Spring Turkey Season: Bring Plenty of Patience (And Remember Your Ammo)

Hunting the Eastern Tom in Alabama is one of the biggest hunting challenges I’ve ever had. I’ve hunted these birds for years, but if you haven’t hunted pursued wild turkey, you will quickly learn just how difficult killing an Eastern in Alabama really is.

There isn’t a morning spent in the woods that I don’t learn a new trick or another way to fool these crafty ole birds. Often times these lessons come the hard way, through failure. But putting all of those hard won lessons learned to work eventually gives a hunter the edge needed to bring home a bird or two. All that being said, remember that these birds will test your patience.

Recently I found myself driving 100 miles to meet up with a couple of friends, Blake Dial and Cole Thomas with Sookalo Creek Outfitters to chase a wily tom. They’re located just south of Tuscaloosa, a virtual hunters paradise. For this hunt I was packing my Remington Versa Max, a shotguns that’s proved to be reliably deadly time and again.

I arrived at their family’s restaurant Diamond Jim’s around 6:45 on Friday night just in time for an epic thunderstorm and flooding rain. Upon arrival Blake, Cole, and I discussed the next morning’s hunt. Our plan was to hit a nearby farm where Blake had seen several two-year-old birds recently.

Morning came too quickly. Rushing around in my eagerness to get out there, I left my ammo in the truck. Fortunately, Blake had me covered. With the sun rising, the woods were abnormally quiet due to the overpowering storm. We heard a couple of gobbles, but given the previous night’s storm, it was nothing like we would have on a crisp spring morning.

We walked a mile or two trying to locate the lone bird we heard, but no such luck. Throughout the day we tried numerous farms hoping to strike a gobble. As the day passed the all-too-familiar realization of failure was present, though not from a lack of effort. Sometimes the conditions and the birds just don’t cooperate.

We finished the evening with an outstanding ribeye at Diamond Jim’s. That took some of the sting off.

Day two looked more promising with a cool, crisp Alabama sunrise filled with the sound of gobbling turkeys all around. With each call, the birds helpfully let us know where they were, thus allowing us to make the necessary move for setup.

On this particular morning we were hunting with Slade Johnson owner of Grand Slam Outdoors, who has a passion for turkey that was handed down by his grandfather. The bird we were targeting gobbled every minute or so without paying the least bit of attention to us.

We maintained our stealthiness as best we could while closing the distance to the bird. But the tom showed no interest in our calls or decoys…pretty typical behavior for an ol’ Eastern. We moved on toward a few other gobblers, but none of them were any more accomocating.

Once again we found ourselves “land hopping” if you will, in search of a more promising tom. We arrived at another farm that hadn’t been hunted much and hopped into “The Beast” basically an electric golf cart that let us sneak down the roads under power.

As we closed the distance on the opening of a cutover, Cole stopped the cart and we slowly, quitly approached the area. It wasn’t long before we spotted a beautiful tom strutting on a nearby hill. Blake and I crawled into position amongst some thick vegetation and began calling. Cole had set up behind us in case the bird scooted around us.

With a couple of yelps the bird broke strut and walked down the road directly toward our position. The brush was so thick I could barely see him. Blake and Cole urged me to take him, but but I couldn’t see what’s was shooting at. I slowly repositioned my gun to the left, assuming the bird saw or heard the rustling and he stuck his head up above the brush just enough for a shot.

He was only five yards away and the Versa Max did its job, dropping the bird where he stood. Cole was already gone, jumping through brush like a dog after a rabbit, getting to the bird almost before I stood up.

Much to my surprise, the ole tom didn’t have any spurs, I thought I might have bagged a jake, but my bird had an eight-inch beard and a full symmetrical fan. While I was puzzled, Blake told me he’d shot a couple of birds this year exactly like mine. Whatever, it was an exhilarating hunt that ended with a beautiful West Alabama bird.

