My First Turkey

by Jim Spaulding
(Grafton, NH, USA)

Recently entering partial retirement and having additional free time I decided to add turkey hunting to my other outdoor activities.

I purchased a nice Browning 12 gauge shotgun, calls and camouflage clothing. Unfortunately I underwent right shoulder surgery in January and when I asked the surgeon about shooting this spring he said learn to shoot left handed or not at all.

I could not use the Browning left handed as it would be ejecting in front of my face and the only shotgun I have which I could shoot left handed is a Harrington and Richardson, 20 gauge Topper which I purchased for my kids use when they were young. The Topper has a modified choke but fortunately can shoot 3-inch shells, patterning the Topper showed that 30-yards is its limit of effectiveness.

Lastly I studied calling turkeys, listening to Will Primos and friend on a CD. Listening to Will and his friend was not just informative but entertaining, I sometimes thought I was listening to Walter Brennan.

Turkey season came and I was out in the woods early on opening day in my camo with my Topper.

Going into the woods I set up at a large tree and started turkey calling. I was soon answered by a hen, which kept answering my call and moving toward me. When she got within sight it was obvious she was alone, I stopped calling and she looked quite confused not finding the expected companionship.

I did not have any additional action that or the next day I was able to get out into the woods.

On my third day of hunting I came across an area of hardwoods with the leaves all scratched up as if a flock was in the area. Setting up and calling I was immediately answered by a gobbler.

I kept calling every five minutes or so and soon three hens came into view with a gobbler following. The gobbler came within 35 or 40 yards but would not leave the hens and come closer; I would have had a shot with my Browning but not with the Topper. I tried moving ahead of them but could get no closer and finally spooked them. That was all the action for that day and my next day I was in the woods.

On my sixth day out, it was now mid-May, I set up in the woods on a hillside above where I had called in the gobbler and three hens. After calling intermittently for an hour or so I was answered by a gobbler sounding like he was a couple of hundred feet away, behind some thick brush.

I kept up the calling and soon the gobbler came into view at the edge of some brush about fifty yards away, his head was bright red, he was alone and seemed very determined to find me.

As soon as I saw him I got ready, putting the Topper on my left shoulder and steadying it on a small sapling next to me. The gobbler kept coming at a steady pace and soon came out from behind a dead-fall about fifty feet away looking straight at me.

I think he was having an “o shucks moment” when I pulled the trigger, he fell over backwards flapping his wings but seemingly dead as he fell.

I was quite happy and excited with my first turkey and after a few minutes got down to the business of gutting him before carrying him out.

I stopped by a friend’s house to show him off and then to the checking station. At the checking station he weighed 16 pounds gutted with an eight inch beard, certainly not a monster but a real trophy to me.

To top this off a couple of weeks after the close of the turkey season I drew a moose permit in the New Hampshire moose lottery and if all goes well I will have my first moose this fall, fortunately being able to shoot right handed.

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