Answering the Call of the Spring Woods
By By Otha Barham
March 16, 2001
Beginning tomorrow, you can recognize them. They are the ones with heavy eyelids that half cover eyes that seem to focus on some distant scene. Their hair is not quite in place and their clothes may not match. The eyelids droop from lack of sleep and the distant gaze is due to daydreaming. Their hair and clothes suffer from mesmeric preoccupation. These folks are hunters of wild turkeys. Victor White is one of these people. Victor White is a turkey hunter.
Tomorrow White will go to the woods like thousands of Mississippians. By sunrise, he will be doing what he has frequently daydreamed about for much of his life. Everyone should be so lucky.
White began hunting as a youngster growing up in North Meridian. "We would walk to the woods north of town and hunt squirrels," he said. At 17, he began hunting with Wright's Creek Hunting Club near Daleville. Deer were the focus of hunting clubs then, but turkeys were beginning to flourish and soon the young hunter was trying his hand at calling them.
His first gobbler that he called to gun was fooled with the favorite caller of its inventor, an M.L. Lynch Jet Slate. "The little box would purr and yelp and cluck well," said White. Though Lynch, whose company was in Liberty, Mississippi, became famous for his paddle type "Lynch Box", the little Jet Slate was his choice for his own hunts.
Victor's wife Sharon listens patiently and with genuine interest to accounts of her husband's hunts, the exciting details of which are told as soon as the hunter returns from the woods. Their son, 13-year-old John David, has not yet taken up the sport seriously, opting instead to concentrate in the spring on his favorite sport, baseball. His father also loves the game and served as an assistant coach last year for the youngster's team.
Box and slate callers are White's choices for his spring gobbler hunts. He likes the natural sounds they produce. He uses purrs, clucks and yelps and sometimes scratches in the leaves to add realism to his calling. Once while White crawled on hands and knees beneath a hedge row to get closer to a gobbling tom, the bird heard him slithering through the leaves and came straight in without a single artificial call. White learned from the episode and added leaf scratching to his calling scheme.
He prefers not to use locator calls in early morning, waiting instead for the gobbles to come forth naturally. "Crows will usually get one cranked up," he reasons correctly. He advises beginners to learn patience in the turkey woods. And on rainy days, head for the open hay fields and pastures. Turkeys' feathers will shed a lot of water, but they don't like to brush against wet undergrowth. White has used decoys occasionally but with limited success.
Commenting on the proposed Telecheck system of reporting information on harvested turkeys, White says, "I am for anything that will benefit wild turkeys." He credits the "no jake" rule that protects young gobblers with greatly improving turkey hunting in Mississippi.