John's Journal...

Ghost Birds – Gobblers That Can’t Be Taken

Day 1: The Swamp Bottom Baron – a Turkey Everyone Tried to Take

Editor’s Note: Some turkeys have to be killed, because they endanger the lives and sanity of individuals and communities. They can wreck as much havoc and cause as much fear as a rabid dog running loose in a community. Oftentimes they are a menace to society, and whatever means have to be employed to put them away are justified. The turkey’s superior intelligence is the main reason he is a menace to society. So wise are these birds, some hunters have called them demon possessed. Others believe they’ve been created by sorcerers, and that these birds are spirits rather than feathers and skin. And, some hunters are convinced that wily old woods wizards can read their minds. Some turkeys are so sly and tough, they become legends. Hunting them can drive you crazy.

Click for Larger ViewThis turkey was another one of those kinds of birds that would gobble going away and wouldn’t come to a call like a normal turkey would. No turkey-hunting tactic seemed to work with him. But Ephram Jones finally figured out what would be required to take the Swamp Bottom Baron. Ephram was a good turkey hunter and had tangled with many a tough, ole tom. He had some backwoods tactics that never failed – at least not until his path crossed that of the Swamp Bottom Baron, a turkey was well-known in south Mississippi. The Baron had been shot at several times and been hunted by probably about 100 hunters. But he never had been bagged.

One day when Ephram’s good friend, Seth McCoy, came over to turkey hunt with him, they sat around and discussed the Swamp Bottom Baron. The time was late in the season, and many of the hens already had gone to their nests. “I believe we can kill him, Ephram – but it’s going to take both of us to do it,” McCoy said. “Individual hunters have tried to kill the bird, but that Baron is so smart he can outthink the human mind. However, if the two of us study how to take him and work together to do it, I believe we can get him.”

Click for Larger ViewAll the next day Ephram and Seth scouted the woods and the terrain and tried to call the Swamp Bottom Baron. Although the turkey talked, he never would come to a call. On the second day of hunting, they tried again. They heard the turkey gobble but never could call him to them. Just before dark on the second afternoon, the two men heard the Swamp Bottom Baron fly-up to roost. And that night at supper they laid their strategy. “What we’ve got to do,” Seth told Ephram, “Is to frustrate that turkey. If we let him think clearly, he will whip us. But if we can frustrate him, so that he doesn’t know what to do, we should have a good chance to take him.”

Click for Larger ViewThe next day morning before daylight, Ephram and Seth went into the woods to try their new, well-thought-out tactics. Seth was on one side of the gobbler about 100-yards from the roost tree. Ephram positioned himself on the other side of the gobbler about 100-yards from the roost tree. Now the Baron was an equal distance from each hunter. Just before daylight, both woodsmen began talking turkey. And, just like he had always done, the Swamp Bottom Baron gobbled back. Although he answered both calls, it wasn’t yet fly-down time. When the tom did pitch out of the tree, he didn’t fly to either caller. He flew straight out in front of the tree and landed about 10-yards away.

“I figured the best thing to do to make that turkey come was to start cutting (a series of fast clucks that sound similar to the beginning of a cackle, but not going all the way through a cackle),” Seth said. When Seth started cutting, the old turkey gobbled. Then Ephram began cutting, and the Baron gobbled to him. Then both men cutt at the same time, and the turkey double-gobbled. “We could tell the old boy was worked up and ready for some heavy mating,” Ephram explained. “But he couldn’t decide which hen he wanted to mate with first.”

Click for Larger ViewThe turkey moved about 100-yards ahead of the two callers and gobbled once more like he was trying to lure one of the two hens to come and meet him. But instead, Ephram and Seth both moved and closed ground on the turkey, while maintaining 100 yards of distance between themselves and the bird. But now they were even with him again. “Both of us started calling like two demanding women,” Seth explained. “We wanted that old gobbler to think that both of us were there to meet him for a date, but he would have to decide which one he wanted.”

Finally, so worked up and so excited he couldn’t stand himself, the Swamp Bottom Baron, one of the smartest gobblers that ever walked the Mississippi bottom country, came running toward Seth. At 30 yards, his overactive sex drive rendezvoused with fast moving No. 6 shot in a patch of sun near a babbling brook.

To learn more about turkey hunting from the masters, get these Kindle eBooks by John E. Phillips, including: “ The Turkey Hunter's Bible (available as an eBook or in paperback),” “PhD Gobblers: How to Hunt the Smartest Turkeys in the World,” “Turkey Hunting Tactics” and his latest eBook, “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting.” Click on the links above, or go to, type in the names of the books, and download them to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Tactics That Pay Off on Bad Turkeys with the Late Ben Rodgers Lee

Check back each day this week for more about Ghost Birds – Gobblers That Can’t Be Taken"

Day 1: The Swamp Bottom Baron – a Turkey Everyone Tried to Take
Day 2: Tactics That Pay Off on Bad Turkeys with the Late Ben Rodgers Lee
Day 3: Patterns of Turkey-Hunting Success with the Late Ben Rodgers Lee
Day 4: The Ridge Runner Gobbler Was Driving Everyone Crazy – Part 1
Day 5: The Ridge Runner Gobbler Was Driving Everyone Crazy - Part 2

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Entry 766, Day 1