Hollis Lumpkin tells the tale of finally, after a decade, putting a bead on a Tom turkey and adding a tag soon thereafter. Find out more here.
Sponsored by Remington Arms
“You’ve really never killed a turkey? You?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question when the topic of turkey hunting comes up. If I had a dollar for every time, I could buy myself a turkey farm. If you know me, or have followed me for any amount of time, you know that hunting is my “thing,” my most favorite pastime and passion. And, I must admit, I’ve been pretty successful at just about everything I’ve ever hunted. As far as extracurricular activities go, I’m not great at much. Aptitude for sports? Meh. Musical talents? Hard no. But, hunting? Hunting I am good at. I was taught well at a young age, and have honed my skills in the ensuing decades. I hunt across species and across the nation. From alligators in Texas to ducks in Canada to red stag in Argentina, and all of the whitetail and dove and hogs in between.
But, do you know what has evaded me all this time? The not-so-elusive Eastern wild turkey. Yep, those big brown birds you see in every other field as you drive, well, anywhere across South Carolina or the Southeast. They walk under my stand during deer season, and even hop in the blind with me duck hunting. But shooting and killing one? Now that’s a different story.
I started actively turkey hunting somewhere around 2010. I’d been a handful of times before with my dad, but that’s when I began really hunting in earnest. Going on my own, or with others, I was chasing long beards as much as I could each spring.
Now, when I say hunting in earnest, I mean it. The South Carolina turkey season lasts about 6 weeks, and there were a few years that I hunted more than 20 times in one season. Each time, I came home empty handed.
“Well, have you tried hunting with a hen and Jake decoy together? Or just a Jake?” Yes. And yes. “Have you tried having someone sit behind you to call the bird in closer?” Yep.
“I never use a decoy. Try that instead.” Tried it. “Use soft putting clucks and purrs instead of yelping calls” Done it. “Sometimes you’ve gotta wail on that call to get him to respond – give that a go.” The go has been given. You name the scenario, I’ve tried it. While I always appreciate the helpful input, you don’t go turkey hunting as many times as I have and not experienced just about every scenario there is.
Some mornings I’ve heard 50+ gobbles but seen zero birds, while other mornings were totally silent, only to jump 1 on my way out. Many hunts were run-and-gun, action packed chases, and others were spent stationery on the edge of a field for hours on end. Hours. I’ve had hens mill about right in front of me, nearly bumping into the barrel of my gun. Those mornings, I was convinced my new “live decoys” were sure to bring in a Tom looking for love. That’s the nature of springtime turkey season, after all. No such luck. One more than one occasion, I had a nice shooter in sight but a bit too far off, hanging up just on the outer edge of ethical shot range. Heck, I even missed a bird in range once. I didn’t pattern my gun before and quickly found out that it shot high with the particular ammo I was using. Rookie mistake, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger in so long, it completely slipped my mind when the season started.
After 8 years and well over 100 hunts, I did knock down a Jake on the last evening of the season. I hadn’t planned to kill a Jake, but that was the only opportunity I had and I just couldn’t bring myself to eat turkey tag soup yet again. I of course know there is nothing wrong with killing a Jake – turkey meat is turkey meat and it’s getting eaten either way – but, part of me felt like all of this time and effort should result in at least a moderate limb hanger, right?
The 2020 turkey season began much as the rest had – a hunt here and there to start, but no real action. I was fortunate to get my hands on the Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro just prior to an Arkansas goose hunt, so that trusty firearm was coming with me into the woods this year. Equipped with the V3 turkey choke and a handful of #6 Nitro Turkey loads, I knew this gun would give me the best chance possible, should I set my sights on a bird in range.
On somewhat of a whim, I decided to head out one Saturday morning in mid-April, mostly because I didn’t have much else to do and my husband volunteered to be on early morning baby duty. Win! I chose a spot where I’d heard a fair amount of activity a couple weeks before, and hiked all of my gear in before first light.
Heading to the corner of the field, I set out my decoys and crawled up next to a big pine to wait. If I’m going to sit the edge of a field like that, I have a small chair and little mesh blind I put out around me, just to help break up my outline and make a long sit a bit more comfortable.
By 8:30, I’d only heard 1 gobble, and I started to get pretty antsy. It would be just like all my other hunts, right? I’ll sit and sit and nothing will happen. The birds probably flew down the opposite direction and are sitting in the middle of another field right now. Of course they are. Semi-frustrated and more than a little bored, I decided to hunt my way back to the truck and try another spot. Leaving all of my gear to pick up later, I headed into the woods with just my gun and vest. After a couple minutes of walking (still pretty bored), I decided I would hit the call just to see what happens. Couldn’t hurt, right?
If I had been sitting in a chair, I’d have fallen out of it. This bird hollered back maybe 100 yards away from me. Instantly, I sat at the base of the nearest tree, and tapped the call a second time – 3 or 4 soft clucks. He hollered back, even closer this time, but angled more behind me. As quickly as I could, I snuck to a different tree to face a better direction, and sat back down. Placing the call partially behind my back so the sound would echo that way, trying to draw them in closer. I hit 2 more quick clucks, then brought the gun to my shoulder. Sure enough, I saw 2 birds coming toward me about 50 yards away – 1 Jake followed closely by 1 big ol’ Tom. I could tell they were looking for the “hen” calling to them, but couldn’t find her. Taking a gamble, I balanced the gun on my knee and tapped the call one more time, as quietly as I could. My movement caught their attention, but I was well camouflaged and they apparently mistook my arm’s motion for the hen, because they came straight toward me. I slowly slid my hand up to the forend of the gun, took aim and clicked the safety off.
Taking a deep breath and staring down the barrel, I sat motionless until the 2 birds reached the 30-yard mark. Then Jake made a slight left and I could see the Tom clearly – his long, long beard just flopping about has he continued his trek toward me. Inhaling once more, I lined up the gun with the base of his neck, and squeezed the trigger.
In a flurry of leaves and pine straw, I saw the Jake fly off like he’d been lit on fire. But that gobbler? He wasn’t going anywhere.
To be honest, I sat there for a second trying to figure out what had just happened. Was that turkey down? Had I just fired? Wasn’t I just bored and ready to get out of here not 3 minutes ago? Then, it hit me. A huge rush of adrenaline raced through me and I exploded up from the ground, rushing to the bird with one hand clutching the V3 and the other raised over my head like I could touch the sky.
I had actually shot and killed a gobbler. A nice one. A trophy! After so many years and so, SO many hunts, the stars and my sights aligned, and I did it. It happened so fast and was so … easy? I barely had time to think, and complete turkey-hunter-instinct took over. Full disclosure – I jumped up and down and around like a crazy person for at least 5 minutes before I could compose myself enough to pick up my gear and head out.
When I texted my husband a photo with the bird, he said his first instinct was that I’d somehow photoshopped it to trick him. He even said “You didn’t!” in response. If I hadn’t been there myself, I don’t think I would have believed it either!
One of the best parts was getting to share the whole experience with my family and friends. Within minutes of posting a quick video on Instagram, I received a flood of messages, calls and texts congratulating me (and making sure I wasn’t playing a trick on them). At the rate I was going, my 16-month old daughter was going to kill a Tom turkey before I did. But, I [almost] never lost faith, and never quit trying.
Remington does it again – the V3, turkey choke, and Nitro Turkey shot proved to be a deadly combination. I am grateful for being able to use such excellent gear in the field. Now, let’s just hope it isn’t another decade before I bag another gobbler!
Want to buy one? Check this link.