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Dylan Hays of Sheridan burst my turkey hunting bubble.

Hays and I fished together in practice at an FLW bass tournament on Beaver Lake in 2017 when the subject of turkey hunting was broached.

"We had turkeys when I was a kid," Hays said. "We had a web wire fence, and they roosted on the fenceposts. Sometimes when they left the roost, they'd land behind the fence, and they were too stupid to fly over to the other side. They were just kind of stuck there. I didn't have any respect for them."

Hays's perspective is humbling because turkey hunters are the world's worst about assigning supernatural powers to their quarry. You've heard all the legends. A turkey will see you blink from 50 yards away. They have a sixth sense that verges on extrasensory perception.

It reminds me of a phone call when I was editor of South Carolina Game and Fish magazine. A retired gentleman had just read yet another article gushing about extraordinary intellect of wild turkeys, and he had to vent.

"From the crap you put in this magazine, you'd think these turkeys were running around the woods with PhDs in rocket science," he said. "I'm telling you they're not that smart!"

He ranted a good while longer until finally I had enough.

"I agree with you, Hoss, but that's what my writers send me," I said. "If you think you can do better, lay it on me. If it's any good I'll publish it, and I'll pay you for it. What do you say?"

The article he sent was his first attempt at writing a hunting article, and it was excellent. In fact, he became my go-to turkey hunting writer in South Carolina, and later a trusted authority on deer hunting. His perspective on turkey hunting made more sense than any I'd read to that point, and he profoundly influenced how I hunt.

It turned out that he was a retired propulsion engineer with NASA, so he knew a few things about rocket science.

One thing I love about turkey hunting is that nothing you learned from the last hunt ever applies to the next hunt. Turkeys will sometimes confound you in ways that make them seem like they have supernatural powers. And then they'll do things that make you wonder how they ever survived a day out of the egg.

I experienced both types of birds on opening day of the 2001 Missouri spring turkey season. I started the morning by calling a deep-voiced gobbler off the roost that refused to show himself.

Inexperienced, I did not appreciate the subtleties of pitch and volume in relation to a gobbler's location. The bird was close, but I bellowed on my mouth call as if I was warning ships away from the breakers.

That bird did not make a sound after flydown. After about 40 minutes, I determined he was gone and stood up. He was behind a tree about 35 yards away watching me the whole time. When I moved, he dashed away.

I relocated to the top of a hill where I sat against a fencepost. I made a few calls and then started rummaging through my vest to extract a pot call and striker. I wore no mask and no gloves. The sun illuminated me like a movie marquee.

I looked up, and 30 yards away stood three gobblers standing erect and staring at me quizzically. Calmly, I put down my call and striker, leaned over to pick up my gun, shouldered the gun and dropped the biggest gobbler.

Turkey season begins April 8, and more memories are ready for the making.


Joe Nations informed us that Rocky Lynch, 77, of Bigelow died on Feb. 27.

Lynch was a former wildlife officer for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and an avid turkey hunter. Mike Widner, the AGFC's former turkey biologist, honored him in his 2018 book, A Life With Gentleman Bob.

"I met Rocky in the Plummerville bottoms while looking for a place to bow hunt as a UCA student in 1990," Nations said. "We became good friends, deer hunted the lower Buffalo [River], hunted quail, fished, and camped over the years."

Nations said Lynch's cremains, and those of Bea, his beloved yellow Labrador retriever, will be spread near a couple of Lynch's favorite creeks.

"He told me after his stroke that he was disappointed that he would not reach his goal of killing 100 gobblers during his life. I think he was at 92 or 93," Nations said.

I call that a hunting life well lived.

Sports on 03/10/2019

Print Headline: Mythology aside, turkeys aren't all that smart

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