My mother, Alice Fraser, a long time resident of Bluffton, recently had an exciting turkey hunt. I had the pleasure of journalizing it and I thought that I would share it with her local magazine, The Bluffton Breeze.
Written By Jay Fraser
Photgraphy by Jay Fraser
lice had been hunting turkey every spring since she and her husband had bought a farm up in Robertville, South Carolina. A couple of Saturdays each spring, Alice would get up before dawn and slip into the woods with her hunting partners. They would be fully decked out in camo from head to toe, lugging around an arsenal of calls, decoys, and shotguns. Once she fired twice and missed, but as the years piled on, she was never successful.
This spring, the tension was mounting and she had a monkey on her back. It didn’t help that during the off-season, she had numerous encounters with turkeys on the farm. Every time the season started, however, those wry, ancient birds would become evasive.
On the morning of April 5, 2008, Alice met Michael, her hunting guide and game manager on a nearby island, at the Cypress Creek Skinning Shed at 6:10 am. It was her third hunt of the season and the last two times she had not even heard a distant gobble.
Right from the get-go, nothing seemed to be going well. Recent heavy rains inhibited their golf cart from crossing a flooded creek, causing them to backtrack to cross it in the truck. This delay made them miss the crucial minutes of turkey hunting when the hunters located the gobblers in the trees. After the birds fly down to the ground, turkey hunting becomes a stealthy game of cat-and-mouse, with scheduled calling tactics and decisions to stay put or cover ground.
This morning, Alice and Michael had no opportunity for a fly-down ambush. They were thrown into the thick of combat. With no gobbles to be heard, Alice found herself trying to keep up with the guide 20 years her junior on brushy trails from field to swamp to clear-cut. One six foot creek crossing left her with a wet bottom and boot sock. It was not long before the hunters were worn out. They needed hope.
Finally, they heard a distant gobbler. Action! Alice followed the guide through a swamp as they cut down the distance. When they reached a large tree, Michael planted a Jake decoy as Alice got setup. They were both exhausted – and then it started to drizzle.
“Are you okay at getting a little wet?” Michael asked.
“I’m alright. I’m already soaked from the creek!” she said determinedly.
Locked and loaded, with a chance to finally sit and rest, the guide made a few hen calls. Slowly and steadily, a pair of gobblers came within 40 yards behind a tangle of trees. Alice was shaking as she tried to steady the shotgun on her knee and shoulder. All the hunter could do was wait - wait for the gobbler to come closer and out from the trees. Minutes passed and there was no sign of the turkeys emerging from the other side of the trees. With her shoulder and forearm strength used up, they peered around the trees to see the distant tailfeathers of the escaping turkeys.
Often, this is the end of the hunt. Usually the turkeys have seen the hunters, which is why they about-face. Maybe she was really determined, or maybe just too worn out to move, but they continued to sit there a few more minutes.
“Don’t move!” Michael whispered.
Sure enough, an old hen had slipped right between their tree and their decoy from the blind side. The advantage of having a hen in range is that it can attract the gobbler better than the hunter can. The problem is that one move from the hunter, and the old hen’s alarm putt will ruin the whole hunt. Alice was frozen with her gun butt off to the side.
The hen started clucking and calling. Within minutes, two more gobblers came moving in swiftly. The first headed straight towards the rival Jake decoy.
“What do I do?” Alice whispered.
“You’re just going to have to turn and shoot!” The guide said. “Ready, 1-2-3.”
Alice twisted, fired, and rolled the big red headed turkey. It got up and she fired again. It fell back to earth and stopped moving. Shocked, happy, excited, and relieved, the pair soaked in the moment sitting by the tree before either got up to see their prize. It was a big bird, with nice spurs, and a long beard.
Back at the Cypress Creek lodge, Michael, Alice’s husband, and the folks at Cypress Creek could not have been happier for Alice’s achievement. When asked later what it was like, she said “I have never worked harder and longer, with this much patience for something in my life.”
Way to go Alice!