to award some one that goes above and beyond the minimum requirements to stay active on the team. That member will go on an all expenses paid "Turkey Ninja Style" spring gobbler hunt.(destination TBD year to year)
This year I was fortunate to be the first winner for spreading the Woodhaven Way including sporting events, banquets, hunting consumer shows, social media as well he does numerous in- store promotions. The reward was being flown out to Nebraska to hunt some white tipped Merriam's with The Woodhaven Crew. The following is the account of my first trip out west for a Merriam.
Had a great flight up. No hiccups other than some weather in Chicago. Smooth transition with the rental car and no problems transporting the firearm. Still with an "Atlanta" mindset, I thought to myself as I drove out of the airport that I would stop shortly and get something to eat and use the restroom. An hour and a half later, starving and eyeballs floating, I finally came up on a convenience store on a reservation. Roller hot dogs never tasted so good. Getting back on track, I got in touch with The Woodhaven Gang and they were at the Subway in Gordon. When I pulled up all giggles and smiles, they looked like they had just finished one of my Spartan races. All tired and worn down looking. They had gotten there earlier and the weather had the hunting a bit rough. They told me the hunting was tough but I replied "No worries boys….The Talent is here!" I think you could have heard their eyes roll plum back to Alabama. This was the first time I met the new guy Scott "Skeeter." I'm sure he was thinking "We picked this idiot?" I usually don't call my shot like that but the crowd looked like they needed a little pepping up.
After a quick sandwich, we scooted back to the house, quickly unpacked my junk, changed and headed out for an afternoon hunt. This was when I got to meet out guide, Justin, and after our truck ride out and my onslaught of questions, it seemed that he may have been thinking the same thought as Scott about the new arrival.
It wasn't long before we were on a section of the property and even shorter before we saw turkeys. We made maybe 2 set ups but spent most of the time riding and glassing fields. Scott was my camera dude this afternoon and I think maybe I got him warm up to this dude from Georgia.
As dusk set in we headed back and I got set up in the house. After some good samitches, we hit the sack. 3:45am came early. We loaded up in Justin's truck around 4 and headed out. This time good ole Mr. Terry was my camera dude. We pulled in beside a small farm house and listened from the truck. Fortunately, our guide's hearing was much better because I couldn't hear anything from the back seat. Terry said he could hear them but I suspect he was just playing along. Anyway we got out and set up on a gobbling bird that sounded a good ways off. Although Terry and I both didn't agree on the spot, Terry whispered to me "Don't Out Guide Your Guide." That was good enough for me. I was able too communicate with a bird for a little while but he wasn't really fired up. Still with a Georgia mindset, I would call for a second then shut up. Several times I caught movement from the direction of Justin and he would keep giving me the talking symbol/motion with his hand basically meaning "Keep Calling Dummy." So I kept hammering. I think I burnt the latex off of 3 mouth calls and got Carpel tunnel from using a slate so much. Well the gobbler wasn't interested but some hens near by were slightly intrigued. I was using a ghost call with a higher pitch but soon noticed they were a little raspier. I switched over the raspier Hammer and the next thing we knew we had 3 hens in our laps. Terry got some excellent footage and I was able to learn and mimic how they sound. Good stuff.
After the hens moved on, so did we. We went back to glassing fields. This was very different to me. At one point I tapped Justin on the shoulder and said "you know, back home we call this poaching." I don't he think he quite got the humor but Terry was rolling laughing. Then we explained to him that back home where we hunt everything is trees and posted. I still don't think he likes me yet…….but he did grin a little bit.
