Teamwork is not always the best way to harvest a turkey

Last month I wrote a column about two old-timers who turkey-hunted together and made it work. But personally, I have never had much success turkey hunting with another hunter.   

The following story, which is one of several examples I can come up with, explains why these buddy hunts have never been successful for me.

A few years back, as my hunting buddy, Bill Selby, and I were driving down to the Ozarks for our annual spring turkey hunt, we got into a strange, maudlin conversation about getting older.   

The topic of this conversation eventually turned to King, my 83-year-old brother, who was going to be hunting with us. The jest of the conversation was that because my brother wasn’t getting any younger, maybe one of us, or both of us, should hunt with him in case he got lost, hurt or whatever.

We concluded that when we got to turkey camp, we should just dictate to him that we would be accompanying him into the woods, like it or not.   

For his own good, of course.

When we got to turkey camp, my brother had been there for a while; in fact, he had already done some scouting — a beer in one hand and and several more beers stuffed in his pockets as he shuffled though his old haunts in the woods, past lots of spots and memories where over the years he had harvested a turkey or two.

The truth is that he knew these woods like the back of his hand and the idea that he might get lost, frankly, was ridiculous.

And despite the fact he was 83 years old, King was in much better physical shape than either Selby or me. 

Still, Selby and I were determined to follow through with our plan. 

Since the subject of King’s age might be a touchy subject, I thought it best that we bring it up after dinner. People are always in a better mood after they eat.   

Maybe it has to do with blood sugars, I don’t know, but it works. As a lawyer, I learned early on that if you have something controversial to discuss with your adversary, do it after your adversary has been fed, not before. Lawyers are much more amendable with a full belly.

The conversation with King did not get off on a good start. Maybe I shouldn’t have said right out of the box that when people get old, they tend to fall down.   

King gave me an irritated look and I knew instinctively this was going to be a waisted fifteen minute discussion. And it was.   

In fact, he countered us with a challenge: “If you Rambos think you’re so great, why don’t you two hunt together? In fact, I dare you to go hunt together on Shop Hollow Ridge and see if you can come out of there without getting lost. I bet you can’t.”

Technically, King had not given us the dreaded “double-dog dare” because he didn’t specifically use the magic words “double-dog dare,” but the effect was the same.  

As any kid who grew up in the ’50s knows, you never, ever turn down a “double-dog dare” and under the circumstances, we could not turn this one down, either.   

But now we had a problem. Actually, we had two problems.   

Selby and I had hunted together before and it never ended well. Never. 

Beyond that, we had just been dared to hunt Shop Hollow Ridge without getting lost, a notorious place in the Ozarks where sooner or later, everyone gets lost.   

So early the next morning, we drove in my truck to the top of Shop Hollow Ridge. As he was getting out of the truck, Selby did his patented “car door slam.”

Nothing like letting every critter in the woods know when you have arrived, right? Actually, a loud car door slam makes the woods safer for everyone, especially the turkeys.

Then, as we are retrieving Selby’s turkey hunting paraphernalia out of the bed of the truck, he asked if I would help carry some of his stuff.   

Of course, I don’t mind carrying four decoys, one of his two coolers, extra shells and his seat cushion in addition to my own stuff. Of course.  I love being a sherpa.   

That’s the main reason I drive 200 miles to the Ozarks — just hoping and praying I will be asked to be someone’s sherpa. Great.

We made so much noise “sneaking” from the truck to our spot in the woods, I suspect even moles came out of the ground to see what the heck was going on.   

When we reached our “spot,” Selby began setting up his seven or so decoys — one immediately toppling over within seconds after she was stuck in the rocky soil. 

Great. Gobblers simply can’t resist those hen decoys that suddenly fall over with a thud.

But the decoy issues don’t end just there. No, Selby has two light-weight decoys, perched on metal stakes, that will move in a circular motion with the slightest breeze — “slightest breeze” being the operative words here.   

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