I'll admit it. I'd gotten a little spoiled in Florida. And if Alabama turkey hunting does one thing, it's bring you back to reality.
Well, let me hedge that a bit. I was still in for a very pleasant reality. A couple of days after my Florida jaunt, I joined the Mossy Oak crew at Lee Haven, a great old plantation that, as legend had it and common sense might dictate, was once visited by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The weather looked good, and reports indicated there were plenty of birds in the area. Of course, Alabama turkeys are like no other turkeys when it comes to dealing out frustration.
The first morning, I joined legendary hunter and caller Bob Dixon, and we headed to a dark hardwood bottom. After some intense and extremely close roost gobbling, we enjoyed watching a big longbeard strut for a wad of hens for most of the morning. Well, enjoyed might be a stretch, but we watched them and were helpless to do much else.
The second morning, we struck out early and then decided to hit a new spot. While driving along a flooded creek, I glanced out the passenger window of Bob's truck and saw a longbeard standing just 10 steps away. He never moved as we sped by. I stuttered for a moment and then told Bob about the bird. We circled back on foot in an attempt to strike the turkey but were met with silence.
Thankfully, our morning wasn't finished. After the weird encounter with the road gobbler, we slipped into a pretty woods and prepared to sit and call for a while. Bob's first yelps were greeted with a symphony of gobbling, however. We cut the distance toward the turkeys, found a good setup and got ready. As Bob resumed calling, it was obvious the turkeys were coming. The thick foliage would make things challenging, though.
Within minutes, drumming echoed through the woods, and I heard footsteps in front of me. Soon, I glimpsed the edge of a tail fan as it appeared in a small window behind a huge oak. Then, four gobblers stepped into the open, one by one. I made sure the lead one was far enough from the others and then capped off the hunt at 25 steps.
As Bob and I celebrated, I remarked that we wouldn't experience a better hunt anywhere — especially in southern Alabama. He agreed, and we toted the 3-year-old longbeard from the woods.
The hunt was special 15 years ago, but it's taken on much greater significance in the ensuing years. Bob died of cancer several years ago. We never got to hunt together again, although we did relive that great day several times at trade shows.
Bob, wherever you're at, thanks again. The hunt was incredible, but your friendship and guidance were even more meaningful.