Memories of Turkey Hunting with Grandpa Nolen
April 13, 2001
As turkey season swings into high gear, I can't help but think of my grandfather Nolen. I called him Pawpaw. Now Pawpaw grew up in a different time. During his formative years most of Mississippi was rural and most counties were full of small farms and country folk. Most of the rural people lived on farms. Consequently they had plenty of gardens and fields full of grain. A lot of the corn, peas and butter beans would be left over and fall to the ground. As a result, there were a whole lot of quail in the countryside. Pawpaw and his dad, "Ole Daddy" and brother J. W. Nolen spent most of their fall and winters chasing and hunting quail. By all accounts they could leave the house in the morning and hunt all day, finding covey after covey.
By the time I came along, most of the small farms had disappeared and only woods remained in their places. As a youngster, I spent many an hour with my grandfather hunting deer, ducks and every so often quail. Deer were just not around when he was young and turkeys were unheard of. As a teenager I can remember the first turkeys he saw on the old home place up in Webster County. As we went into the fall woods about daylight one morning, a flock of turkeys that were roosted in the trees were startled and began flying, flapping and squawking in every direction. At first it literally scared the dickens out of him, as he had never seen any such thing in those woods. He thought they were buzzards but later on in the morning some of the turkeys came feeding by him and we learned the truth.
Several years later I had become proficient at calling gobblers and decided to take Pawpaw turkey hunting. If it swam, flew, ran or crawled in the outdoors, he had pursued it, all except the wild turkey. By that time he was in his late 60's and couldn't chase the birds in the surrounding hills and hollows like he had the quail when he was younger.
Our one hunt
I located a nice gobbler on the morning before the opening of the season one year. I carried Pawpaw in on the 3-wheeler long before sunup so that I wouldn't spook the gobbler. As dawn started to break, the old gobbler startled us both with a lusty gobble only 150 yards or so over the ridge and in the next hollow. He was still in the tree but gobbling well before daylight. After about dozen or so gobbles we were getting ready.
Just as first light arrived, a loud blast from a shotgun nearly knocked us over in astonishment. Someone had done the unthinkable; they had shot the turkey in the roost tree! Not only that, they had sneaked in and done it right under our noses – on private property no less. As I sat in silence, stunned by the turn of events, I realized that there was no use to try to catch the culprits right then. I had been watching a number of gobblers and I knew that there were others in the area.
After about 30 minutes had passed, we moved back down a ridge and set up to call for awhile. We didn't want go leave on such a sour note. Once we had settled into position, I started cackling and cutting with my mouth call. Later on I added
a few series of yelps with my natural voice. When I made the call with my natural voice, a boss hen flew down from across the hollow and proceeded to really cut and cackle. It was as though, we had invaded her territory and she was going to have no part of it. Every once in awhile I would call with a course yelp and she would scream out of control.
Back and forth she would walk, cackling and cutting louder and louder. Once we thought she was going to literally go crazy.
By that time I knew that any gobbler in the area would probably be on the way shortly. Finally the old hen had had enough and she left in a huff. Shortly thereafter a flock of hens appeared down the range. A few more purrs and clucks and they were on the way, pronto.
As they got ever closer, my anticipation turned to despair, because I didn't see the boss gobbler anywhere. As I sat there dejected, I knew that Pawpaw and I wouldn't have many more chances at a gobbler hunting together. One more series of yelps, cackles and a little cutting would be all the calling for the day. Just as I was about to give it up, Pawpaw
spotted movement down the ridge. The coal black monarch seemed to be floating on air as he glided down the ridge in full strut. There was no mistaking the king of the woods!
The old gobbler was really revved up with bright red colors on his neck and solid white on top of the head. He was looking for a willing hen and he meant business. At thirty yards, Pawpaw let him have a full load of number 6 shot and the gobbler was down for the count. Instantly I was on top of the bird, making sure that he would not get away. That gobbler was no match for an old country boy from the Webster county hills and his Remington 12 gauge,
A day that had started out on a sour note had ended up in a celebration. As it turned out, we never made another turkey hunt together. However, we had experienced a successful modern day turkey hunt together and made another memory that would last a lifetime.
As the spring woods come alive once again, and I gaze at his old Remington Sportsmen 58, I can't help but be carried away with the memories of that wonderful day. Although he is gone now, he will forever remain a part of my world and me!