2017-03-29 / Editorials

Don Lively


(To commemorate the opening of turkey season in our neck of the woods, please enjoy this reprint from 2008.)

Over the years my nephew and I have had a running discussion about turkey hunting. My position Is, the big goofy birds can’t be that hard to hunt if Indians killed them with bows and arrows and settlers bagged them with their unreliable old blunderbusses.

Pookie assured me that it’s not as easy as it seems. He said the old gobblers are very easily spooked by something so slight as blinking eyes.

I remained skeptical, but, he’d actually been turkey hunting and I never had.

Our conversation turned to turkey calling which is apparently an art unto itself. He demonstrated two handheld calls and the sounds seemed authentic, at least to my ears. Then he showed me one that he held in his mouth. It was small and thin and I was sure it wouldn’t work but he made sounds that even I believed would attract a big Tom.

He handed me one to try out. He instructed me to press it to the roof of my mouth and try to say “choke, choke.” That would supposedly produce the correct sound. I declined to try it there in front of him and his parents.

Despite evidence to the contrary, there is a limit to how foolish I will allow myself to look.

But I did promise to take it home and practice.

I lived in Charleston at the time and as I was driving back I reached for the turkey call and popped it in my mouth. I figured nobody could hear me so I was safe.

“Press it to the roof of your mouth and try to say choke, choke.”

It came out more like “Glub, glub”.

I tried again. “Croak, croak.”

Once more. “Glub, glub, croak croak.”

Did you know that it’s possible to be totally embarrassed even when you’re alone?

I put it aside and didn’t pick it up again for a few days, then decided to try again one afternoon. I sat in my living room and attempted, over and over, to sound like a turkey. My neighbor knocked on the door, stuck his head in and asked me if I was okay. I hid the call behind my back and assured him I was fine.

"Just a little sore throat. I was gargling."

For my next try I went into the bathroom and turned on the shower so as not to alarm any other neighbors.

Just as I was about to “Choke, choke” I hiccupped and nearly swallowed the cussed thing! Suddenly I was “choking, choking”! I could breathe but it was very uncomfortable.

As I was formulating how I could explain my predicament to the paramedics the call dislodged itself, then, miraculously, it slid back to the roof of my mouth and settled right in.

My relieved gasp produced a perfect turkey call!

I was so proud!

It took nearly gagging to get it right but I did it!

The following Saturday I was in Shell Bluff and decided to try out my new found skill. I went to a place where I knew there were turkeys and found myself a spot. No gun.

No camo.

Just me and the little device.

I sat very still and began to call.

“Choke, choke. Choke, choke.”

Nothing happened but I kept at it.

“Choke, choke.”

After about an hour I heard rustling in the trees above me. Above me? I hadn’t been told that this could happen. I thought turkeys came in on the ground. Heeding my nephew’s advice I remained very still, but I could definitely hear wings flapping from the trees as more birds landed.

“Choke, choke.”

I heard another one alight directly over me. Finally, unable to resist, I eased my head up and peeked.


Dozens of them. No doubt attracted to the sounds of something dying down below.

My sounds.

“Glub, glub, croak, croak.”

I tossed the turkey call toward one of the nasty raptors as I disgustedly walked out of the woods.

“Eat that.”

Apparently, turkeys have gotten smarter since the Mayflower days while the pilgrims, like me, have gotten less so.

I decided that the only way I’ll ever bag a wild turkey is if one surrenders to me.

But, if anybody ever needs to call up a buzzard I’m the man for the job.

In the meantime I’ll stick with Butterballs from Bi-Lo.

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