About that time we rounded a curve and there were 2 strutters and some hens in the middle of the road. As we drove past them I looked out my window and remarked that if he slowed down I could get one with my hands. They were right outside the truck door. We drove on past and pulled off behind some big round haybales. Our guide walked around sort of in thinking mode. I looked at Terry and he just shrugged his shoulders and said "Don't out guide the guide." After a few minutes he came back and said there was a creek between us and them that he was trying to work out. Then in a flash we got back in the truck and drove back in their direction. Upon arrival to where they had crossed, I was amazed as they were now 100 yards plus across the field. Justin then hammered the gas and went back around the previous curve. We did our best Bo Duke impression and banked it in to another pasture driveway. He said we had to get to them before they got to the next fence or they would be off the property we had permission. So in our best shuffling effort we scooted ¼ mile across this wide open field which was on a higher elevation and parallel to the field where the turkeys were. There were also some trees and vegetation on the drop between the two fields. When we got to the end, Terry and I set up. Justin crept to the edge of the drop off and held up his strutter decoy. All at once he set it down and scooted back toward us and said they were coming. A few minutes passed with some calling and nothing. So he eased back to the slope and help "Fred" up again and shook him. This time dude came running back saying "Oh they really saw it that time. I made one call and 2 hammered back. There was a 3 strand barbed wire fence on the top of the slope between the two fields. Our decoy was on our side and the birds were coming up the other right along the wood line. We were about 40 yards away from the fence and slightly down a slope so I was looking over a crest at the shooting lane. Finally after some turkey dialogue and of course the guide having to motion at me to keep calling, two longbeards came up the wood line to the fence. They started towards ole Fred but about 20 yards away from him they stopped. Justin said "somethings up" and Terry said "I got them when you are ready" which I interpreted "Shoot Dummy!" The Super Nova barked and one of the birds on the other side of the fence staggered a bit. Then they both hauled tail down the other side and out of site. In utter fear and amazement I (hopefully under my breath) said I didn't come 2,000 %&$^&% miles to miss! I got up and ran to the fence in time to see one of the birds hit the bottom of the field, hang a left and kick up dust like the Road Runner. He Gone! I then looked slightly to the right and the other was about halfway down the hill and stopped. I threw up and shot again. This time he flipped but kept trudging down the hill. In a panic I leaped the fence and started running down the incline. Not the smartest decision I have ever made. About 15 yards from the limping away bird I tripped on a stump and went airborne. My gun, now unloaded landed safely in the tall grass but while I was in the air I said to myself "This is going to hurt!" I rolled over in mid air and landed flat on my back. Calls and strikers went everywhere. Every breath of air in my lungs escaped on impact. When I bounced up I sort of came to and thought "That bird ought to be here somewhere?" Sure enough, when I came back down for my second impact…Smack! Right on top of the scrambling bird. I felt his ribs crunch and his wings popped me in the face 2-3 time before I bounced off and continued down the hill. Once at the bottom, and once the earth quit spinning, I relaxed because I know he had to be dead now. I gathered what was left of my dignity and trudged halfway back up the hill to retrieve my prize. Digging through the carnage of feathers, blood, grass and scattered calls, I lifted my trophy and started back up the hill. Conveniently, Terry relocated the camera to the fence line and started rolling again when he heard heavy breathing. I emerged over the crest and hoisted what looked to be like a turkey that had been put through a meat grinder. Never the less we rejoiced! Victory!! After some pics, out takes and re-enactments of the hunt, Terry asked me what in the world happened? He said he heard me holler then lots of scratching and muffling, then more hollering. Yes he kept the camera going and I was mic'd. So yes there is no video of the episode but there is audio. Fortunately I didn't destroy the mic.
After a few more pictures I went back down the hill to start looking for my calls. Justin went down while we were doing our thing and gathered some of the tail feathers that had been knocked off during our rumble in the jungle. I believe I found everything except 1 glove.
Breathing normal again and most of the bleeding stopped (on me not the bird) we made the victory walk back to the truck. We drove to where Mike and Jacob were hunting and they had not had any luck in the morning. I of course had to interject that "The Talent" had struck. Again with the eyerolls. They followed us down the next dirt road and sure enough, more gobblers trying to cross. We drove past them, go over hill and parked. Mike, Jacob & Scott eased around the hill and in about 10-15 minutes Jacob had one of the big toms down. With another bird down, those of us at the truck decided to go down to them for the celebration,. We had to cross a 3 strand barbed wire fence. I squeezed the top 2 strands together where I could straddle the fence and step over. Just like everyone else. Well about half way over and at the point my full weight was upon the strands, a staple in the near by post popped out. I had a Very quick decision to make. Either land straddling the fence (not an option) or bail out quickly on the other side. I chose the latter and sprung elbows over tea kettle into the pasture again with my feet fling over my head. I got up, shook it off and caught up with the other dudes. When I got to Mike, he was just staring at me shaking his head. He said "Dang it boy, you spend more time horizontal than you do vertical!" I tried to explain the second situation was a "Controlled fall" but from their vantage point all they saw was me cutting another flip and rolling down a hill. It was useless.
So now we can take some more pictures. This might have been the first time I have had to use a "stand in" or "double" for picture taking. Any of the good looking pictures you might have seen with me and a bird was probably Jacob's bird.
Needless to say there were plenty of stories to tell. And the laughter never stopped. Especially when we took a glimpse of the video. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime and one I am most grateful for. The Whole Woodhaven family are a fine bunch of folks and certainly a brand I am proud to represent. It was cool to be able to get out one on one with the dudes because the only other time I get to see them is in Nashville where everyone is busy. I appreciate all you brother pro-staffer dudes and really enjoy the time we do get to hang together in Nashville. Big Thank yous to Mike, Scott, Scott C. Ellis, Mark, Terry, Skeeter, Kyle, Robin, Jacob and the whole family. My First Merriam! Again, Much appreciation for the honor and the opportunity. They went on to kill several birds after that but as I reminded them often, they weren't able to till the "Talent" got there. Jacob said the only thing I was talented at was eating his cookies.
Hope y'all enjoyed this tale, have a great rest of the summer and remember - Don't out Guide Your Guide"