The Misery of a Miss
Missing with the Crowd and the Joy of the Get-Back
Editor’s Note: Most veteran gobbler takers belong to a secret fraternity, but few will admit their membership. This fraternity's painful and memorable initiation develops a bond for life that comforts the members and will help you when you join the group. You can recognize members when they use certain secret passwords like, “Been there, done that,” “Yeah, buddy, I know how that feels,” “Get over it, I've done it too,” and “Only the people who don't hunt them don't miss them.” Members of the fraternity also communicate differently. When someone describes how he's missed a turkey, one of his fraternity brothers will simply smile and nod his head. Then both men know that they belong to the Misery-Of-A-Miss Fraternity.
A lifelong member of the Misery-Of-A-Miss Fraternity, I joined the club my very-first year of turkey hunting. I'm reminded of my initiation every year or two. For instance, I had a classic hunt a couple of seasons ago. On the first day of my hunt at White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Alabama, I paired up with Jerry Peterson, the president of Woods Wise Company in Franklin, Tennessee. Not just any turkey hunt, this hunt featured Peterson and his film crew. Including the guide, Brian, our group of five looked more like a parade than a turkey-hunting expedition. You probably can tell I'm setting up the reasons for my miss, which demonstrates how a member of the Misery-Of-A-Miss Fraternity starts any turkey-hunting story that ends with his inability to perform properly when a gobbler comes within gun range.
The first turkey we called that morning got hung-up behind some brush and failed to come in to where we called. We made a circle around that turkey and ran into another gobbling bird out in a green field behind a 30-yard-long pile of fallen trees. We set up as quickly as a group of five people could and positioned the camera to record this event for history. Then Peterson began to work his magic with his diaphragm call. The turkey could come to us from one of two directions. When he came around the trash pile, he looked straight at us from less than 40 yards away. From behind me, I heard the cameraman whisper, "I've got him in my viewfinder now.” “Get ready,” Peterson whispered back. "He's coming straight to you, John." Sitting against the tree on the edge of the field, without any kind of cover between the turkey and me, I felt as naked as a baby on his birthday with all the doctors and nurses staring at him. The gobbler came straight at me, watching me, like a kite that Peterson was reeling in on a string. The turkey had caught me with my gun in my lap. I knew that when I brought the gun to my shoulder I'd have only an instant to get off the shot. I pushed the button on the side of my new-fangled electronic sight to turn it on and then brought the gun to my shoulder, when the gobbler stood less than 15 yards from me and turned slightly.
Alerted, the bird stuck his neck straight up, offering as pretty a shot as a turkey hunter ever dreamed of seeing. My cheek went to the stock. However, when I looked through my electronic aiming device, I saw nothing. I quickly pushed the button again as I heard, "Shoot, shoot, shoot!" from the chorus behind me. I looked back at the bird and saw him jerk his neck back. I had to get off the shot quickly. I fired, and the Winchester No. 5 blistered the air, but nothing else. The bird traveled away from me at a full gallop as I got my cheek back on my stock, looked under my electronic sight, found the bead, picked up the turkey's head and neck area in my sighting plane and squeezed the trigger a second time. Just as I squeezed, the turkey darted to the right and took to the air. The No. 5 went exactly where I'd aimed, but because the turkey had abruptly changed position, the pellets flew through the air totally undisturbed. I knew what would come next.
The chorus started singing verses of, "We can’t believe you missed that gobbler.” “He was standing straight in front of you.” “You probably could have thrown your gun and killed him.” “Since you had one more shell left in the chamber, why didn't you shoot the third time?” I heard the same song all morning, all day at camp, that night at dinner and a few times even around the breakfast table the following morning. When hunting with friends and family, you can't miss a shot and sin in secret. Witnesses will spread the tale far and wide of your miss, especially if you're a veteran turkey hunter.
The Joy of the Get-Back:
I took the kidding in good humor because as a lifelong, card-carrying, dues-paying member of the Misery-Of-A-Miss Fraternity, I knew that what went around eventually would come around. And sure enough, on the second morning of the White Oak hunt, I observed some slow walking and sad singing as one or two members of our hunting party returned to camp, wearing the trademark fraternity frown on their faces. My miss was over. Now they had to live with more verses of the song, "I Can't Believe You Missed that Gobbler," as other hunters gave them a hard time about their misses. We all laughed and once again tightened the bonds of friendship and brotherhood synonymous with the Misery-Of-A-Miss Fraternity.
Tomorrow: The Wide Open Miss