By David Hawley
Originally posted on Wild Turkey Report
“I have never had turkeys tick me off like the turkeys in west Alabama did and continue to do,” fumed Larry Shockey, a champion caller and 36 year veteran of the spring woods from Willow Springs, Missouri. “Those turkeys are evil. But when the hunting is ‘right’ it is the best you will find.”
If you have ever had the opportunity to hunt turkeys in Dixie, you know that while the hunting can be fabulous “when it’s on,” it can be as frustrating as any you’ll encounter. Shockey, who regularly hunts six to ten states each year, says one conversation he had with an old-timer a decade ago at a camp along west Alabama’s Tombigbee River has stuck with him since.
“It was one of the first times I hunted in Alabama, and when we got back to camp, an older gentleman who had probably sixty springs under his belt asked us, in his southern drawl ‘Did you boys hear anything?’ We responded ‘Yes sir, we heard three or four and they gobbled probably twenty times apiece.’ He responded ‘Well, you won’t kill him this year.’ What he was meaning was that southern birds give you a narrow window of when you are going to kill them, and it’s typically the first time you hunt them. I have found that to be the case more often times than not with southern birds versus turkeys in say Missouri or Kansas.”
Shockey also said that the ground temperature affects southern turkeys more than it does turkeys in other places. “Southern turkeys need warmer weather, and stretches of it, to really get on a roll. The weather in the Deep South fluctuates so much because of the weather systems stemming from the Gulf of Mexico, making it hard for those turkeys to get in a groove. When they do, it is as fun as any place I have ever hunted.”
Bent Creek Lodge in Jachin, Alabama has earned its place among the truly elite turkey hunting lodges in not only the southeast but the country. With a group of guides that Ronnie ‘Cuz’ Strickland dubbed “Murder Row” for their uncanny ability to put evil Alabama gobblers in front their clients morning after morning, the crew at Bent Creek Lodge knows how fun-and frustrating-southern turkeys can be.
For 27 years, Bob Walker has been one of Bent Creek’s top guides and is currently one of the featured experts on the popular Turkey Thugs television show produced by Mossy Oak. A native of Alabama, he understands the difficulty in hunting southern turkeys because he has been doing it faithfully since 1968.
“We were fortunate to have turkeys in the areas I grew up hunting when other states did not have huntable populations of turkeys. Many of the turkeys that are now being hunted in other states are descendants of the turkeys that were trapped and transferred from the southern states. I think the fact that the turkeys here have been hunted seemingly since day one has a lot to do with why they are so tough,” says Walker. “It’s almost as if they have been bred over time to be difficult.”
Walker also says that the lengths of the spring seasons that you typically find in the Deep South have a lot to do with the overall behavior of the turkeys and the success that hunters have. “When you have a 45 day season like we do in Alabama, turkeys are going to get pressure, even on private land. Couple that with the fact that you can hunt all day in the southern states, and it does not take long for a gobbler to get a Ph.D. in dealing with hunters. I have heard people say that if you can kill a turkey in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, or South Carolina, you can kill them anywhere, and I would tend to agree. There are a ton of hunters in the South who are pure poison on these tough birds.”
For more information on hunting Bent Creek Lodge, visit their website at www.bentcreeklodge.com or call them at 1-205-398-3040.