I have been all over the country hunting all kinds of birds, but the Eastern tom is a bird that never ceases to intrigue me. Their so smart that it makes bagging them a challenge every time you step in the woods. I have to say that Blake and Cole not only live to hunt turkey but they have an outstanding operation. Friendships, whether they begin in a duck blind or in the turkey woods, frequently last a lifetime.

comments

  1. avatar ironicatbest says:

    Don’t know about Alabama. But I’ve caught some turkeys around here with a fish hook, corn, and 50 lb mono. ..the hens are better eating then them long spurred Tom’s anyway.. Made a fish trap today and put it in the river…..Nothing’s ileagal till you get caught

    1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

      Ironcatbest, words escape me. Before I retired I had a hierarchy of criminals. Child molesters were the worst, next came rapists, poachers were a close third. And I wasn’t even a game & fish officer. Never ceased to amaze me that guys that would run you down to give you back the wallet you just dropped think nothing of poaching. It’s stealing. My friends and I spend thousands to have quality hunting. Planted summer food plots last Saturday. A ton of Antler Max to be delivered Wednesday. When a poacher illegally takes game on the farm he may as well have burglarized my home. You are a thief. If someone burglarized your home would it only be illegal if he were caught? Why didn’t you sign your real name to that last post?

      1. avatar anonymoose says:

        I used to have turkeys in my neighborhood in Cleveland. Every time I saw a turkey or deer I thought about ways I could snag it without the cops or any neighbors noticing. They just looked so damn delicious…

        1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

          I’ve seen plenty of of rack bucks and long beards on property I didn’t have permission to hunt. I often stopped to glass them; never occurred to me to touch the firearm in the truck with me.

      2. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Where did he say he was poaching?

        1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

          He didn’t, and I doubt he will, but it doesn’t matter. Any time you take game illegally; it’s poaching. Even if it’s on his own property. It’ll bite him on the ass one day. Like I used to say, “We don’t catch everybody every time, but we catch everybody eventually.”

      3. avatar ironicatbest says:

        I live in the country, 640 acres,the critters I catch are on my place, the river runs through my back yard,I own both sides of the river for a half mile, it’s non navigateble, that makes that half mile mine. Didnt you see the KEEP OUT signs? How can I steal from you when your on my place? Why don’t I post my name? Cause you’d sic the game warden on me,

        1. avatar ironicatbest says:

          Oh, and I’ve already been bit. If that makes you feel any better.

        2. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

          The fish in the river and the game on your property don’t belong to you, or doing what you’re doing wouldn’t be illegal. The fish can swim up and down that river and the turkeys can walk across property lines. You know, to where people with integrity and ethics could have a chance of harvesting them. Your not even hunting, or fishing. I know about the trick with the corn, hook and mono. Everyone who grew up in the woods does. Leaves the bird defenseless to every predator out there. You can sugar coat it any way you want to. You’re a criminal. Oh! You never addressed the issue of someone stealing from you. If they don’t get caught; is it legal?

  2. avatar Southerner says:

    Open sight handguns are legal for turkey hunting in Alabama.

  3. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

    If you’ve already been caught, and you’re still poaching, it doesn’t make me feel better. It just makes you:
    1. A repeat offender.
    2. Stupid.

  4. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

    The worst thing about this dialog is that you cheapened a man’s story of a honest, hard earned turkey hunt and turned into your little story of hook lining turkeys, even the hens for God’s sake, and trapping fish. I hope you can look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow.

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the shills who get paid to crap all over hunting and shooting blogs and the ones who do it just for fun.

      1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

        Believe me. I am pro-hunting and firearms 100%. Come to N. Florida next season and I’ll put you in a stand, (not the Midwest, but we get the odd 140-150 class buck), spend a day on a first class range and throw in a southern quail hunt to boot. Oh, and ribeyes on the grill after the hunt. A finger of bourbon while the steaks sizzle. Invitation is serious. 1000* acres to ramble around on.

