with ProStaffer Mike Cockerham
Editor’s Note: Mike Cockerham of Oglethorpe, Georgia, is a Mossy Oak Regional Pro Staff manager for Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. He has been hunting wild turkeys for 21 years. “I have owned only one camouflage garment that wasn’t Mossy Oak since 1986. I was hunting in Wyoming and was about to freeze to death. I went to the store, and the only camouflage jacket I could find was an off-brand camo pattern.”
One of my most-memorable hunts took place 2-years ago with Mossy Oak Pro Jack Lester and his 6-year-old son, Riley. I had roosted a gobbler on his farm. The next morning, we went in with Riley and set-up between the hens and the gobbler. Jack and Riley were sitting on the ground by a big oak tree with Riley sitting between Jack’s legs. Jack wanted him to see what hunting turkeys was like. A mowed cotton field was in front of us, and a small wood road went up to the edge of the field. We were sitting on the road that led to the field and had a full view of the entire field. We set-up on the woods road, so we could call the turkey out of the field and down the road. We had found turkey scratchings and droppings on the road, and we knew the turkeys were using the road for a travel corridor into and out of the field.
When we first sat down before daylight, I could hear the hens gobbling just behind us. With the day still dark, I got up, walked toward the hens and flushed them away from the field. This way I knew when the gobbler flew out into the field, the hens wouldn’t fly to him and prevent him from coming to us. I also knew the gobbler could hear the hens flushing out of the trees behind us. The natural thing for him to do once he landed in the field would be to go look for the hens he had heard fly off the roost. We knew the gobbler was roosting abut 250-yards from the hens on the other side of the field, so he wouldn’t be able to see me when I flushed the hens. I had used this tactic before to prevent hens from getting with a gobbler before he came to me.
Just as the sky began to lighten, the gobbler flew from his roost and landed in the field about 150 yards from us. I started calling to him with my mouth diaphragm, using my hand to scratch in the leaves to mimic the sound of a hen feeding. As soon as the gobbler heard me calling and scratching in the leaves, he marched right toward us. I had set-up about 30-yards behind Jack and Riley to call. That way, if for some reason the turkey hung-up and wouldn’t come all the way to a call, the hunter still could get a shot.
Before Jack took the shot, he told Riley to put his fingers in his ears, so the report of the shotgun wouldn’t be too loud. Riley was sitting well below Jack, when Jack squeezed the trigger on the gobbler that was at 15-steps from him. Jack had bought Riley a little Mossy Oak leafy suit, so he was totally camouflaged and could see every part of the hunt. One of the elements of the hunt that I really enjoyed was that this turkey came from 150 yards strutting, drumming and gobbling all the way. Riley got to see a great show. Jack said Riley started breathing hard when he spotted the turkey and was as nervous and excited as any first-time adult turkey hunter ever would be.
Once the turkey turned his back to Jack and Riley, Jack whispered to Riley, “Stick your fingers in your ears.” I never will forget seeing Jack with his shotgun pointed off to the side of Riley, and seeing Riley put his fingers in his ears and his elbows down, just before the shot. Riley got so fired up after that hunt. Jack could hardly get out of the house during turkey season without taking Riley. Riley is 8 now, and he already has taken two gobblers with his daddy. I never will forget seeing Riley laughing and having a great time. When he got to the turkey, and he took his Mossy Oak Leafy camo off, I could tell that his dad had created a passion for turkey hunting that morning that would last throughout Riley’s life.
Tomorrow: The Joys of a Boy’s First Turkey Gobbler