Talking Turkey… With An Ashtray?

Daryl Gay's Back Page, May 2005

Daryl Gay | May 1, 2005

The ol’ boy saw me coming. Salesman that he was, he had sized me up proper before I got in the door good. But, as they say, ignorance is bliss. And for taking up turkey hunting, I was fairly blissful.

“Heard tell you was a’going turkey hunting this weekend,” he grinned. “First time, eh?”

“Yeah, thought I’d scoot the old Tomcat up a tree and see what I could see.”

“Tomcat? Up a tree?”

Is there an echo, echo, echo in here, here, here?

“Why, you don’t hunt turkeys from a treestand,” he stammered.

“Why not?”

He had to think a minute, and while he did I silently recalled all the turkeys I had seen from my treestand, including an old hen who perched on a limb at eye level five feet away one morning. She thought about as much of my looks as I did hers.

“Well, it’s just not done!”

“You squirrel hunt?”

Feller’s eyes He handed me an ashtray. Had a thing with it, kind of a pencil thing with an upside-down Liberty Bell on the end. Grandma would call it a doohickey, and that’s good enough for me.

“Now this is just the thing for somebody starting out,” he said as I ogled the ashtray. “Simply take this…”

“I don’t smoke.”

Feller downright locked up on me, blank look in his eyes.


“Don’t need no ashtray.”

As soon as he had finished cackling, about like a hen turkey, I thought, he informed me that this was indeed a turkey call and not an ashtray.

“There’s some sandpaper in the package, and what you’ll want to do is rough-up the glass on the ashtray, uh, CALL!” he explained. “Then take this pencil-looking thing (he obviously didn’t know, either) and gently scrape it across the scratches. It’ll sound just like a hen purring. And you can do it soft or hard to make it cluck or purr louder. Instructions are printed on the back of the package.”

This turkey-hunting business never was about me to begin with. If I want turkey, I’ll do Butterball. But you remember my two heathens, right? Seems nothing else is in season they can chase right now, and they’ve about driven me over the edge wanting to go galloping after a gobbler. So as soon as I got home with the new call, into it they tore. Literally. About the only words I could make out from the entire back of the package was, “Made in China.” Do they have turkeys in China?

Anyways, I went ahead and sandpapered up my ashtray pretty good and with two glowing, expectant sets of eyes glued to the doohickey, rubbed it across for the first time… Nothing. Not a squeak, not a pip nor a purr. The boys glared like I had snatched chocolate cake away from them. “Let me try it, let me try it, let me try it.”

“NO! This is my toy, and I’m a’gonna master it. Y’all will be doing the shooting.”

About two minutes later, whether by mistake or on purpose I disremember, I stood that doohickey right on top of its head and scraped the ashtray. “Cluck, cluck, cluck.”

All you could see was teeth shining in the fellas’ faces, and they whooped and hollered how much like a hen that thing sounded. Now let’s take it to the woods…

It’s going to be gray daylight in about 15 minutes as we settle under a stand of hardwoods in which I saw 18 turkeys fly up to roost the last day of deer season. Two of us watched the birds for a half-hour before they took to the trees, almost right over us. Hopefully, they’ll be close by now.

Settling in as silently as a couple of bobcats, the fellas pull on face masks and gloves. When all is still and as quiet as only a stand of hardwoods deep in the swamp can be, I put the point of the doohickey a scant sixteenth of an inch above the ashtray and gently purr it across for my first-ever call to a male turkey.


“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, don’t shoot!”

I have just now peed down both breeches legs while at the same time marveling that three-inch turkey shells weren’t blasting off in all directions!

The eldest son spoke first: “Man, that gobbler was right over our heads!”

The least’un chimed in with, “Yeah, he hit the ground running, and I had a bead on him when you went to screaming at me…”

So, this is turkey hunting.

Think I’ll go back to something a little safer.

Like snake charming…


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