About three weeks ago, I wrote a column about how much I love to hunt wild turkeys. In that column, I told you I was heading out the next day with a friend of mine and promised to give you a blow-by-blow account of the hunt. However, as often happens with planned hunting or fishing trips, Mother Nature decided to get in the way and it wasn't until this past week that I finally had the opportunity to get out in the woods and, Lord willing, bag a big ole gobbler.
After receiving a call from the infamous C.C. Skip Hoagland, the plan was to meet up at 4 a.m. and, unlike most turkey hunts that are one-on-one between a turkey and a hunter, this hunt was going to be three against one, as we picked up Craig Everetts, probably one of the better turkey hunters in the Lowcountry. Having bird hunted with Craig and Skip for years, I knew from the get-go that even if we didn't get a turkey, this was going to be fun. I also knew that putting the three of us together was just asking for trouble. If this hunt had a title to it, it would be "The Three Stooges Go Turkey Hunting."
For as long as I can remember, whether I am hunting with Craig or Skip, high-jinks always seems to creep into the picture. Each of us is a competitive hunter and we all have a history of playing pranks. We also squabble like little girls.
Here are a just a couple of examples of things that have happened while we hunted together over the years:
Skip has the most realistic fake rattlesnake I have ever seen. I mean that darn snake is so scary looking it will make your hair stand on end just looking at it. My first memory of that snake came on a day when Skip and I were hunting ducks in some ponds near Savannah. The ducks had stopped flying, so Skip grabbed his gear and went ahead of me. A few minutes later I left and, as I was walking along this four-foot wide dike without a care in the world, I about had a heart attack as this five-foot long rattlesnake comes flying across the path and over my feet. Skip had tied a piece of fishing line on the snake, hid behind a tree and just as I got to him, he pulled the snake across my path.
So then it was my turn.
Skip often uses a golf cart when turkey hunting while Craig and I prefer walking. Craig and I had finished hunting and arrived back at Skip's truck first. As we waited for Skip, we noticed the snake was in his vehicle, so we put it under the tailgate of the golf cart trailer.
Skip arrived and we chatted about the hunt. Finally he drove the cart up onto the trailer. He reached down to close the trailer's back gate and as he lifted the gate with both hands the rattlesnake was right there staring him in the face.
Paybacks are hell.
Now back to the turkey hunt. As dawn broke, it was as if there were gobblers everywhere. It happened so fast that we barely had time to get settled as four long beards answered our every call. But as any turkey hunter knows, there are no guarantees. They were coming hard, but just out of gun range they would stop. It was wild! I swear turkeys were gobbling everywhere, but these four just wouldn't come those final few yards.
Finally, as we realized the turkeys were moving away from us, Craig got up, ran away and began calling like a maniac. Now, one thing a gobbler hates is a hen that plays hard to get, so back they came. But again they stopped short. Even though we didn't seal the deal, the sights and sounds were awesome.
After that encounter, we walked and called, hoping to find a hot gobbler. We must have covered two miles when we found this little path that led into a field, and there were turkey tracks everywhere. Figuring a gobbler would eventually show up, we put out a decoy and settled in for the long haul.
Spaced apart by about 30 yards, we waited and waited. Finally, I heard a gobbler drumming and, even though I couldn't see it, I knew he was close, real close. Craig was calling. I was calling. But the gobbler never gobbled. He was right there not 20 yards from Skip. So why wasn't he shooting it?
To make a long story short, Skip had fallen asleep and never saw the gobbler right there in front of him.
It was a great day nonetheless, and the way it ended was perfect for the Three Stooges. If I had to come up with a motto for our day together, only one comes to mind: "If you snooze, you're probably going to lose."
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic desigher by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.