“Talking Turkey” by Ted Mitchell

chunting4

Hunting turkeys is a much followed pursuit in the US of A and Canada. Often I have read about the elusive big Tom turkeys that seem to be almost a magical lure to the dyed in the wool turkey hunters. Turkey hunting is also becoming a well-followed pursuit in New Zealand. Six months ago, my good friend’s wife, Debbie told me of the turkeys that they had been breeding and letting go into their large fenced estate near Inglewood. Debbie said that these turkeys have been running wild for some years now and should be a real challenge whether with gun or bow. I had been invited to their end of year Christmas party at the ‘Havago Hilton’ that is what they call their cabin down by the creek where their clients camp while on hunting trips.

Over the period of the first evening they put all of our names into a hat for a draw. The first winner would have a free rusa deer hunt and the second draw would win a turkey hunt. Well lucky Graham Bell won the rusa hunt and arsy Ted Mitchell won the turkey hunt. Shit that’s me, you bloody beauty. That night my rain man reputation wasn’t tarnished as it showered during the night. Next morning the misty rain and overcast conditions continued. After gearing up, it was off to a spot where the turkeys seem to favour and into the hunt. As I got out of the car the rain set in, so the dry as a bone went on under my leafy camo and I started stalking a large scrubby area. After two hours of sneaking quietly around, the rain had stopped and the warmth from having the extra clothes on was getting to me. Sneaking back to a dam, the dry as a bone was left hanging in a prominent tree and the hunt continued. Gobble, gobble, gobble, I couldn’t believe my luck. One was stupid enough to let me know roughly where he was. Sneaking ever closer to the gobbling noises, there before me was a bloody big Tom turkey about forty yards away, he was very hard to see and his long red neck was the first thing I spotted. Now I had read where these blighters had ten-power vision and the way his head was twisting and turning he would be able to see everything that moved without trying. Down on my guts, slowly but surely the distance between the turkey and myself shortened. At about 27yards he spotted me. Freezing, I didn’t know what to do. The thing that crossed my mind was that if I fired and hit him in the wrong spot, he could fly virtually anywhere and my good friend Bill Troubridge from Canada, reckoned that aerial blood trails were terribly hard to follow. The problem with turkeys is that they have a whole lot of feathers, and under them is a lesser amount of turkey, and under this is a very small amount of lungs and heart. Picture a tennis ball in a pillow full of feathers; you have to hit the tennis ball. While all this is going through my mind, the tom’s head is moving around like one of those dogs you used to see in the back parcel trays of a car. He definitely knew there was something there that shouldn’t be there and was determined to see what it was. Having the Excalibur crossbow at the ready with the crosshair on his chest and knowing that it was only a matter of time before he absconded, I fired. The bow twanged and there was a thump as the arrow went where the bird was before he jumped. It must have hit a twig or something as the shaft was bent like a boomerang. Nothing has ever beaten an arrow from that bow, but old tom turkey did the fastest twostep shuffle I had ever seen and was gone before the arrow got there. While trying to re-cock my bow the turkey did what any smart turkey would do and disappeared. Talk about pissed. That was enough for one morning it was back to the Havago Hilton for a feed. At about eleven o-clock, thinking that one might come for water I spent a pleasant two hours relaxing at the waterhole. Saw a few deer and goats but no luck with the turkeys so it was back to camp for a rest.

Everyone else had gone home by three thirty as the periodical showers had dampened things a little, but I was determined to spend a bit more time hunting turkeys so I set off for another hunt intending to stay until dark if necessary. At least the weather was looking a little brighter. Spears of sunlight pierced through the ominous cloud cover, highlighting the crystal raindrops that were hanging precariously from leaves and blades of grass, ready to drop at the slightest movement and be swallowed up by the still thirsty earth. Crouching quietly beside a dam and watching the frantic movements of the ants, it was obvious they knew that there was more rain coming. Why does it rain everywhere I go? My name ‘The Rain man’ was haunting me again. Moving slowly again, with tunnel vision homed in expressly for turkeys and my mind going over and over what I should have done, I nearly walked into a small mob of goats, startling them into flight. Getting my camera out quickly and zooming in, I managed a photo of a really good Billy that would have to have had a spread of around 90 plus centimetres. The thought ran through my mind to forget the bloody turkeys and chase that Billy. But that was not the way to go, it was gunna be a turkey or nothing. Sneaking quietly through the thick scrub around the dam, my eye caught movement about 150 meters away. It was black and small. Was it a turkey? After taking nearly half an hour to get close enough to see what it was, it turned out to be the south end of a northbound kid goat. Gee I felt pretty foolish, but it could have been a turkey. Stopping to munch on a muselie bar, a sound came to my ears. Was it a gobble, gobble or a birdcall? Standing quietly and not being game to chew, my ears were straining to hear that wonderful sound again. Then there it was again, it was definitely a turkey and not too far away. Pussyfooting through the thick bush a clearing appeared and there on the other side of that clearing was a big tom turkey. He was just moseying around doing what turkeys do, pecking seeds or some delicacy from the ground and talking loudly to himself or maybe another bird close by. Getting down on hands and knees I couldn’t see him, so I supposed he couldn’t see me. Closer, then closer, laboriously I made my way to the spot that I had delimited, shifting each small branch and anything that could hinder my progress. Twenty minutes later there was only 20 meters separating us. Picking my bow up to shooting level, that bloody bird must have spotted the movement with his ten-power vision, bugger. His head came up and swivelled around like it was on springs. Up down, round and back, it never stopped moving. Next thing the bloody smart little bugger jumped up onto a log so as to get a better view. All this time I was hardly game to breath or look directly at his head in case we made eye contact. Lying there like a statue for I don’t know how long, but it seemed like hours, his curiosity must have got the better of him. Next thing he jumped down from the log and moved slowly towards me, his long red neck twisting and turning trying to make out just what it was that had aroused his suspicion. Having the bow at firing level and the safety off was a blessing, as any movement now and it would be all over red rover. Closer then closer he came, 18 meters, then 15 meters, then at 12 meters he stopped. Craning his long red neck with his white wattles standing out, those beady eyes just about looked through the scope and into my soul. Knowing it was now or never, a slight pressure on the trigger sent a Wasp three blade broad head fitted to a 2219 shaft, speeding on a collision course with Mr Turkey’s chest. No way was he going to jump this one. The shaft entered just below and to the right side of his neck and came out near his freckle. Fluttering into the air in a cloud of feathers he came down on his back did a few aerobic flips and flops then lay still. I guess you could say, curiosity killed the turkey, or helped at least. Carrying him over to the dam bank and washing my hands, I then set my camera on time release and took a few photos before the light beat me. Then hanging him in a tree I went to get the truck. After plucking and gutting he was put in a plastic bag, then it was into the Engel with tom turkey for the drive home. In my opinion, turkey hunting could end up being a big thing here in Australia, it is challenging and fun, plus they are good to eat. For anyone interested in a goat or turkey hunt, Jim’s ph. no is 07 46674152 or mob 0488404637Readers should note that these turkeys are not Plains Turkeys or Scrub Turkeys that are both protected.

Ted Mitchell