I’ve hunted a lot of tough turkeys in my life, but none were tougher than Old Mossy. Old Mossy lived on a hill covered with Spanish moss in Copiah County, Mississippi. I was hunting with the late Woodrow Dixon on the late Warren Hood’s land. Mr. Hood suggested that I go over and hunt Old Mossy and said, “If you get to the top of the hill and wait until daylight, you’ll hear him gobbling off to your right. He’s managed to whip every turkey hunter that’s gone after him.”
I had hunted this farm before, so I knew the road going up the hill was covered in gravel. I parked my truck away from the bottom of the hill before my tires ever touched gravel, and walked up the hill as quietly as I could. The leaves were dry and crunchy. This hill was about 200 yards long with a ridge in it, followed by another ridge before the bottom. I heard the turkey gobble on one of the ridges. Crows came by screaming and cawing, and the turkey didn’t say anything. As the morning brightened, I could see for about 25 yards.
All of a sudden, the turkey gobbled two ridges away. I said to myself, “Will, you have to use your Missouri tactic.” I took two steps in the leaves, scratched with my right foot and walked to the side and scratched in the leaves to sound like a hen that had seen an acorn. I never used a call. I just started walking like a turkey. Next, Old Mossy tore up the woods with his gobbling, but he was still in a tree and wouldn’t fly off the limb.
I crossed the first ridge and got to the side of the second ridge. I knew I had to go to the top, down the other side and then back up to get to where Old Mossy was. I sat down, scratched in the leaves a little bit and sat still. Every now and then I’d scratch, and Old Mossy would start gobbling again. Then I heard a racket in the trees, looked up and saw that turkey sailing through the timber in my direction. He landed on a limb to my left, about 15 feet off the ground. Since the gobbler only was about 30 yards away, I squinted so he couldn’t see my eyeballs and become alerted.
His head was bobbing up and down as he looked to both sides, trying to see the hen that was walking in the leaves. He suddenly gobbled, and I kept telling myself, “Will, you have to wait for the right moment. If you turn and try to shoot him, he’ll fly off that limb.” I sat still and was absolutely silent. I knew that gobbler could see any movement I made. Then he jumped out of the tree and landed right next to the trunk. Just before he landed, I started moving my gun toward him, because I knew he couldn’t see me and the ground at the same time. When he hit the ground, he started walking away from me. When he looked back, I fired.
I took Old Mossy that morning, and that was probably the most exciting hunting moment of my life. I knew I was hunting a tough bird that had been educated by every hunter in the area. I just used the sound of a turkey walking in the woods to get him interested in me. I realized that every time that turkey heard a truck driving up that gravel road, he knew there was danger on top of Moss Hill. You have to hunt tough turkeys in a way no one’s ever hunted them before. Mossy Oak’s Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland says you have to have MRI– the most recent information–to be successful on turkeys. If I hadn’t had the MRI about the way other hunters were hunting that turkey, I wouldn’t have been able to take him.
Image courtesy John Phillips