Good Ol’ Turkey Hunting Tales
John E. Phillips 04.27.12
One of my favorite people to hunt with is Al Mattox of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I’ve known Mattox for more than two decades, and he’s the type of fellow you enjoy spending time with in the woods. Mattox and I strategize together when we hear a turkey gobble, and we’ll have a good time whether we take a turkey or not. But we’ll usually get our bird. Mattox just returned from Iraq where he ran the explosives lab that blew up IEDs (improvised explosive devices) discovered by the troops. Mattox explains, “We’d take the IEDs apart to look for fingerprints to try to determine who made the IED, and who placed it where our troops might encounter it.” Mattox’s first deployment in Iraq was after 9/11. His favorite thing to do is hunt wild turkeys.
To read the first part of my interview with Al, click here.
Question: Al, do you have another good tale about turkey hunting?
Mattox: Two years ago, I was guiding your son-in-law, Joe Hudson of Birmingham, Alabama. At the beginning of the season, I’d found five long-bearded gobblers roosting together. They stayed together when they hit the ground. I took one client in and took one of the gobblers. I left the area alone for a few days and then took another gobbler from the same region. I took Joe into this section of land to take another one of those gobblers.
We went into the spot in the afternoon and started hearing thunder. Every time thunder would roll, the turkeys would gobble. The turkeys were down in a hollow, and we were sitting on the side of the hill. So, I started calling the turkeys, and the turkeys started coming to us. When the turkey got to about 30 to 35steps away from us, he stopped behind a tree. The turkey couldn’t see us, and we couldn’t see him. That turkey started gobbling, and he gobbled at least 60 times. The turkey finally moved to a spot where I could see him, and I told Joe to take the shot. Joe whispered to me, “I can’t see the turkey.” We waited and waited on that turkey. I could watch the turkey from where I was sitting. But from where Joe was sitting, he couldn’t see the turkey. I couldn’t believe we were sitting that close to a gobbling turkey, and Joe couldn’t see him. Finally, the turkey stepped out, and Joe was able to take him.
Mattox: I had a turkey hunter from Florida who was accustomed to hunting Osceola turkeys. We’d roosted a gobbler about 200 yards from a green field. Once the turkey started gobbling, I started clucking to him on a Knight & Hale slate call. That turkey kept gobbling and gobbling and double-gobbling. The hunter encouraged me to call to the turkey more, and I explained to him that, “We don’t need to call to the turkey anymore. He knows where we are. He’s already got us pinned down. We just need to wait until he decides to come to us.” The hunter kept pleading with me to call to the turkey. So, finally I decided to give the bird one more series of clucks. The turkey was gobbling to some hens on the other side of him, away from us. I heard the gobbler turn on that limb and gobble straight at me. I put the call down and told my hunter, “I’m not going to call to him again.” In about 10 minutes, I heard wings beating the air. The gobbler flew and landed in a tree no more than 15 feet from the tree where we were leaned up against and calling. The turkey was up about 18 feet high. He kept sitting in that tree, searching, because he knew he was supposed to be able to see a hen.
My hunter couldn’t see the turkey, because he was sitting to my right. He heard the turkey fly up and land in the tree, but I was whispering to him, “Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move.” This hunter was shooting a 32 inch Harrington & Richardson 10 gauge single shot. After about 8 to 10 minutes, which seemed like an hour, the gobbler pitched off the limb and landed in a woods road. The bird landed about 28 steps from us behind a big swamp water oak. I told the hunter to shoot the turkey, and he said, “I don’t see him.” Finally, the turkey took about three steps to the left, and I told my hunter, “Shoot the turkey. He’s coming out on the left-hand side of that tree.” My hunter said, “I still don’t see the turkey.” The gobbler took 10 steps to the right, and I told my hunter to shoot. He whispered, “I still don’t see the turkey.” Instead of having his gun resting on his knee, my hunter was holding his gun at his shoulder, waiting to shoot. Finally, the weight of that big 10 gauge was more than he could hold, and the gun barrel began to do figure eights as my hunter tried to keep it steady. Finally, I reached over, grabbed my hunter and pulled him into my lap, so he could see the turkey. “I see him,” the hunter said. I said, “Okay, kill him.” When he fired that 10 gauge, the old gobbler crumpled. I didn’t think that man would ever shoot that turkey.