The Master Turkey Hunter
What does it take to be a master turkey hunter? Harold Knight of Cadiz, Kentucky, has taken a world-record turkey and won many calling contests around the country. Here's what he says about mastery:
1. A master can kill a turkey without calling to him. One of the best examples I know is David Hale from my hometown of Cadiz.
David has been hunting turkeys ever since the early 1970s. The first six years he hunted, he didn't have a caller--but he still killed turkeys. David told me that not having a caller was the best thing that ever happened to him, because he had to get to know the turkeys well before he tried to take them. He had to learn where they were going, and what they were going to do when they got there. Once he knew that, he knew where he needed to be to kill them.
Then, after David got a call, he was a much more effective hunter. A hunter who's willing to learn the ways of the wild turkey and how to kill him without calling is well on the way to becoming a master.
2. A master can hunt and kill a turkey at any time of day. Almost any hunter can take turkeys when they fly down off the roost. And many hunters can bag them just before they fly back up. But the hunter who can locate and take them all through the day has to understand turkeys and their habits. This hunter must be a master outdoorsman.
3. A master can hunt turkeys no matter what weather conditions he faces. Weather affects turkeys a great deal. But a master will know what they do in snow, rain, wind and hail. He'll know how and where they hole up. Then, when they move, he'll know where they are going. When a master wakes up and looks out the window, no matter what the weather is, he knows what he must do to kill a turkey that day. And he's thinking, "Today is a good day to chase a gobbler." The truth is, you can't take a gobbler if you don't go hunting.
4. A master can hunt effectively when the woods are full of people. I know plenty of good turkey hunters who haven't learned to adapt to hunting pressure. If they're hunting a good gobbler and someone walks in and flushes him, they'll quit and go home--but not the master. He'll go and look for another bird, or continue to hunt that spooked turkey knowing that getting him into range is going to be more difficult. The hunt may have been changed by the pressure, but it hasn't been ruined.
5. The master is the hunter that other hunters can when a gobbler has whipped them. Often an old gobbler will get so smart that he's not any fun for the average hunter to go after. That turkey may be so smart that he's embarrassing hunters, and he may have a reputation of being impossible to kill.
This is when the master is called. He's much like the hired guns of the Old West. He's brought in to bring back peace and do away with the bad guy. In this case, the bad guy is a super-smart turkey. The master picks up his gun and accepts the challenge, putting his reputation on the line. Win or lose, he takes pride in pitting his woods wisdom against the best woods wizards. Whether he actually takes the turkey or not, he learns something from each tough tom he hunts.
6. Last, the master turkey hunter shares his sport with others. After all, how many turkeys do you have to kill to prove to yourself and others that you're a master? A true master will take more pleasure from developing other good turkey hunters than from collecting boxes and drawers full of beards and spurs.