      2. avatar ironicatbest says:

        I could get paid? And here I was just having fun…. , I really got Paul all pissed off and mad about it tho, and that’s good for the cardio vascular, just trying to help.

        1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

          You didn’t get me pissed off. Sitting here at complete rest watching Fox news. It’s just that what you’re doing is illegal and fuels the fire of the anti-hunters. If you’re going to break the law, you shouldn’t brag on social media. Your name? Who cares? Any techie can run you down tomorrow. Footprints don’t disappear on social media like they do in the sand when it rains. Had it done a hundred times. Maybe I’ll call a couple of my former compatriots and give them a project. Just for fun. No warrant needed. After all you put your criminal activity on Front Street. Not in our jurisdiction? No problem. Just a quick teletype to yours. You said they’re already familiar with you. I’m sure they would be happy to shake your hand again.

    2. avatar ironicatbest says:

      If I own the house and the food, then the guy in my house eating my food is a Theif, just like the turkeys and deer eating my beans and corn. And sorry if I ruined the guys story but I don’t give a rat’s ass about anybody spending $121, 000 to shoot anythng and tell me it’s for the meat. That makes them a liar. It’s for the horns and glory. How much you spend on that grow horn corn and food plot? Could have bought six fat steers and had them butchered for that price. Want to just get out in nature and have a good time, shoot them with a camera. But that takes all the fun and power out of killing, and killing makes me FEEL like a bigger man, right?. Believe it or not ,I’m more for the critters then you think.

      1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

        Buddy, if deer and turkeys are all you have to worry about in crop deprivation, you’re lucky. (Although, the turkeys your hook lining have never been accused of destroying crops to my knowledge, or fish.) On the other hand, we’re dealing with feral hogs in our peanut, corn and soy bean fields. Between trapping, shooting and hiring men with hog dogs; I quit counting at 200 last year. And it’s on again now. As an aside, we plant the summer food plots and run the feeders in addition to the crop fields. Also, hogs can be hunted, and trapped, on private land 24/7, legally, in Florida. Once again, sugar coat it if you want to, it’s poaching. Again I ask, poaching issue aside; If someone steals from you is it legal if they don’t get caught?

  5. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

    Rebuttal?

  6. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

    Also pass up around 20 +/- legal bucks a year. (Got 16 hanging on the wall.) Last one I shot was 5 years ago. Does are for meat. Of course their legal here. Unlike hens. Mostly sit in a stand, read a book and watch them walk by. Maybe you should read a book. Might improve your spelling.

    1. avatar ironicatbest says:

      My spelling does need some improving, that’s a fact. . How’s this grab yah, I’m going to wait until the turkey eggs are about ready to hatch then burn or disk the pasture, doze in the rest of the timber and run 1800 head of cattle .then spray mega gallons of herbicide on the locust and hedge trees that spring up because I over grazed it.Then mega gallons of anhydrous, till the grounds so hot you can’t find a worm,Just like these guys around me do.That will really help the turkey population and with all that herbacide anhydrous ammonia runoff in the river for the fish. What the King doesn’t seem to get, it’s not his Kingdom.. yes a Theif stealing is ileagal

  7. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    That’s a fine looking bird Ben. Congrats!

    1. avatar Paul Mcmichael says:

      It is a nice bird, Ben. Y kind of got lost in the debate between me and the poacher. I, too, killed a long beard with no spurs a few years ago in South Carolina. Also, all of his toes were crooked. Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.

      1. avatar Ben says:

        Paul Mcmichael,
        I really appreciate it! It was the weirdest experience seeing the bird strutting around and having no spurs.

    2. avatar Ben says:

      Tom in Oregon, I really appreciate it!

  8. avatar MIO says:

    With a sidesaddle you wont forget your ammo. They aren’t just for the tacticools and they make matching camo pattern ones for your choice

    1. avatar Ben says:

      Mio,

      That’s a great idea that I hadn’t thought of. I appreciate the input!

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