Monday, October 6, 2014

A Wet, Illegal Gobbler

  I don’t want anyone to get to thinking I have any money, because that kind of thing gets you in trouble with the IRS, but last year I bought about 50 acres off in the middle of nowhere. It sits on a pretty little creek, with a great little cabin on it, just made for someone like me who likes to pretend he is living in some previous century with no one within 500 miles. Filled with big timber, decorated with the howling of coyotes and bellowing of bullfrogs at night and the gobbling of wild toms at dawn, it is a little paradise to me.

  This purchase was a result of one of the finest men I ever knew, Gloria Jean’s father, Frank Goedde. When he died he left enough money to buy it, and he wanted something done with that money to benefit his granddaughters and great-grandsons. So really, it is his place, and theirs, and I am enjoying it as well.

  A friend and I went there last weekend as the weather turned cold and it actually felt like hunting season again. And I went by Walmart sporting goods’ counter and picked up a roll of landowner hunting permits big enough to choke a buck deer. There must have been close to ten of them, and I was stupid enough just to sign everything, some saying “turkey” and some saying “deer” and some saying “firearm” and some saying “archery”. I commented to myself that if I killed everything allowed on those tags I’d have to pray for a cold winter, or by a new freezer. But I didn’t look as close as I should have.

  To make a long story short, as I seldom do, my father-in-law’s new place is full of turkeys. My friend and I got into them one afternoon, while he sat on a timbered hillside and I sat down along the creek. I probably ought to digress here to tell all you nature lovers that while I have seen black squirrels in several Midwest towns, I have never seen one in the wild until that evening. But there he was, a coal black gray squirrel. ‘Gray’ here refers to species, not color.

  A few times I have seen black fox squirrels in the wild, but never a gray, and he was absolutely spectacular. There were a few gray hairs sticking out the sides of his tail, but his white belly was black, and he looked like he might be something made for Halloween. With a can of black spray paint, you couldn’t have made him any blacker than he was.

  In time he got up in a great big oak and I lost track of him because of all those turkeys out in the opening before me. There were about a dozen or so of them - some young turkeys, a couple of old hens and three big ground-raker gobblers. Normally in the fall, it is the young of the year jakes I like to shoot, and leave the old toms for next spring.

  But across the little opening in the valley, sitting on the hillside, my hunting friend got antsy and decided to try to move down a little closer, just an hour before the sun set. There were too many turkey eyes watching for such a maneuver and they all spooked and clucked and flew toward the creek. One nice turkey came sailing past me, and if you think a turkey cannot fly very fast you should have been with me. That gobbler was matching the flight of any rooster pheasant or drake mallard that ever streaked by me, and I knew that I had to lead him well. I got out in front of him and squeezed off a shot and he fell dead in the creek.

  A wild gobbler is a beautiful bird when he isn’t wet. When he floats for a while in the creek while you try to figure out how to retrieve him, he just looks awful when you get him out. To get an idea, just take the next turkey you kill and throw him in the creek and see how awful it looks. Or take one of your chickens out and throw it in the pond. You don’t take any photos of yourself with a dead gobbler that fell in the creek.

  The levity of the situation went away quickly when I dug out my landowner tags and found that the only thing I had for a turkey was an archery tag. They had left off the wild turkey gun tags, for cryin’ out loud. I had to drive out a mile or so from the little cabin to find a place where a phone would work, and call Walmart, where I learned that it wasn’t their fault either, and if I would come in, they would give me the tags I was missing.

  It worried me, driving about 30 miles with an untagged turkey in my pickup, knowing how the conservation agents I criticize so much would like to discover me in such a vulnerable situation, so I covered up my gobbler good and hid him behind the seat of my pickup, and lit out for the Walmart store. At a truck stop a few miles away, where I had to buy gas, I met another hunter who had been hunting with his daughter that day and she had missed one. She had never killed a turkey, and he hadn’t either.

  I quickly came up with a plan that would allow me to go back to my cabin and eat some beanie weenies and potato chips and sit on the porch calling owls and telling hunting stories. I explained to her father what had happened and asked if she would tag the gobbler I had, call it in and make it legal and take it and give it a good home.

  So that’s the story. I don’t know if I did something wrong or not, but I have seen smiles on little kids faces that weren’t quite that big and happy as her daddy drove off with her turkey that had once been mine. There are plenty of turkeys left in my little wooded valley, and now I have some hunting tags. But I’ll tell you what I would rather have than another turkey to eat. I’d druther have a really good photo of that black squirrel.
  A reader asked me how to control skunks and armadillos around his place, knowing the difficulty created by shooting a skunk in the front lawn. The best way to do that is with deadfalls, which are illegal. They will kill a skunk quickly and they animal will not spray anything. They are illegal because they also kill cats and dogs belonging to neighbors.

If you live out in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors, you might use a deadfall, but don’t take the chance on killing a cat or dog that means the world to someone. My grandfather and his family used deadfalls to supplement his traplines, and each winter caught skunks, possums and a few coons and weasels that way. You can see one my Uncle Norten made years ago on my website. Without them you have two options for eliminating skunks or armadillos. You may trap them with a steel trap or conibear trap or sit out on your porch at night in the moonlight and shoot them, or get out at the first hint of light and look for them.
  We have a quantity of leftover summer magazines, which we would be pleased to give away. Anyone who sends me two dollars worth of stamps can get the summer issue of either the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal or the Journal of the Ozarks. Specify which one you want. Email me at or write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. The website is

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