“Y’all can have all them turkeys you want,” Preston said, “I’m going fishin’.” And so he did, but not before telling me where I might kill a turkey.
It was a cold morning, especially for mid-March, early in Mississippi’s spring turkey season. Preston Pittman, John Winstead, Bill Ready (I call him “Rough & Ready”) and I were camped along the Pearl River near Monticello with high hopes of shooting one of the many big gobblers that reside there. As a plus, we fished when not hunting.
Now, as some of you might know, Preston is a professional hunter, a turkey call manufacturer and five-time World Champion turkey caller from Hattiesburg. So, you’d think his priorities would be focused on killing turkeys. Fishing, not so much. But not that morning.
Preston had fished one of the many dead lakes along the river, otherwise known as oxbows, the afternoon before. He’d caught a mess of white perch, too, also known as crappie, and he simply couldn’t get that off his mind. So, when the weather turned drastically cold (for that time of year), he opted to fish.
As for me, the last I heard is that “fishing season” is open 24/7 – 365, at least for most species. But, on the other hand, turkey season is only open about a month and a half each year, with a few days allowed in the fall in some areas. So, as far as I was concerned, the fish could wait. Yet, for some reason, my ol’ huntin’ buddy Preston declared again that, “Y’all can have the turkeys this morning; I’m going fishing.”
What’s even more intriguing is that Preston had roosted a gobbler the afternoon before. For those who don’t know, “roosting a gobbler” is when you hear a (male) turkey gobble after he flies up to roost late in the evening. Veteran turkey hunters say gobblers do so in order to let the lady turkeys in the vicinity know they’re there, and that they’re ready, willing and able to, well, you know. And I suppose that’s true, although I’ve never had the opportunity to ask a gobbler...
Nonetheless, before he left to crawl into a small skiff, Preston told me where he had roosted the bird. “It probably won’t gobble early because it’s too cold,” he said. “That’s why I’m going to fish.”
Long story short; I actually crunched thru thin ice in some low-lying areas to get to where Preston told me to go. Yep, it was chilly, and I was having second thoughts about my sanity. Of course, I always have second, even third thoughts about my sanity, so that was not anything out of the ordinary.
Nonetheless, I killed “Preston’s bird” in pretty short order, proving that south Mississippi turkeys can indeed be called in cold weather.
Once back at camp, I waited and waited so I could rub it in. But when Preston finally dragged in, the man had an ice chest full of crappie, which I was “obliged” to dress because, as he put it, he put me on that gobbler. Oh well, all’s well that ends well, I suppose. After all, how can you top a meal of turkey breasts and crappie filets? I won’t even mention a cold beer to boot!
Folks, that’s part, a small part, of what hunting and fishing are all about – sharing good times with friends and family, not to mention the taste-bud-tantalizing meals that sometimes follow. If that sounds good to you, get out and enjoy Mississippi’s great outdoors. And when you go, take a kid with you … every time you can.
Lew Smith, of the Hickory Grove community, is one of the Weekly Mistake’s two dedicated readers, and from time to time he throws in his two bits about my column. Lew, who is a self-proclaimed “pro hunting non-hunter, speculated about fewer turkeys these days in response to my predator tirade last week. He mentioned several other variables that come into play, and ended by saying, “Good luck, but I’m not too optimistic about this turkey season.”
Thanks, Lew, and you are right when you say, “Us old folks got to stick together.”
Hattiesburg native Phil DiFatta is a lifelong outdoorsman who has written a newspaper column since 1982. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.