Gobblers For Legally Blind Hunter

Hunter's Journal: February 2016

Reader Contributed | February 10, 2016

Here is one of three longbeards that Steve Priester, of Columbus, killed with one shot in Stewart County on April 24, 2015. Steve was hunting with his son, Scott, and family friend, Rich Mix. It was Steve’s first time turkey hunting.

By Scott Priester

It was an April morning that most hunters dream of here in the South. The truck dashboard read 70 degrees as we arrived at the hunting land. This was a special hunting day as I looked at my dad and good friend Rich Mix. It was my Dad’s first time turkey hunting.

Despite being legally blind in his right eye, Dad is an excellent marksman. For the past 28 years, he has lived to deer hunt and has numerous trophies that represent his hard work and dedication.

At the end of the 2014-2015 deer season, there was a difference noted in my dad. After 28 straight years of deer hunting, he began making comments about wanting to try turkey hunting. With no experience whatsoever, it seemed like a long shot to even think about it. When I realized he was actually serious, I checked with a few friends to see what would be involved in getting Dad started in learning the process.

In speaking with a few turkey hunters, I realized the many differences we would be facing compared to deer hunting. Each person we spoke with had the same closing advice: “Just get out in the woods, and the rest will come.” It was stressed to us that patience was key in turkey hunting. We were told to practice the turkey calls a lot at home but not to overcall in the woods during the hunt. Also, it was told to us that all pieces of property may be different in relation to turkey hunting, depending on where the turkey may be roosting and where you are needing to get them to come to for that shot you want. Wow, lots to remember.

Upon hearing about my dad’s desire to get his first turkey, my friend Rich, who is a very accomplished turkey hunter, offered to take us to his hunting lease the very next Friday morning. He stated to us that he would love to do the calling, and we could just sit tight and see if we get lucky and score on Dad’s first bird. With that exciting invitation, we gathered our gear and anxiously waited for that day to arrive. Rich even drove to my dad’s house where we all met up and began our drive to his hunting lease. Little did we know what an amazing outcome awaited us.

When we reached the hunting camp, we discussed the location and strategy for the morning’s hunt. Then we marked the map at camp to show other hunters where we would be hunting. Camo, snake boots and bug spray came next. Finally, we loaded the rest of our gear in the truck and made a short drive close to our hunting spot.

With the truck parked a few hundred yards away from the field, we loaded the guns, grabbed the decoys and headed down a logging road. As we made our way to our hunting spot, gobblers were sounding off in the distance from their roosts. Daybreak was coming quickly. Once we reached the field, we quickly set up our jake and breeder hen decoys a few feet apart. The camo blind was next, and then I got into position with Dad on my left and Rich on my right. We watched the grassy field in front of us with our backs to the trees as nature awakened all around us.

Down from their roost, we could distinctly hear at least two groups of turkeys moving approximately 150 to 200 yards from our position. My friend Rich took out one of his mouth calls and made a few yelps. Two different gobblers answered the call, and it became a back and forth game of chess. Patience and avoiding the temptation to call them too much was critical.

After 30 minutes of off-and-on calling, the gobblers responded less and less. At times it seemed they were moving closer, and other times it sounded like they may have been intercepted by hens and were moving away from us.

A few minutes later we saw a turkey enter the field about 70 yards away from our position with its back to us. I leaned over to Rich and asked him to yelp again to see if we could bring the turkey closer to get a better look. As soon as Rich yelped, we heard a response, but it wasn’t coming from the turkey that was on the field. I whispered to Dad to get ready because more gobblers were heading our way.

As Dad continued to watch the lone turkey on the field, Rich and I watched three gobblers clear a hump in the field directly in front of us. All three gobblers were walking side by side with their 10-inch beards and were heading straight for our decoys.

Dad was still focused on the other turkey that was still 70 yards down the field. He had no idea the other three gobblers were heading right toward us, mainly because he was sitting to my far left and has no vision in his right eye.

The gobblers were standing side by side between the decoys, and the middle one was about to start strutting. I whispered to Dad to shoot the one in the middle. He whispered back, “What middle one?” I realized he was still looking at the other turkey down the field.

“Look in front of you,” I whispered.

His heart was pumping as he ever so slowly moved his gun to take aim at the three gobblers in front of us. I remember how excited I was that he not only saw a turkey on his first hunt, but now he had every opportunity to kill his first turkey. Just as he shouldered his shotgun, the gobblers shifted. Boom!

Dad, myself and Rich watched all three gobblers drop to the ground with one shot! My Dad, on his first turkey hunt, tagged out for the year with a single shot! Rich had his gun ready to shoot one of the turkeys after Dad shot, but there was nothing left to shoot.

As we sat there in disbelief, we completely forgot about the turkey that was 70 yards down the field. All of a sudden that turkey started running toward the gobblers that Dad just shot. It was another gobbler with a 10-inch beard, and Rich wasted no time dropping him in full stride. With that turkey, Rich tagged out for the year, too.

For the next 20 minutes, we stood there staring at all four gobblers and reliving how it all happened. It was a hunting trip that we will never, ever forget.

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