Since I hunt all over the country, I'm often asked, “What subspecies of wild turkey do you like to hunt the most, and which subspecies do you like the least?” I mainly hunt eastern wild turkeys and Osceola turkeys, which are my two favorites. Because of the steep mountains, the deep valleys and how much hiking you have to do to get to a Merriam’s gobbler, I guess he would be the gobbler I like to hunt the least. In the east, we have some hills. But where Merriam’s live, I've always seemed to find turkeys gobbling on top of mountains. When you're hunting Merriam’s in the mountains, you better had pack your lunch and own a quality pair of boots, because when and where I hunt Merriam’s, I've learned I have to do a lot of walking. However, I've also learned that the Merriam’s tend to come long distances when you're calling to them. I've called some Merriam’s gobblers that I’ve felt sure were at least a mile away from where I was calling. If a Merriam’s answers your call, more than likely, he’ll come to you. But many times you'll have to walk and walk and walk to cut the distance you are from a Merriam’s gobbler.
Because we often guide other hunters on the “Mossy Oak Turkey T.H.U.G.S.” TV show, I'm asked, “What’s the toughest guided hunt you’ve ever done?” Many times we’ll take people on their first turkey hunts. Most of the time the people I guide don’t understand how well turkeys can see, how well they can hear, and why the hunter has to sit still. Even though we try to explain and tell them about how keen the turkey’s senses are, sometimes the hunters will move when the turkey is in really close and spook the bird.
One of the neatest guided hunts I ever went on was with the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers, back in the mid-1990s. Roy may have been king of the cowboys, but he wasn’t the best turkey hunter. He spooked about seven different gobblers before he finally harvested a bird. A friend of mine, Billy Maccoy, who has passed away now, used to go to Uvalde, Texas, to guide turkey hunters for a large landowner there. For guiding turkey hunters, the landowner would let Billy and me hunt his property and take a couple of nice deer there too during the fall. On one of our trips to Uvalde, Roy Rogers was in camp, and I was asked to guide him. I think Roy was 82 or 83 on this hunt, and he couldn’t hear very well. After I called to the gobbler, I’d say, “Roy, there's a gobbler coming in off to your right. Get ready.” Because I was whispering, Roy couldn’t hear me. I’d say, “Move to the right, move to the right, move to the right.” But when he moved to the right, the turkey would be so close he'd spot Roy moving. After he had spooked five or six gobblers, I finally realized that I needed to sit as close as I could to him, so he could hear me. While hunting the sixth or seventh bird, I whispered rather loudly, “Roy, a turkey is coming in to your right. You need to move to your right just a little.” Roy moved to the right; he saw the turkey come in; and he finally got his bird.
Roy’s biological son, Dusty, was on the hunt with us. Roy and his wife Dale Evans had adopted a lot of children, and he talked about his family quite a bit. After the hunt, he sent me a lot of memorabilia - an album that he did with Reba McIntyre and Clint Black, some of the books he had written and a bunch of other good stuff.
Roy had some of the greatest stories I ever had heard. He owned quite a bit of land in Nevada back in the 1930s and 1940s, but his agent talked him into selling that land. He felt like owning land in Nevada was bad for Roy’s image, because of the gambling and the mobsters in Nevada at that time. So, Roy sold his land, and 2 years later, a developer started building Las Vegas Boulevard on that property. Roy had an old Winchester model 12 gauge shotgun that was beautiful with gold inlay on the receiver, and I carried that gun around for him. On the bottom in gold letters was the initials, C. G. Finally, I asked Roy, “What do the initials C. G. on your gun stock mean?” He told me that he once was at a trap shoot, and this fellow came walking away from the shoot and only had shot 13 out of 25 clay targets. The fellow said, “Who wants to buy this sorry shotgun?” Roy said, “I’ll give you $500 for it.” The man sold Roy his gun for $500. The man was Clark Gable - initials C. G.
Also, I’ve had the opportunity to hunt with Bo Jackson at Southern Sportsman’s Hunting Lodge down in Alabama, Davey Allison of NASCAR fame, Larry Csonka of the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Braves baseball player Bruce Sutter, who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Turkey hunting has allowed me to hunt and fish with numbers of athletes and well-known people over the years.
Day 3: The Silent Gobbler and the TV Show with Paul Butski
Tomorrow: Paul Butski’s Favorite Turkey Hunts