By Gary Gilchrist
Persistence, determination, hard headedness, call it what you want. My buddy Nat Smith and I do not like to fail at anything. We mostly hunt as a team. You can believe me; you have a lot of fun hunting this way. I’ve had successful hunts where there was no one around, but it doesn’t compare to partner hunts. Having hunted deer with my father for over fifty years, we didn’t turkey hunt till the last ten or so. I really missed him in the woods when he quit hunting a couple years ago. He had tapered off slowly making fewer and fewer hunts ever year. He still looks forward to my phone reports nightly during the season. During this time, I hooked up with Nat. To say Nat loves to turkey hunt is putting it mildly. He owns Nat Can Do, a home and business repair company so he pretty well takes off when he wants to, or plans his work around a morning turkey hunt.
Nat picks up me most every morning. Being retired has its advantages also. Nita always has coffee, egg and cheese sandwiches and cold drinks ready to go. We always have a picnic around ten o’clock or so depending on the circumstances. That egg and cheese “sammich” really tastes good in the woods. We mostly talk about what we did wrong during these feasts, but once in a while it’s a party as we admire our trophy. The fun starts as soon as he walks in the door. On the drive to the hunting club we always hatch a plan. Very seldom do they pan out. Just when you think you have Mr. Three Toes figured out, he does something completely opposite of what you expect.
This brings us to the devil bird. We have a favorite early predawn listening spot called the cement bridge. It is a bridge spanning Wilbert’s canal that runs through the lease. That’s where we first heard Devil. He sounded just like any other bird, nothing special in his gobble. We eased in and setup. He was on the south side of the canal roosted on the canal levee. Nat and I setup about fifty feet apart on top of the levee about two hundred yards west of the turkey and lit our Thermocells. We had set up a hen decoy on the canal bank out in plain sight. Nat was east of me; I figured he would get the shot if the turkey presented himself. We were both well hid sitting on pads and our backs against good trees. All this time Devil was calling for lost loves.
It was getting light enough to see the decoy so Nat gave me a nod. I started calling softly. Oh no, man! Some hens began answering from the other side of the canal. We did our best to out call them, but to no avail. It wasn’t long before Devil pitched out of the tree and glided across the canal. He called to his girlfriends, they answered. It wasn’t long before they hooked up. Well, that’s turkey hunting. Nat and I just sat where we were, letting things calm down. Holy Cow! I glanced over my left shoulder to look behind me, and there was a gobbler about thirty yards up the canal. He had come in quite, not one gobble. Later we figured, even though he was a long beard, he was not the dominate bird; Devil is. He was walking slowly with a fixed stare on our hen decoy. I was able to twist around a little, being a righty and put the Super Black Eagle in position. I twisted as far as I could and had to wait for him to walk into the sights. I don’t know how he didn’t hear me breathing. BOOM!! He was flopping on the ground. Nat and I headed out with him to enjoy an egg sammich back at the truck.
The next morning found us on the bridge, trying to pin point old devil. Not a peep out of him. There was a nice four foot gator swimming in the canal and a small yellow bird sitting on the railing with us. He was making so much racket we decided to move on and hunt elsewhere. For eleven days straight we went after the devil bird. Some days we heard him and some days we didn’t. Some days we got him to talk to us. But he never would come in. We tried every call we had. We tried every trick we knew. One day he would be on one side of the canal, the next day he was on the other side, always in the same area, never in the same tree. About the seventh day Nat dubbed him “the devil bird”.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Well, if that ain’t turkey hunting to a tea. The eleventh day dawn with us on the bridge with the little yellow bird and he still didn’t like us. Devil hollered, he was on the north side of the canal. We eased up on him and made a call. He answered us. We decided Nat would move one hundred yards or so closer and I would hang back and call. I would call, He would answer. This went on for an hour. I skipped a call and let him call then I would answer him. This went on for a while so I surmised his lady friends had hid from him. He was in the same place and would not come in. Finally, I decided to keep quiet and see what he would do. After a little while, he shut up also. I moved over a little and sat down against a tree right on the canal bank. Nat was holding tight. The canal was about fifty feet wide. There was a leaning tree right in front of me blocking my view of the opposite bank.
Devil gobbled!!! He was right behind the leaning tree on the opposite bank. I could not see him. He hammered again. I waited for him to show on either side of the tree. He came out on the left side walking in tall weeds. All I could see was his head. At forty yards, not a long shot the way my gun was set up, I fired. He took a few steps and flew off. I couldn’t believe it. I had just seen a dead turkey fly.
I was walking around kicking sticks and leaves with my head hanging when Nat showed up.
“Well let’s go get him.” Nat said
“He flew off.”
“I know. He crashed into an oak tree by me.”
“You didn’t hear that bird crash? Sounded like a 747 coming down.”
We walked to the four wheeler, rode down to the bridge, crossed over and rode back to where I had shot. There were the feathers. We walked down to where Nat had heard the crash. There were feathers and tree limbs all over the place. Nat glanced over and there he was lying beside a big cypress tree with his head up. Nat finished him off with a shot from his turkey gun.
He was indeed a special bird. He had an eleven inch tiger-striped beard. Good hooks and a beautiful fan. That egg sammich was gonna taste goooood today.
P.S. I had Old Devil’s beard, hooks, and fan mounted on a plaque by Big Cajun Taxidermy and gave it to Nat. At first, his wife said that he would have to keep outside in his shop. But, once she saw it, she let him hang it in their den.
Hot Bubba McCoy