Editor's note: In this recurring blog, editor Brian Lovett looks back at memorable hunts throughout his career. This occurred in 1999.
Fresh off the last-minute exhilaration of my first Osceola, I headed north near Tallahassee, Fla., to chase Florida Easterns with turkey hunting legend Allen Jenkins, of Lynch Calls.
OK, the turkeys in that region are really intergrades between Osceolas and Easterns, but who cares? They're turkeys, and it was another new experience.
If you've spent a few decades on your buttpad, you'll recognize Jenkins' name. He's a true old-time turkey man — one who practices the conservative hunting style of yesteryear. I was anxious to experience this, even though I had become a fairly aggressive hunter who, at times, called a lot.
That would not happen during this hunt. The first morning, Jenkins and I heard some distant gobbling but didn't do anything with the birds. A quick change of position brought us face to face with some turkeys that were still in the tree, which pretty much ended our morning.
That afternoon, we set up near a flat where Jenkins said turkeys loved to travel and loaf. As I settled in, Jenkins yelped once on a box call. He then set it down and didn't touch it for probably 15 minutes. After another quiet, subdued series of yelps and clucks, Jenkins again set the call down and went into waiting mode.
"Hmm," I thought. "This is even more conservative than I'd expected. I wonder ... ."
And then I heard drumming. As I tried to whisper at Jenkins, his eyes were fixed straight ahead. "Turkey," he said.
And there he was — a gobbler at 35 steps, craning his neck to look for the hen he'd heard. The bird was in easy range, sure, but my gun rested on my lap.
Going into ultra-slow mode, I eased the shotgun toward the bird and clicked off the safety. The turkey had gotten jittery by that point and was preparing to leave. I thought I had the drop on him but rushed at the last second, neglecting to truly aim before pulling the trigger. The gobbler went down and started to flop but then got his feet under him. Thankfully, another shot sealed the deal.
Jenkins and I celebrated while retrieving the 2-year-old. We then admitted that we'd panicked when the bird had slipped in undetected. Still, it was an eye-opening hunt; quite different than the cutt-and-run adventures I'd enjoyed the previous few years. Solid scouting, sparse calling and patience had netted a dandy gobbler.
That lesson would serve me well in future years. Oh, I still called way too much, but I never forgot the old-time turkey wisdom imparted to me in northern Florida.