How to Hunt Beat-Up Gobblers
Day 1: The Late Ben Rodgers Lee on How to Take Overhunted Turkeys
Editor’s Note: In the movie “A River Runs Through It,” we see that time passes, people are born, live and die, but the river runs through all their lives, and the fishing remains the same. The same enduring qualities that this movie portrays also are true about turkey hunting. The truth and wisdom about turkey hunting lives on long after the writers and the great turkey hunters have gone to the eternal roost tree in the sky. If you can find a mentor to teach you the wisdom of turkey hunting, that knowledge can endure for future generations to learn and enjoy. I’ve been extremely fortunate throughout 40 years of being an outdoor writer to have hunted with some of the greatest turkey hunters of their day. This week you’ll read some of the turkey-hunting wisdom of the ages from the hunters who are on the cutting edge of the great wild turkey’s reintroduction throughout the country. These men have lived in the glory days when turkey hunting was tough, and the people who hunted them were just as tough. The knowledge they’ve acquired has come from the hundreds of turkeys that each of them has hunted and guided hunters to in the springtime.
I never met a greater turkey hunter than the late Ben Rodgers Lee of Coffeeville, Alabama. Lee made one of the best, most-true quotes I ever had heard about hunting beat-up turkeys when he said, "When you try to hunt a turkey like this, you usually have to make one of two critical decisions. Do you want to call to the turkey, or do you want to kill it? Most of the time, you get the option to do one or the other, but not to do both. If you call to the turkey, you probably won't kill it. If you plan to kill the turkey, you probably don't need to call to him.”
Lee also believed that two men had a better chance at taking a tough tom than one man did, especially if the hunters wanted to take one of those sent-from-hell gobblers that would gobble his head off as he walked-away from you. "Once I know I'm hunting a gobbler like this, I'll hoot to him early in the morning to keep-up with his location,” Lee explained. “Then I'll run through the woods and try to get ahead of the bird. I'll leave my buddy where we’ve heard the turkey gobbling. I'll ask him to give me 10 to 15 minutes to get into position before he starts calling to the turkey. Because the turkey will gobble as he walks to me and away from my buddy, I can get in the position to have that gobbler walk right in front of me, even though I’ve never called to him.”