I grew up hunting only the wildlife we had on my grandfather’s farm: deer, dove, and the occasional hog. No ducks, our land is too arid. No quail, not enough of them. Turkey hunting was out of the question, because we’d never even had one gobble in the direction of our fence.
Until one afternoon last year, when I was driving the 4-wheeler down our dirt road and glanced across the field towards our corn feeder. Not expecting to see anything, I returned my eyes to the road out of habit. Then something clicked and I realized I had seen something back at the feeder.
Unusual, since wildlife isn’t always out and about mid afternoon. I threw the 4-wheeler in reverse.
Indeed, there was something moving out there. I zeroed in on it with my binoculars and stared in disbelief.
A gang of turkeys.
What in the heck?
I eagerly reported back to our family, and since that day we have discovered even more. I have loved watching them cluck around and make very funny ruffling sounds as they move around. Turkeys add a level of comic relief to a relatively uneventful nature scene.
(For a description of the weird noises I am talking about see this hilarious Youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFMXcbyHbF0)
Given that these guys never get hunted on our place, and given their large population, Brandon decided he wanted to get our Thanksgiving turkey the old fashioned way–by going out and harvesting it himself.
Here is the advice we received from well-meaning friends and neighbors on how to go about this.
- Shoot the turkey in the hind quarters
- Shoot the turkey at the base of the neck
- Shoot it with a rifle
- Shoot it with a shotgun
- Be very quiet and still because they have very good eyesight and are highly skittish
- Don’t worry about being quiet, you can shoot it from a truck
- Wear camo
- Don’t bother wearing camo, it’s more important to be still
- If it doesn’t die right away you’ll need a machete to cut its head off.
I’m sorry, did you say A MACHETE?
Mom, get a Butterball. This hunt is off!
You could say we were left in a quandary. So naturally, I did the only thing I knew how to do and bought a machete.
Another tip we received was that I should use a turkey call to attract turkeys to where we would be hunting, so I set about practicing, much to the chagrin of my dog.
Here I am attempting the call. I think I need to work on consistency.
We also watched a YouTube channel of Canadians going turkey hunting in an attempt to glean wisdom from their years of experience. All I got out of it was the way they pronounce the phrase “Going oooot turkey hunting.”
The more we researched the more lost I felt. We decided we were just going to give it a go and improvise as the situation dictated. (Ranches require great improvisation skills, it’s a fact of life.)
And so we went down to the farm, guns in tow and feeling clueless. The first evening, we went on a scouting mission and found the turkeys heading across a hill through short brush and into the area where they roost.
The second night, they followed the same pattern.
We thought that if we disguised ourselves in the short brush they passed through every night, we would be within shooting range of them.
We parked the 4-wheeler on a dirt road about a half mile away, and walked as stealthily as possible.
Then we got to the area of short brush and had to determine where to light, which we realized we were totally unprepared for. Where does one sit?
About five long minutes of whispering and debating later, we resigned ourselves to two mesquite trees somewhat shielded by cacti.
And we waited.
Barely moving, except to get the occasional pictures. Plenty of time to question if we were in the right spot.
I got up close and personal with this cactus.
Thirty minutes into our waiting game, we heard a rustle in the brush just over Brandon’s shoulder. Out popped a doe, a mere ten feet from me!
She and I had a stare down, neither of us knowing what to do. This poor little doe probably has walked this same brush every evening for a few years, and then one day there is a smelly human in her path? She gave me a very surprised look before she snorted and turned on her heels, a fawn following behind her.
After the doe left, things fell silent again.
About fifteen minutes later, we saw the turkeys flying over the trees in front of us into their roosting site, where they would be posting up for the night.
Sadly, this meant they would not be returning to our area.
They had rerouted their nightly stroll through our little patch of brush.
Outsmarted, we got up and went home.
The good news is my mom’s Butterball turned out great and we were thoroughly filled with food. (Read more about our Thanksgiving here.)
Since that hunt we heard that what we ought to do is sit in the deer blind and wait for them to come to the feeder. The exact feeder where I had seen them the first time, in fact.
So far the machete has not been touched, but it’s a comfort to know if I ever need to dress up as Jabbar from Aladdin I will be well-equipped.
As far as what we will do when or if we ever get a turkey, here is the advice we have received:
- Get a big pot, and boil the entire turkey in it over a campfire to loosen the feathers.
- Don’t boil them! Instead, skin them and take out the meat.
Clearly, we have more research to do. Stay tuned for future tales of turkey glory.
If you have advice, we are all ears.