Editor’s Note: Mossy Oak Pro Darrin Campbell from Peewee, West Virginia, has been hunting turkeys for 35 years.
Our friend Ray Boggs came down to my dad’s house and said, “Let’s go turkey looking” (in other words, scouting before the season). When Mr. Boggs and my dad, Cam Campbell, went turkey looking, they’d drive around the back roads and listen for turkeys to gobble. They invited me to go with them when I was about 13 years old. The first time I heard a turkey gobble, I asked “What’s that?” And they told me, “That’s a wild turkey.” I first got bit by the turkey bug then. Ever since that first day I went turkey looking, I've never stopped scouting and hunting turkeys.
2014 was the first year that I haven’t taken a turkey since I started turkey hunting. I made one of turkey hunting’s most-fatal mistakes. I spent all season hunting a double-bearded gobbler. I was transitioning jobs and didn’t have very much time to hunt. One morning I was set up and calling, and I knew the double-beard was coming up the ridge. I also had called in two turkeys that were either 2- or 3-year olds. Before the double-bearded gobbler got within gun range, those two younger turkeys started fighting. So, I had a turkey fight going on, and the double-beard coming. When the fight ended, one of the combatants spotted me and spooked,but also spooked the turkey he’d been fighting and the double-bearded gobbler. I saw the double-bearded gobbler a couple more times out in the field, but I couldn’t get him within shotgun range. Even though I shoot a Remington Versa Max which shoots 3-1/2, 3 and 2-3/4-inch shells, I couldn’t get the double-beard tom in close enough to take a shot. Every other time I saw the double-beard he’d be with hens, or he just flat out wouldn’t answer my calling.
I've learned that an ole big bird like this one knows everything there is to understand about turkey hunting, and he proved to me that he knew more about dodging turkey hunters than I knew about turkey taking. I believe often there’s something in the very soul of a turkey hunter that says, “I know I can take that turkey. That’s the gobbler I want to take. If I just stay after him long enough, I can give him a ride in the back of my truck.” But before you know it, the season is over, and you get back in your truck and ride home alone. I think that some turkeys die of old age. I guess the reason I wanted that ole, double-bearded bird so bad is because most turkeys with double,triple or quadruple beards will have one big beard, and the other beards will be small. But this gobbler had two big beards. I never had seen a turkey like him before. I still like to believe that if I hadn’t been transitioning into a new job and could’ve had more time to hunt that ole bird I eventually could have taken him. But without a doubt, he was a typical season-killing bird, and I still think and dream about him.
Tomorrow: The Excited Guide Who Sucked in Leaves