Against All Odds - by Taylor Johnson
AGAINST ALL ODDS
The story of my first successful turkey hunt in 2003.
I remember this day like it was yesterday. I didn’t grow up in a hunting family. For some reason, I had a strong desire to hunt from a young age. My dad took me squirrel hunting but we didn’t know the first thing about deer or turkey hunting. However, some men in the church who were hunters heard that I was interested and took me a few times to teach me the basics. Looking back on how little I knew about turkey hunting, it is nothing short of a divine miracle that it happened.
My dad had given me an old Remington 1100 semiautomatic that only shot 2 3/4 shells and had a modified barrel with no threads to add a choke. He had won the gun in high school for selling wrapping paper in the early 80’s. (Times sure have changed!) It was a beautiful shotgun but it was designed specifically for upland bird hunting. I didn’t even know what kind of loads I needed or that I needed a full or turkey choke. I walked into a local hunting store called Buck and Bass to find out what kind of load I needed to turkey hunt. I told them what gun I had and that it had a modified barrel.
They essentially laughed me out of the store and said “You’re going to have a hard time killing a turkey with that gun, especially since you’re a new turkey hunter. You’ll have to get them inside 25 yards to even have a chance.” Now that I’ve been turkey hunting for over half my life, I know how hard it is to get a gobbler inside 25 yards. I don’t think they meant any harm, but their experience told them that my setup and lack of experience equaled a Hail Mary chance. The look on their faces said it all. They gave me some pheasant load since they didn’t carry 2 3/4 turkey load. After I paid for my shells and started heading for the door, I heard “Good luck” and when I turned around to say thanks, he had a smirking grin on his face. As a 16 year old kid, I was slightly discouraged. I also was determined.
My plan was to hunt our family farm in West Tennessee the next morning. Well that afternoon as I was getting any calls and vest together, my boss called & told me he needed me to unlock the building at 8:00am. Totally disappointed, I said okay.
The next morning, I reluctantly fulfilled the request of my boss then drove as if speed limits didn’t exist. When I got to the farm, I immediately noticed some turkeys in the bottom about 1,000 yards away. I snuck in to about 400 yards and saw a strutter, jake, and hen together. (Remember when I told you I didn’t know what I was doing?) I sat down in the middle of the field on top of a rise with zero cover. The grass in the field was around 3-4 inches tall. No shrubs. No trees. Nothing. Not knowing any better, I put on my mask & called once. To my surprise, (because I sounded more like a dying Canada goose than a hen turkey), he answered. A few minutes later, the jake started coming my way & the gobbler broke strut and decided he wasn’t going to let the jake come by himself.
When they got inside 70 yards, I lost visual of them because of the rise I was on. There was probably about a 10 foot difference in elevation from where I was sitting above them. Assuming they’d come straight up the rise, I got clicked off the safety, shouldered the 1100 and waited for what seemed like an eternity for his head to appear. 30-45 seconds later, I caught movement out of my right eye and the gobbler was strutting, standing at 8 yards directly at my 3:00. He gobbled and it felt like an earthquake. My heart was racing and I was shaking from head to toe. To make things worse, my gun was pointed at my 12:00. If you’re a left handed turkey hunter, that’s not a big problem. If you’re right handed like me, that’s a major problem.
Not knowing what else to do, I swung my gun and shot in one fluid motion. Somehow, by the grace of God, I hit him. When I stood up, he started to get up and fly. I raised the 1100 and shot him like a flushed quail at 10 yards. I did it. I killed my first turkey and it was a longbeard. I yelled and jumped and hollered like I won the Powerball. To me, I had.
I drove over to my grandparents house and my sweet grandmother took the picture on an old polaroid. I think she was just as proud as I was. The photo is grainy and slowly losing color, but that makes it that much more special.
The best part however, was when I walked back into Buck and Bass, toting my first longbeard over my shoulder and grinning like a possum.