By Mark Fike
Many readers of the GreatAmericanWildlife.com site are avid turkey hunters. I personally have read Jim Spencer’s Bad Birds 1 book and I can say that I had a very hard time putting it down. Every free moment I had, I was reading the book. This includes at the store while awaiting my curbside pick-up!
The stories are written as if you stepped right out of your truck and into the hunt clad in camo and ready to go.
If you have hunted wild turkey, you know what it is like to have been burned and you know the feeling of success too, I hope. Spencer’s book is not only incredible entertainment that leaves readers nodding as they can relate to the very experiences he describes in great detail, but the stories are also a lesson that will help run the clock out on a future Bad Bird you or I will run into down the line. I highly recommend these books for yourself and as gifts to those you hunt with. Here is a chapter or appetizer from Bad Birds 2 for you to sample direct from Spencer.
Andy and Dale found him on a Monday. They’d both killed turkeys that morning, and were poking around prospecting for the next day’s hunt. They stopped at a well-used parking area on a chunk of public land, and when Dale ran a series of yelps through his slate, the turkey nearly blew their hats off from a patch of thick woods, less than a hundred yards from the truck. Andy left me a text message: “Found you a killable turkey if you can get here quick.”
Jill and I got the message after an unproductive morning and I called Andy immediately. They told us where to meet them, and at noon they took us to the spot. With less than 45 minutes left before Missouri’s closing bell, we went in and set up. The bird gobbled once at Jill’s box call, fairly close, but that was at 12:45 and he hadn’t said anything else when shooting hours closed 15 minutes later.
Dale and Andy put him to bed that evening, not 150 yards from that parking area, and hunted him Tuesday. He started gobbling early, and they were able to get in close. So close, in fact, they could see the gobbler in the tree. They watched him stay up there, gobbling about every 45 seconds, until 7:30 a.m. He finally flew down, gobbled several times on the ground 75 yards away, and that’s when Dale made his first call of the morning.
It was the last they heard from the gobbler that day. When they finally got up to go elsewhere at 10 o’clock, he hadn’t made another peep.
Dale and Andy left for home that afternoon, but Jill and I stayed. We roosted the gobbler again that afternoon, 100 yards or so from the parking place. But another vehicle was already there when we arrived Wednesday morning, so we went elsewhere.
When we drove by the place later in the morning, the parking area was empty. We stopped and I checked him with my old Lohman box. He gobbled right back, not 200 yards away. We gathered our gear and snuck into the woods, and for the next two hours we had a desultory, mostly one-sided conversation with the gobbler. He’d answer occasionally, or gobble on his own, usually about once every 15 minutes. But if he was interested in coming to the call he disguised it well. For the second time, we got up and left his five-acre stomping ground when shooting time expired at 1 p.m.
That evening, we drove to the now-familiar parking area at sundown. He gobbled angrily at my first hoot. He was just where we expected him to be – about 150 yards into the woods, where the flat land started sloping off toward the river.
Well before daylight Thursday morning, we were standing pretty close to where we thought he’d been when he gobbled the previous evening. Sure enough, when he started gobbling at the first hint of daylight at 5:45, he was less than 75 yards away. We carefully cut the distance by 20 yards and set up, and for the next 90 minutes we listened to him sit in the tree and gobble – 103 times, unless I flubbed the count. Every once in a while I could pick him out in the thick vegetation when he’d run his neck out, but most of the time it was an audio performance only, gobbling and drumming. He sat up there and gobbled for 90 minutes, and I guess he’d have kept it up for a while longer except that at 7:15 something spooked him. He quit gobbling and started clucking and putting, kept it up for about five minutes, then abruptly flew out of his tree and disappeared, flying south, flying hard. Fox or bobcat, maybe. We never did figure it out.
Five days later, after a highly successful journey to Kansas, we came back. At sundown we drove to the parking area, stopped and hooted. Right on cue, the turkey gobbled from a tree in the thick woods, less than 150 yards from the parking area.
Jill didn’t want anything more to do with this gobbler, but she agreed to drop me off there the next morning before going off to hunt for a more reasonable bird. When he started gobbling, again in the barest glimmer of the new dawn, I was already close. But I eased in a little closer, stopping this time at about 60 yards. Not quite in sight, but almost.
As was his custom, he stayed in the tree well past normal fly-down time. He gobbled 60 times before 7 a.m. and then abruptly shut up. I was beginning to think he’d flown down and left when, at 7:25, he started gobbling again. He sounded off ten more times in the next five minutes and shut up again. Determined to give him my best shot, I just sat tight. So far I hadn’t made a call. At 7:55, he gobbled once more, still in the tree. Two minutes later he gobbled again and he was on the ground, father away than he’d been in the tree, but still fairly close – 100 yards or so.
I clucked and purred a couple times on a slate, and when he gobbled again two minutes later he was closer. I kept mum. Two more gobbles and he was there, looking for the timid hen, coming through the thick woods in that jerky-headed way turkeys have.
Andy had told me he thought the gobbler had a thick, bushy beard, judging from what he’d seen of it the week before. The old bird was still riding the invisible bicycle to nowhere when I called Andy and told him he was right.
If this tickled your fancy, then order this book for your collection or a gift for a friend.
Bad Birds 2 is Jim Spencer’s second collection of his popular, long-running Bad Birds columns, which have appeared in every issue of Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine since 2001. Bad Birds 2 has 300 pages and 40 chapters, with nearly 50 inside photographs, many by award-winning outdoor photographer Tes Jolly.
Tes and her husband Ron Jolly also wrote a foreword for the book.
Available in mid-October, Bad Birds 2 is priced at $22 plus $4 s&h. For an autographed copy, send check or money order to Treble Hook Unlimited, P.O. Box 758, Calico Rock, AR 72519, or use PayPal and send $26 to [email protected]. For additional copies sent to the same address, add $18 for each additional copy.
Jim’s other two turkey books, Turkey Hunting Digest and Bad Birds 1, are available at a fire-sale discount price when purchased with Bad Birds 2. Both books are available for $10 each with no additional charge for shipping.