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The Phantom To The South

Started by silvestris, June 21, 2019, 07:01:50 PM

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   It had been a long hot Saturday afternoon.  I had probably covered about five miles up and down the rolling hills of southwest Mississippi looking for sufficient turkey sign to warrant a blind calling setup in the hope of enticing a gobbler, all to no avail.  I arrived at the truck dog tired just before dark, but having no prospect for Easter morning, I forced myself to inspect the finger ridge road on which my truck was parked.

   I walked about two hundred yards when I spied a downed pine tree across the road.  The log would make a comfortable seat upon which to await darkness and listen for a bird to gobble on the roost.

   Before I could take a seat, he gobbled from the roost to the southeast at about one hundred and fifty yards.  He was hot and apparently lonesome.  He gobbled about three or four times on his own when I decided to tease him with a flying cackle on my Morgan Caller.  He double gobbled and continued to gobble on his own, at distant owls, and at my occasional barred owl imitation.  He gobbled over a hundred times until I covered the distance back to the truck. 

   The road back to the highway took me by the edge of a pasture.  I had used my compass and topographic map at his first gobble and thereby knew that the gobbler was roosting six hundred yards due east of where the woods road met the pasture.  A huge full moon was rising and I had been able to drive to the edge of the pasture without headlights.  I couldn't stand it.  I stopped the truck, got out, and after a minute or two gave a two note barred owl call and was immediately answered from the hollow to the east.  I think he would have answered me all night had I so chosen.

   Maneuvers became the order of the night as I drove the fifty miles to my home.  I planned the approach along the north side of the pasture so as to avoid being seen in the full moonlight of the morning.  Walking through the open pasture in that type of illumination would surely result in my detection and a fruitless morning.  The vegetation in the pasture was short so the expected heavy dew would not prevent the turkey from flying or walking into the field.

   Call selection was complete long before I reached my bed.  Very light tree yelps on my thin piece of slate would be my initial enticement.  Answers would be followed after a ten minute period of silence by the fuff-fuff sound of a wing taken from a previous gobbler along with a hardly audible fly down cackle from my Morgan Caller.  Further silence would be followed with light clucks and purrs on my Huffman's Vibrating Tongue.  Answers to the tongue would be followed by nothing.

   Anticipation resulted in a fitful sleep and a quick awakening at the first tone of one of my three alarm clocks.  There was business at hand and I must not be late.  I ate a hurried breakfast and began the drive to the Easter Gobbler.  I marveled at the brightness of the full moon and eastern stars and the coolness of the morning.

   I thought I had given myself plenty of time but the full moon was still sufficiently high in the western sky to brightly illuminate my footsteps as I walked along the edge of the pasture.  Snakes, always a consideration, but seldom a concern, were neither as I could see my foot placement as if in broad daylight.  At 5:54 and forty yards from the spot where I hoped to situate my hiding place, he gobbled,  much too early.  I stopped and began to carefully and slowly place my feet one at a time as I approached my hide.  My hide was simple, a small group of trees which jutted out to a point from the woodline, none of which was wide enough to break my outline, but several small shrubs about three feet tall provided sufficient early morning cover between me and the anticipated approach of the Easter sultan.  I immediately sat down and confidently arranged my calls.  This hunt was preordained.

   I determined to let him gobble, and gobble he did.  On one hand I feared interruption by a hen or another hunter.  I could do nothing about a hen and I determined that most hunters would not be hunting on Easter; further, it was too early for him to fly down so I couldn't force him.  Then I remembered that I had a game plan, a good one, and I must not let impatience spoil the setup.  If it failed, it just failed.

   Confusion set in for a moment.  Each time the turkey gobbled, and he gobbled often, I would hear another gobbler answer about three or four seconds later, far to the south.  After about ten gobbles and answers it dawned on me that I was hearing the Easter Gobbler's echo.  What a beautiful sound it was, like the alluring sound of the siren, and I glorified in the beautiful morning.  It was time for action.

   I picked up my slate and striker.  I lightly roughened the slate and gave a short series of hushed tree yelps.  He answered immediately.  The slate had done its job and was set aside for the morning.   I waited and he continued to gobble and occasionally double gobble, the phantom to the south imitating  his every call to perfection.  Silence was the game plan for now.  He must be made to worry, and worry he did as his gobbling reached a fever pitch.  The fever in the phantom to the south echoed his every call.

   The time to firmly direct his attention to my position had arrived and I gathered my wing and Morgan Caller and as I fuff-fuff-fuff-fuff-fuffed I also emitted an almost inaudible fly down cackle with the Morgan Caller.  He went wild, gobbling continuously for several seconds.  I could only hear the last gobble of the many calls of the southern phantom as he mocked the sultan.  Five minutes of silence was now the game plan.  He and his phantom continued their frenzy, then as quickly slowed the tempo of his noise-making in what seemed to be an act of confidence.  He had been successful again at what he does so well.  He ceased his gobbling but I had yet to hear his wingbeats as he flew down.  Was he still in the tree?  I must be motionless as the advantage had now shifted from me to him.  It was time for the coup de grĂ¢ce.  I must regain the advantage.

   I ever so slowly reached for the Vibrating Tongue, the wing and Morgan Caller having been retired for the morning.  I clucked and purred softly and he gobbled, less clearly now.  The southern phantom did not answer.  He was on the ground.  But where?  There was only a lone huge oak tree between his gobble and myself.  From which side would he approach?  I felt his drum on my breast and thought I heard it too.
   The calling was finished; he would either die or not.  I ever so slowly picked up my shotgun and prepared for the event.  I caught movement from the right of the oak as he stepped into the pasture to claim his prize.  He was beautiful as he sashayed from his right to his left in full strut so as to present to his lady what he believed to be his most enticing profile, and he was enticing but yet too far.  He drifted to his left further out into the pasture and began to pirouette.  He then began to sashay to his right, all the time coming closer, now so close that I could clearly see the bars on his dragging wing.  He stopped and he stretched.  What was wrong?  Where was she?  He drummed as he strutted again, still convinced in his powers.  Had they not always worked before?  Had she not said as much?  Was he not the master of this ridge top?

   He was, but his innate caution was beginning to return.  He broke his strut, stretched, and began to walk to my left toward the safety of the woodline, his wildness returning with every step.  I whistled; he stopped; he stretched his sinuous neck for the last time and the prize was mine, not his.  The sultan performed his customary flop as life left him and I approached.  With each step my sadness increased as I realized what a gift he had bestowed upon me.  But I then realized that my sadness was not so much for him.  He had performed as he had been programmed and he had been programmed well.  My sadness was not for him but for that now lonely and forever silent phantom to the south.
"[T]he changing environment will someday be totally and irrevocably unsuitable for the wild turkey.  Unless mankind precedes the birds in extinction, we probably will not be hunting turkeys for too much longer."  Ken Morgan, "Turkey Hunting, A One Man Game




What a fantastic story sir! Very much enjoyed it.



MISSISSIPPI Double beard

Nicely done, thank you for sharing.
They call him...Kenny..Kenny


Great story. Thanks for sharing and hopefully there will be more


That was a dandy! Thanks for sharing Sir


well played game and well written story!


Great story!  Thanks for sharing!


Great story and well written. Thank you for sharing.


Wow what a story.If you ever made a movie out of your story I'd pay full price to see it!

Sent from my moto e5 play using Tapatalk


There is no doubt how sad it can be at times, poignant tale.
Stand still, and consider the wonderous works of God  Job:37:14

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