Tales of turkey hunting greats

Mar. 09, 2013 @ 09:34 PM

It was my first turkey hunt. I was doing a TV show for Outdoor Moments TV, and my host, Bub Jackson, was giving me a lesson that gave me a whole new appreciation for turkey hunters. Bub’s calling was remarkable; he blew an owl call that was so realistic I would have sworn the owl was right there. Seconds later, the gobbler we were stalking answered, the primordial sound so rich and strong it made the hair on my neck stand up. Bub hustled me in a circuitous route across a mile of woods, swamp, and briar patches to get 300 yards away to good position to work the turkey.

We settled down with our backs to two trees. Bub made a few clucks. Again, the gobble of the turkey reverberated through the woods. It sounded somehow prehistoric and distant, yet it was so loud he must have been right on top of us. “We’ve got to turn,” Bub whispered in a stage whisper, “This way.” He rotated 90 degrees to face in another direction and I followed suit putting the gun out in front of me in a ready position.
“He’s hot and he’s coming in,” and with that, Bub made a very soft cluck, that I assumed would give the gobbler a little more direction.
I know what a wild turkey looks like. I’ve seen plenty of pictures and I’ve seen them in the wild more than a few times. What I hadn’t seen was a big tom gobbler in full strut when he was the object of our chase. When I saw him, I instantly developed the worst case of “buck fever” I’ve ever had in my life. I knew the turkey must have heard my heart pounding because the blood rushing through my head was making a squooshing sound, like I had just run a mile, which in fact, I had.
It was then I noticed my problem. When we moved, I’d placed myself squarely behind a one inch sapling. It was about 18 inches in front of me and the barrels on my old Fox Shotgun were 30 inches long. The gun was on one side and the turkey was on the other. The big gobbler was looking for love and still headed towards us. Bub had warned me not to bat an eyelash if he was looking in our direction and I was determined not to.
To end the story, I tried to get the gun into position when he turned his head slightly; he saw me, his head dropped a bit and he took off for the next county. Had I not been so shaken, I could have pegged him on the run, but stupidly I just sat there.
I’ve never taken up turkey hunting even though it is an exciting form of hunting. I know I’d love it, but turkey season happens at the same time the striped bass are running up the Roanoke River in schools you could walk across, and the monster red drum are chewing off the Points of Hatteras and Lookout. I just don’t need another springtime distraction.
I get a lot of books for review and, to be honest, most disappoint me. I admit I don’t read as much as I should, but I find life so busy that I just don’t have time. By the time I cover the reading I have to do to stay abreast of what I write about, there’s just not that much time for recreational reading so the lack of good new writing doesn’t affect me that much. Call me an antique, but it seems to me that the best outdoor writers are long gone.
I enjoy the way writers used to write, and maybe that’s why I’m enjoying Jim Casada’s new book on great turkey hunters from the past. Remembering the Greats is a series of biographical stories of 27 of the grand old men of turkey hunting. From Charles Jordan, (1841-1909) to Kenny Morgan (1946-2011) Casada describes the lives of those who lived to pursue the wild turkey. He includes personal glimpses of their personas, and relates their accomplishments and contributions to the sport and he does it in a way that can keep the interest of a guy who isn’t really a turkey hunter.
I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t a book written for a broad base. I also admit that I offered to do a review out of friendship because I count myself lucky to be able to call Jim a friend. I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy the book as much as I have, but I realize that Jim’s writing pricked my interest in turkey hunting and made me more tempted to add one more springtime addiction to my already busy season.
Of course, there is more to the book than the bios of turkey hunting greats. By following the lives of these pioneers of the sport we learn of the efforts, both successes and failures, to keep a viable wild turkey population in North America. We learn the evolution of the turkey call and how the early entrepreneurs of the call business ran their businesses. The sport has evolved over the years and reading about the accomplishments of those early aficionados of the sport of hunting turkeys is riveting.
Having known Jim for several years, I know this book is a labor of love, one that wasn’t written for financial success, but rather as a tribute to the men who made turkey hunting what it is today. I know Jim Casada, and his love of turkey hunting is only surpassed by his respect for those who made our rich outdoor heritage possible. This is the kind of book that needs to be near the fireplace on cold nights. It’s a book that inspires men who love the outdoors to appreciate their heritage. Who’d have thought a non-turkey hunter, would have enjoyed it so much, but knowing Jim, I should have expected no less.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites. He loves to cook and does cooking segments on WXII TV.  If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com or offtheporchmedia.com




There will be a Woods and Waters event, March 23rd, at Westchester Baptist Church in High Point,. This is a celebration of outdoor fun with exhibitors and demonstrations relating to shooting, hunting, and fishing. The event will begin at 3 p.m. and there will be a dinner featuring food from Tommy’s Barbeque at 6:00. After dinner, outdoor writer, Dick Jones will speak and relate some outdoor stories. There will be door prize drawings all afternoon long and prizes for the event will include outdoor gear including guns. Tickets are available in advance and are expected to sell out with only 120 seats for the dinner. Tickets are not required for the exhibits and demonstrations during the afternoon. For tickets call 336 687 3407 or 336 442 0777.