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Setting a World Record
This story is one, if you wrote it, I would probably be very suspect after reading it. This story really is true and happened just as I am describing it below. I hope you get half the pleasure reading it as I did living it.
It was April 6, a very crisp and cool morning. The sky was just beginning to lighten as I stood on this knoll overlooking a river bottom in an area we call ‘Two Rubs.’ I have two brothers that I usually hunt with and we name every place we hunt so we can tell each other where we are just in case we need to be contacted, or found. I was alone on this particular morning. Running around one edge of this great spence is a river with many smaller streams meandering through this 2-mile square parcel of hunting paradise.
As I stood absorbing the smell of the forest tundra the sky was getting brighter as the melody from the birds filled the air. A whip-o-will was singing with great enthusiasm when I heard the sound I so excitingly anticipated; a crow, then two, signaling to the bigger birds that nap time was over. O the anticipation….. and there it was. A deep long gobble coming from the tree tops above the river. The exhilaration, anticipation, and animation that accompanies that sound is indescribable. I rushed to get my gun and throw on my vest, scurrying about as if I were the Lone Ranger being attacked by a whole tribe of Comanche.
I slipped into the over grown pine grove and started closing the half-mile distance to the river. I soon heard hens cluck and the gobbler’s quick response. At this point I had made no calls, no owl hoots or coyote calls. Gobblers will call before leaving the roost. Shock gobbles are not necessary for locating them at first light. With a little patience they will tell you where they are.
As I closed the distance to about 150 yards I could hear the turkeys fly down. To my dismay they were on the other side of the river. God knows I do not care to swim but sometimes duty does call. I walked down the river looking for a place to cross but there were two obstacles, ok, really three I could not overcome. The river was too deep to cross and the other side is private land, but even more than that it was cold. Past experience has taught me that if you go across you must return the same way. Besides, holding your clothes and gun above your head while fighting to stay upright in this current is no easy task!
I followed this vocal display of amorous proportions for a couple of hours. They responded to my calls but were more than pleased to be hened-up . I guess these toms were exemplifying the old cliché ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,’ and they had both! I had been in this situation before and had a good idea how to proceed. It was about 9:30 so I found a good comfortable spot and enjoyed some of the libations hidden in my vest.
Toms are amazing animals. They can breed many, many hens in the same day. They will usually fly down with the hens, breed them and then start looking for others to breed. This second-seeking of a sort usually commences around 11:00. I stayed put and enjoyed creation’s beautiful activities as I waited with much anticipation for the minutes to pass. What a blessing to be alone in the woods with everything God has created, moving, singing, and displaying His marvelous handiwork all around. I even had an opossum pay me a visit. Opossums are not beautiful animals. As it got close it seemed to smile at me with its sparsely distributed teeth. I had a horrible reflection of a blind date I once had and I thought, ‘I would prefer the opossum!’
Horrible thought. Let’s see, where was I….oh yeah. Finally the minutes had past and it was around 11:00. I made a call from where I was and just listened for a few minutes. I made another and, nothing. I then walked about 75 yards in the direction the turkeys had gone and made another call; nothing. I did this again and thought I may have heard a faint gobble way off in the distance. I walked another 50 yards and made a call and ‘POW’ about 200 yards in front of me a tom answered. I found a huge elm tree about 20 yards from the river’s edge and sat down against it. I thought to myself, ‘What a perfect setup.’ There were thick canes to my left hiding the river and an open area about 30 yards in front of me with just a few canes in front to help hide me. By the time the tom would come into view he would be in range. I called again and ‘POW’ he had closed the distance, but, only one problem, he was on the other side of the river.
It was now about 11:30. I would call and he would respond. I would scratch the ground as if I were a feeding hen and he would sound off. I slapped my chest to mimic a mother hen flapping her wings and instantly he bellowed a double gobble. He walked up and down the river’s edge responding to everything I did, he just would not fly the river. I pulled out my scratch call and started purring…he goes ballistic. I gave that old tom everything I had and he responded to every effort, he just would not fly.
This goes on, and on, and on. It is now past 2:00 and he is still there, still answering my every move. I was thinking, ‘Do these guys ever get hoarse?’ I had run out of tricks. You know the definition of insanity don’t you? “Keep doing the same things and expect different results.” But I had nothing else to try and honestly I was getting weary in the battle. I thought to myself “If only he had a visual he may be convinced to cross that great divide. I had a decoy in my vest. I looked to my right and there lay a stick about 8 feet long. A thought entered my mind and I responded by saying ‘why not? I have tried everything else.’ I put my decoy on top of this stick and raised it into the air. The canes were about two feet tall and very thick so I knew ol’strutting tom could not see me. There was a small dogwood tree on my right so I slide the decoy up the trunk trying to make it look as if the hen (decoy) was in the tree. I rocked the decoy from front to back and clucked a couple of times with my mouth call. The old voice triple gobbled and I heard his wings beating the air as he flew the river. I literally dropped the decoy, picked up my shotgun, one…two…BOOM! Game over! Victory! Patience and ingenuity has won!
By now you may have figured out what the world record is I set that day. Self-proclaimed world record? Yes. Unanimous vote? Yes-one vote. I now hold the self-proclaimed world record for the world’s tallest hen! God must have smiled on me that day. I think He’s still smiling!
Former missionary to the Zulu of South Africa and God-loving hunting enthusiast.