Story By Lindsay Schumacher
I have experienced the infamous runner’s high a handful of times but never in a million years did I expect to feel a similar sense of euphoria from a….turkey.” That is until I found myself nose to beak with an Alabama wild turkey.
I was raised on a dead end Alabama dirt road by an avid hunting German farmer and a true Southern belle beauty. This uncanny union led to the dichotomy of which my personality was formed; one where having tea with the queen comes just as naturally as mud riding with the guys. My father taught me my love of the outdoors and never once mentioned – in fact, I am not quite sure that he even noticed – that I was a girl. I love guns, especially shotguns, and am fiercely intense when the sport of shooting is involved.
Deer season had officially drawn to a close and I found myself a bit gloomy with my annual post hunting season blues. Thankfully, I quickly perked up with the sounds of yelps and clucks radiating throughout the house by my husband who had recently been bitten by the notorious turkey hunting bug; a condition known to permeate the cells of certain individuals who have communicated successfully with these two legged, feathered creatures that are said to have a brain the size of a pea yet somehow are able to outwit the talents of even the most seasoned hunters. Either way, I was intrigued and eager to learn more about how these seemingly dumb witted animals were able to captivate their human predators in such a way leaving them almost spell bound in their pursuit.
Luck was definitely on my side when I scored a hunting invitation from longtime family friends and turkey killing aficionados, The Perrymans of Ackerville, Alabama. Billy is an award winning custom turkey call maker who grew up hunting gobblers in the hills of Wilcox County. He passed down this love and talent to his two sons – Stover, the turkey whisperer himself, and Calvin, a nationally ranked turkey calling champion. His wife, Kathy, is the best wild game cook this side of the Mason Dixon line and can prepare a wild turkey like nobody’s business. I was convinced that based on the ease of which they were able to harvest huge gobblers season after season that this sport really was not nearly as challenging as the average hunter made it out to be. I mean how hard could this sport really be?
Golden ticket in hand and clad with camo from head to toe, off I was off to conquer yet another outdoor adventure. Watch out turkeys. Here I come.
Day one – At day break, Stover briskly led me to a hollowed out nook in the woods. He laid a padded seat against a tree for me and placed his DSD decoy in the pasture about 10 steps away. No call in the world was going to rouse the roosted old tom on that particular muggy, overcast morning but I was not at all worried. I knew there was always tomorrow and had no doubt I would get him then.
Day two – Once again at daybreak, Stover hooted on his owl call, turkeys responded from their roost in the distance, and we silently rushed to their vicinity. We set the decoy and settled beneath a canopy of towering oaks and pines on a blanket of freshly fallen leaves. Next we heard the thundering sound of three gobblers fly down in pursuit of their hen. As the fog lifted from the nearby pond, Stover and the gobblers began talking in their own magical symphony. Rustling began in the near distance. He whispered that they were headed our way, to be still, and to shoot the second gobbler when he reached the log. My heart was pumping. I remember thinking, they truly are beautiful creatures. And, I’ve got this. Only to be met by the reality that these supposedly stupid creatures walk a lot faster than I expected. How am I supposed to shoot them if I don’t move? This gun is way heavier than mine. My arm is cramping. That cannot be called walking. Yep, that’s definitely a sprint. I then hear a faint whisper saying “It’s time. Shoot him.” So I pull the trigger and…geez this is still hard to type…I missed. I can honestly say I have never felt that degree of disappointment and anger simultaneously with myself ever.
Oh, I was mad. Fuming actually. I wanted to throw the gun in the pond but thankfully remembered it belonged to him. Next I contemplated crying but only opted not to after it occurred to me that I would surely be that stereotypical girl I pride myself on not being. Our ride back to the house was completely silent. When we arrived, his daddy asked how it went and all I could say was “It was the perfect hunt until I…. (my voice shaking)…..missed.” He guided me inside and nonchalantly handed me a box. As I opened it, I was thinking to myself I am done with turkey hunting. Yet, after opening the package, my feelings of anger and disappointment quickly disappeared. I found myself holding the most exquisite piece of craftsmanship; a handmade turkey call intricately designed using a medley of maple, cedar, and stained poplar with a personal inscription saying Good Luck next to MY name. Billy had spent countless hours making this amazingly intricate call just for me. I was speechless. He then said (as if having no recollection of me having just MISSED a gobbler) “Come on, Lindsay, now that you’re a real turkey hunter you need to learn how to use this thing.” So the three of us sat together and called for what seemed hours. They taught me about the intricacies of calling and the importance of patience, timing & rhythm. I had been fortunate enough to have had a true turkey whisperer as my guide hunting on the most prime turkey land in Alabama and I now was the proud owner of a custom turkey call beautiful enough to be a collector’s item yet with a sound quality that was sure to fool even the most stubborn old tom.
So I got back up on that horse – or in this case Stover’s Chevy Silverado 4 x 4. I drank in his every technique, movement, call, and instinctive reaction with a desperate thirst. I then said goodbye. I knew it was time to release the reins and begin my personal journey of becoming that turkey hunter that Billy already seemed to think I was.
Since then I have entered the turkey battlefield as an army of one. I have created my very own gobbler symphonies with call in hand. I experienced the turkey high for which I so desperately yearned when I bagged my first tom on the plains of Kansas.
About the Artist: Billy Perryman is an award winning custom turkey call maker from Wilcox County, Alabama. Follow his latest calls and turkey hunts on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PerrymanCustomCalls