The Norman New Guys

spectr17

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The Norman New Guys

The year was 1965 and Dad and I were gearing up for our first turkey hunt in the Ozark hills of Mizzurah. I was only 6 years old but my Dad had shot a few birds on the farm as he grew up. He never had called them in, just shot them when the opportunity presented itself while deer hunting in the fall. We were both “Norman New Guys” to calling spring turkeys and eagerly looking forward to opening day.

We had an ace up our sleeves though, since the next door neighbor Thadell from Arkansas, was a widely known turkey slayer and caller. Thadell was also from the Ozark hills, having grown up in a poor sod busting family and had hunted turkeys for the dinner table. His Dad had bought their shotgun shells one at a time and god forbid if he missed. “By god, if y’all want to call a turkey in this here call is what you need”, I remember Thadell saying to us. Thadell gave us a quick class on the funny looking wooden box call and striker he had made by hand from some cedar wood. For some reason he grimaced as Dad and myself stroked never before heard of sounds out of the call. After he could stand no more, Thadell wished us luck, and off we went to find some spring turkey hunting camo.

For camo Dad gave me one of his old O.D. army jackets, one just like he would wear. We searched and searched and finally found some camo headnets and hats in our local bow shop since they was no Bass Pro shop or Wally World to run down to back then. Dad didn’t have any spare pants in camo so my Levis would have to do. A little tin of army camo face paint was also tossed into the pack just in case.  

For turkey shells Dad drug out his shell box and we rooted around for something heavier than the dove loads the box mostly contained. All we could find were some old paper shell duck loads in #4 that looked like they had seen better days. Back down to Western Auto to find some heavier shells for the J.C Higgens 12 gauge that had been passed down from my grandfather. After testing some shells out we noticed the awful glare on the barrel in the sunlight. A can of bronze spray paint was all we could find on the garage shelf that might help so that had to do for a remedy to the glare problem. The shotgun looked like heck but it hit the fence post at 40 paces every time with the new shells. Now we just needed a turkey to help us out on our quest.




Opening day arrived and I slept most of the drive in the old Ford truck to our hunting spot we had scouted previously. I couldn’t believe how early we had to get up; even the whipperwills were still sleeping. Dad and I set up in the dark after walking in early to the Ozark hills of the Mark Twain National Forest, never seeing another hunter or vehicle. It was so spooky in the dark timber walking in I stayed right on Dad’s tail as we silently made our short trek to our setup spot. Along the way we bumped a hen off the roost and I about jumped into Dad’s back pocket when the whoosh whoosh sound of her wings started in the pitch black darkness. I had to stop and catch my breath and Dad turned around to make sure I hadn’t peed my pants. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat knowing what I had just experienced for the first time.

Sunrise found us just off the top of an oak ridge sitting on a huge log back-to-back. As blue light started to creep into the eastern sky Dad started throwing hen yelps down into the huge holler below us with our new turkey call as Thadell had told us to do. Turkeys started waking up all around us and several toms began gobbling “Good morning” back to us on the ridge. We looked at each other and just grinned in the twilight. The toms were talking to us just like Thadell said they would.

After about 1/2 hour and no turkeys running in to surrender to us, Dad started fiddlin' with the call, with this "Am I doing this right look" on his face. I handed him the chalk to freshen up the cedar and all I heard was Dad mutter "Oh shoot". I had no idea what was happening, Dad didn’t use those words unless something epic was about to happen. He tossed the call down and it made a loud clunk when it struck the log. Suddenly, he whirled with the shotgun, but it was too late. One of the toms we had heard gobbling from his roost had walked straight in on us without us taking notice of his arrival.

All I remember was hearing that loud foreign sound of (((PUTT!!))) (((PUTT!!)), and listening as the tom ran down the hill in the dry oak leaves like his tail feathers were on fire. Dad sheepishly turned around and blurted out, "Guess we blew that one huh?" Dad later said my eyes were as wide as a hoot owl’s when I answered back how neat it was to just have called the tom in with our new turkey call. The beeline that turkey made down that oak ridge made a lasting impression on me and I would unfortunately experience it many more times.

We never did get a turkey during that trip, but we talked all day and the whole drive home about how much fun the hunt had been. I was in heaven, and I knew right then and there, this was what I wanted to do forever.



Us Norman New Guys would persevere and finally take a turkey but that first time calling a tom in was the most heart pounding I could take in one lifetime.

spectr17
 

Welby

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Great story, Jesse!  I enjoyed that.  Thanks for sharing.

It sort of reminded me of a book I just finished reading, William Frank Hanenkrat's "The Education of a Turkey Hunter".  I highly recommend this book.  Not only will you enjoy it immensely, but you will long for days that passed before you were even born.
 

tomturkey

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Nice story Jesse, I love hearing or reading about a guy's first time out. Maybe some day I'll tell about mine. Wasn't near as nice as yours but still kinda neat.

tomturkey ;)
 

EVAN III

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     Yup, great story Jesse. Reminds me of a book too. " The old man and the boy" By robert Roark. Great book, stories like that make me wish I was around when this country was pure.

                                EVAN III
 

shrtcirkt

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Thanks Jesse... reminds me of the first time I went spring gobbler hunting with my cousin. He made sounds on hisslate call that would make your hair stand straight up..... but thats another story....
 

Hogskin

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Jesse,

That's a great story and you told it perfectly.  You're a lucky man having all those memories with your dad.  He sounds like the kind of guy any boy would like to have as a pa.  I envy you.  Cherish those memories.

Regards,
Paul
 

TScottW99

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Great story Jesse, I read it last night and realy enjoyed it.  Really brought back the times when Dad would take me hunting as a kid. Thanks for sharing it!!!, Scott
 

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