They stepped out of the timber into the little grassy patch before me, and began chasing grasshoppers like grade school kids chasing candy scattered along a parade route. There were a dozen of them, all poults which looked to be the same age, and probably hatched as late as mid-summer. A young wild turkey looks goofy, and acts goofy.

They stepped out of the timber into the little grassy patch before me, and began chasing grasshoppers like grade school kids chasing candy scattered along a parade route. There were a dozen of them, all poults which looked to be the same age, and probably hatched as late as mid-summer. A young wild turkey looks goofy, and acts goofy.

This bunch appeared to be ecstatic about those grasshoppers. One young jake spread his wings and ran around in a circle with his neck stretched out, chasing another brood mate.

In the excitement, a couple of them ran around and jumped high in the air and it looked as if they were all about half drunk. I couldn’t help but smile, but I couldn’t shoot. If I had, I would have killed three or four of them.

That happens when you are hunting fall turkeys.If you aren’t careful you very easily can put shot into young brood mates, killing or crippling one you don’t see as you zero in on a moving target. I have had that happen before. One of those occasions has stayed with me for 20 years.

I had received on consignment, which is basically a one-year loan, a Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag pump shotgun which was one of their better quality pump guns, using 2-3/4, 3 or 3-1/2 inch shells. It was a long-barreled waterfowl and turkey gun with screw in chokes, nicely checkered walnut and an engraved receiver. I hadn’t used those 3-1/2 inch shells, and they are a devastating load for long distance shooting. You can hardly practice with them, because they clobber your shoulder and give you a powerful headache. Too many hunters stretch the range of that shell, but I can truthfully say I have killed geese and ducks with steel 3-1/2 inch loads at fifty yards on a regular basis.

I made the mistake of taking that powerful shotgun and three of those long shells on a fall turkey hunt. To make matters worse, I used a modified choke, which spread the pattern more than I should have wanted. I was hunting on a landowner I didn’t know very well, and in an area I was unfamiliar with. About mid afternoon, I stepped out of the timber to the edge of a field with hip-high grass, and saw a young jake stick his head up out of the growth about 40 yards away.

I quickly leveled off on him and at the roar of that twelve gauge cannon, a dozen turkeys I hadn’t seen came up out of that grass. One of them was the young gobbler, or so I thought. How could I have missed him? On the second shot, he folded in flight and came down hard. And I was very happy for a second or two. When I walked toward him I heard the gobbler I had first shot at flopping around in that high grass. I had goofed up! But after all, I was allowed two turkeys. I wasn’t allowed a third though. And as I waded into the grass, a third turkey jumped up from a distance, struggling to fly. It was badly hurt, and couldn’t gain any altitude, and then couldn’t really run away.

I can’t stand to cripple anything, but I had, unintentionally, so I chased the young hen a ways and used the third shell to dispatch of her. I had calculated she couldn’t survive anyway.

Now I have three turkeys, and I am a violator. I believe in following the laws, and I do not violate game and fish laws intentionally, but I also don’t waste anything I kill, so I tagged two of them and cleaned the third. I took one of the young jakes to the landowner and told him what had happened, then took the young hen to a widow lady with some children who lived a couple of miles away adjacent to him. I kept the first young gobbler and ate it.

But that is not the end of the story. The landowner’s son, noting that I was an outdoor writer writing for several newspapers, told folks around the area what a greedy lawbreaker I was, in killing three fall turkeys. He took the story to the local newspaper publisher, who must have wondered if he wanted my column in his newspaper after hearing what I had done. No one, of course ever heard what really happened until now. Oh, I told the newspaper publisher what had taken place and where two of those three turkeys had gone, but who knows if he believed it.

I don’t use that shotgun anymore, except for waterfowl. The shells are too expensive anyhow! I use a regular 3-inch magnum shell for turkeys…and I am very careful in hunting young fall turkeys which hang together so tightly. But even so, I have accidentally killed two young turkeys with one shot on three different occasions in the past 25 years of fall hunting.

Not this week however. I watched that flock take off at a trot, in a beeline for the timber across the little opening, and then a few minutes later, 10 or 12 more came out, a little out of range, and followed them. The good news is, I will get one before the season ends this weekend…probably. Some more good news is, there were at least 20 poults there that hatched this summer. I hope the hatch was as successful in many other areas of the Ozarks. The bad news is, October goes by too quickly and fall never lasts long enough.

If you like turkey hunting, you will want to get the new book we just published for nationally known writer Jim Spencer, entitled, “Bad Birds”. Spencer is a friend of mine, and great turkey hunter who is nuts about the pastime of turkey hunting. He hunts each spring all across the country, and he has compiled a collection of stories about the hard-to-get wild gobblers he remembers most. The first books off the press have been numbered and will be signed by the author and inscribed to you if you want to order one. These are limited in number, so don’t waste time ordering one. Send twenty dollars to Jim Spencer at P.O. Box 758, Calico Rock, Arkansas, 72519. First orders will get the lowest numbers. Tell Jim to whom you want the book signed, and how you want it inscribed, especially if it is a gift. I guess it would make a good Christmas gift if you have someone on your list who loves turkey hunting.

I hope you will vote this week. I am sick of the TV. ads, sick of politics, sick of the kind of people we have to vote for, on either side. But I will vote, because so many great men died before I was born to see to it we have a free nation with the values we have, and we aren’t worth much if we let them sacrifice as they did and we won’t even go out to vote. Just hold your nose and go do it. Vote for whomever you might hope will do the right thing when it comes down to it.

There is a photo of an October wildflower on my website I can’t identify. It was growing alongside an Ozark stream in large gravel, and I can’t figure out what it is. Maybe you know it. If so, tell me. It is

My address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 and my e-mail is