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Tough Turkeys

Jesse Martin | Mossy Oak ProStaff

gobbling turkeys in a field

We named this turkey Buford T. Justice, because he was stubborn just like Buford T. Justice was in the movie “Smoky and the Bandit,” starring Burt Reynolds. Buford T. Justice was always chasing Burt Reynolds, and he never would give up chasing him. This old turkey we named for Buford would roost every morning in the biggest sycamore tree in the state of Kentucky. I think that sycamore tree may have been listed in the top-five biggest sycamore trees in the world. One time I saw three full-grown cows and two calves side by side inside that hollowed-out sycamore tree before it died. You could walk inside that tree and look up, and you wouldn’t see anything but the sky. 

When I was growing up, I always hunted around that sycamore tree, until the lady who owned the property stopped me and everyone else who was hunting there from hunting. But then a buddy of mine bought the property, and I was able to hunt around that tree again. Buford T. Justice would roost in the top of that sycamore tree. I’d go in and set-up decoys, and that turkey would fly across the creek. When I didn’t put decoys out, Buford T. would helicopter down to the base of the tree. Then he'd spit and drum until the hens came to him. I’d go to the spot where Buford T. pitched out of the tree and landed on the ground. I’d put out decoys, and he'd fly the opposite way to the top of a hill. I tried every trick and tactic I could use to harvest that turkey, but that ole smart bird would beat me. I guess he finally died of old age, because none of the other hunters in the area ever admitted to killing him.

The toughest state I ever hunted was Alabama. Chad Hogle owns American Strutter, the company I make calls for, and he invited my team-calling partner Kerry Elliott and me down to Alabama to go turkey hunting with him. In three days of hunting, we harvested the only two turkeys we heard gobble. 

Chad had told us, “The place I've got for y’all to hunt is eat-up with turkeys.” But he didn’t really know what a place that was eat-up with turkeys sounded like. 

Two weeks later, I took him to one farm I hunted here in Kentucky. I told Chad before daylight, “If we don’t hear 20 different turkeys gobble on this farm, we’ll leave and go to another farm. I'm going to blow this owl hooter, and you'll turn around and around in a circle, listening to different turkeys gobble.” 

When I blew the owl hooter, and that choir of turkey gobblers began to gobble from all directions, Chad looked at me and said, “We don’t really have any turkeys in Alabama for you to hunt.” 

But all of Alabama isn’t birdless. When we went to Alabama, the first place we hunted was at Wilderness Whitetails Alabama located in Fayette. That place was eat-up with turkeys, and Kerry killed his gobbler there. Then we hunted another 1,000 acres, and we didn’t hear a turkey gobble there. Finally, we went to the Lakes at Leavellwood in West Greene, Ala., and that’s where I took my Alabama gobbler.  

Jesse Martin, from Mount Sterling, Kentucky, won the Head-to-Head Division of the 2018 National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Grand National Turkey Calling Championship, competing against 32 other callers. He also won the team calling championship with his partner, Mossy Oak ProStaffer Kerry Elliott. Last year at the Grand National, he won the Senior Open Championship. He's won 10 consecutive Kentucky state championships, more than 40 Open State Championship titles and two World Team Challenge Championships and finished in the top five in the Grand National Open Division 10 times. 

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