

Now for part 2:

Since I killed the “lunch break bird” on my grandfather’s property, I have been eagerly looking forward to going back to that tract.  Anders and I hunted it opening weekend and should’ve doubled up, but I screwed up… don’t worry, I will write some screw up stories later, as I’ve got plenty.

We had hunted this particular bird a couple of times that roosted across the creek at the edge of a cutover.  I had called him up to the creek twice, but he refused to cross.  I wasn’t sure if the cutover belonged to my family, so I kept my distance.  On my third trip, the bird was in the same place and played the same game.  I called him right up to the bank of the creek, but he wouldn’t cross.  I worked the bird for 2 hours then looked at my watch and knew I had to leave.  I had a much more important event to attend… my daughter’s gymnastics recital.

I got up and tried to sneak out of the open hardwood bottom, took a few steps out and PUTT!!!  The worst sound a turkey hunter can hear; the alarm call that they make when they sense danger.  He had seen me and was probably running like Usain Bolt to the next parish.  While dejected, I knew my father duties came first and I went to the new RPAR facilities and enjoyed the gymnastics show.

Afternoon hunting is not my favorite but it sure can be deadly.  While you can hunt countless afternoons and not hear a thing or have anything to show, I’ve always said: If I do hear a gobble then it’s game on!  So, I made the decision to go chase this bird in the afternoon.

I couldn’t take my mind off this one.  I knew exactly where he roosted at the corner of the cutover and knew I could get across the creek and into his roosting area.  I asked Anders if he wanted to go but he wanted to stay home and play, despite me telling him we had a really good chance at killing this bird… rewind to “Never Doubt Your Dad” story.

I make the 50-minute drive down to the camp and make the mile trek into that area.  I crossed the creek and found a suitable gum tree to set up on around 5:15PM.  I made a few calls and relaxed.  So much so, that I began nodding off.  After my head bobbed a few times, I made another call and was greeted with silence.  I’d been there maybe 45 minutes in and out of sleep; the sun was creeping lower, so I made the decision to just sleep.

GOBBLE, GOBBLE!!!  The best alarm clock to be woken up by!  I turned to where I thought he was, and I got steady.  He gobbled again, and he sounded like he was 90 degrees to my right, so I repositioned.  I made a few light calls and could hear him drumming.  Once again, my ears were playing tricks on me, or perhaps, I was a little woozy from the snooze, so I repositioned to the other side of the tree.

The drumming gets closer and closer; he was coming in directly west of me.  I hear him walking and then I see him bust into full strut.  He is trying to flank me out of range, so I make a light call with my mouth, and he turns to me on a dime.  The sun was directly behind his fan and casting a shadow almost to my setup; it was one of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen.  I let him get to 40 yards and decide that is close enough and let the 20 gauge send the TSS 9s down the pipe.  He hit the ground and never flinched.

I thanked God, let out a yell, and headed over to him.  I was pleasantly surprised when I go my hands on him.  He was a giant of a bird, with 1.25-inch spurs, 10.5-inch beard, and weighed 20 pounds.  I loaded him up in my vest and made the long hike back, 20 pounds heavier and with a smile you couldn’t wipe off my face.

I will be the first to admit that afternoon hunting can be extremely boring, but it’s that one successful hunt in the past that keeps bringing me back.  It’s been 6 years since I’ve killed an afternoon bird, and I can’t tell you how many attempts I’ve made.  But I will say it once again, If I can get him to gobble, GAME ON!

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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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