Author’s note: Eddie Salter of Greenville, Alabama has hunted turkeys for almost 50 years, hosts The Turkey Man on the Pursuit Channel, and is a Pro Staffer for the Down-n-Dirty Outdoors call company and Mossy Oak. This week, we’ve asked Salter to tell Outdoor Hub’s readers about some of the toughest turkeys he ever has tried to take.
I had this famous outdoor writer coming to Evergreen, Alabama, where I live, to hunt with me. This fellow was writing a book on turkey hunting for the Outdoor Life Book Club. He wanted to hunt with and interview all the well-known turkey hunters and callers of the day for his book. Before the hunt, I’d secured permission to hunt what I considered to be some of the best turkey lands in Alabama. These lands had so many turkeys on them a five-year-old could hunt with a box call and a stick and probably kill a turkey. I thought I could get this writer a turkey within half a day.
One of the reasons I like turkey hunting so much is I never know what will happen. For four days straight, from daylight to dark, we went to every place I knew and never heard a gobble. However, we did spot one skinny jake. The writer said, “That bird won’t do for photography.” I was completely frustrated. I had been everywhere on all this good turkey hunting property to find this fellow a turkey and struck out. I had walked this guy so far that he’d nearly worn out the soles on his boots. We had started on a Monday, and the writer only could hunt until noon on Friday. I kept telling him, “Don’t give up, we’ll get a turkey.” But that hadn’t happened.
By Friday morning, I was desperate. We drove to all the places we already had hunted, but I couldn’t get a turkey to gobble. About 11:00 am, we were driving back to camp and spotted a lone gobbler out in the field strutting. We drove past the field and stopped on the back side of the hill where I had permission to hunt. I looked at the writer and said, “That’s the only gobbler we’ve seen all week. We have an hour left to hunt. Let’s give him a try.”
The writer looked up at me and said, “Eddie, there’s no way you’ll call that gobbler out of that field and up to the top of this hill.” I smiled and said, “Maybe I can’t, but we have to keep trying.” We climbed the hill as fast as we could go. I got to the top of the hill before he did. Using my binoculars, I looked at the gobbler out in the field. I yelped to him loudly. The bird turned to face me, gobbled, went into full strut and then turned his tail to me. By this time, the writer had caught up to me and was looking at the gobbler. He whispered in a low voice, “There’s no way we’ll kill that turkey.” I went ahead and yelped one more time. The turkey turned to face me and then back to face the woods. That old tom was a good 250 yards away from the woods on all sides.
As we watched, we saw one of the strangest things I ever had seen in my life. From the wood line, we heard a shotgun report. “There’s no way a hunter can kill a turkey from that distance,” I told the writer. That hunter must have heard the call and decided to force a shot. As we both watched through our binoculars, the turkey jumped straight up in the air at the report, turned in mid-air and started flying toward the top of our hill.
“Get ready, you might get a shot at this turkey,” I told the writer. I saw him check his chamber to make sure he had a shell in it. He brought his gun up right under his arm. The turkey had to fly a long way to get to the top of the hill. We probably could have eaten a sandwich before he got there. As we watched, that old gobbler flew to us just like he was a kite, and we were pulling on his string. When the bird was about 60 yards away, I whispered, “You better shoot him.” The writer said, “Not yet.”
I couldn’t believe this fellow hadn’t shouldered his shotgun. Finally, when the turkey was less than 20 yards away and flying straight to us, the writer quickly brought the shotgun to his shoulder, got his cheek squarely on the stock and fired. That turkey folded up like an envelope. I watched the turkey tumble from the sky and that big bird’s head hit the ground no more than two feet from my boot. After the high-fiving was over, I told the writer, “I told you I’d call-up a turkey for you.” The writer looked at me and said, “Eddie, you are more lucky than good. The Good Lord appointed today as the last day this gobbler was meant to live.” I laughed and said, “You’re right.”
When calling and hunting don’t work, you have to depend on perseverance, luck, and wearing Mossy Oak camouflage. That old bird never saw us, even though we were standing in open woods on top of a hill.
Images courtesy John Phillips