I have had many people follow along as I have hunted a notorious tom I named the Grand Poopah this season. The GP is just “THAT” kind of bird. The kind of bird that haunts you during idle thought. The kind of bird that is your last thought as you set your alarm clock for 4:30 a.m. for the next morning and lay your head on your pillow. Many mornings, as I drive out to the turkey lease, I have received many texts wishing me luck from friends. And yet, the Grand Poopah still haunts those Alabama pines. Still rules the roost keeping Down Low, Third Bird and every other tom in those woods quiet.
Our friends from Ohio, Kurt and Mackenzie Walters, visited this past weekend with high hopes of successfully helping me take out the Grand Poopah. Mackenzie will now have “THAT” bird ingrained in her mind for years to come. Here is her story:
Anticipation had been building as it had been a year since we last saw our friends Nancy Jo and Mister. I had been vicariously hunting through Nancy Jo’s text messages and blogs about birds named Grand Poopah, Down Low, and Third Bird. Each having their story and meaning behind their names. An early wake up and 800 miles were all that separated us from sharing the hunting woods again. The Jeep was fueled up and the bags were loaded waiting to hit the road. We left home around 5:30 am only making stops for gas and a bite to eat.
Upon arrival, we became acquainted with our accommodations for the next three days and started catching up with our hosts. Dinner was served followed by a quick trip to purchase licenses and a few other necessities. The only thing left was to get some sleep for the morning hunt. The alarm clock rang, coffee served, and out the door we went for the first hunt. We traveled a short distance to the hunting property and hopped on the cart. We dropped my husband Kurt off at a carefully selected location. I happily shared a set up with the Guru Huntress herself as she had done much scouting. Three different gobbles were heard as sunrise approached. Shortly afterwards, a shot was heard and a follow-up shot. Kurt had shot but at which bird and the reason for the second shot were not known. As we fretted, it was a miss and a follow-up miss. Based on the location of the gobble and the area the bird came from, we figured it was likely Third Bird; but Third Bird would not be the only encounter we had for the day.
The birds were tight-lipped much of the trip only talking the first and last mornings. It would take glassing and moving through the property quietly to see other birds. While checking a field, a bird popped out of nowhere late the first morning. Nancy Jo recognized him immediately as none other than The Grand Poopah himself! We all dropped down and found spots on the edge of the woods. Kurt called while I held my gun ready. Old GP would not budge from his strut zone. After calling for several minutes we devised a plan. I crept up to the top of terraced land only to see GP in full strut. I dropped down and backed out attempting not to be noticed. We continued to call but he did not move. Kurt suggested crawling to get a shot so on my hands and knees I moved towards Grand Poopah.
It seemed like it took forever to cover the short distance. As I got closer, I began a belly crawl. Before cresting the hill, I took a moment to pray. I then pushed my upper body upward so I could get a view. Must to my dismay, GP had already moved on.
I found a place against another tree and stayed for a short bit of time while Kurt continued to call and Nancy Jo kept watch. I and my leg had fallen asleep while waiting for a shot opportunity. I heard a whistle waking me from my light sleep and attempted to stand up. I realized my leg from my knee to my foot was asleep but thought I could walk it off. I made one step and immediately fell to the ground. I could hear Kurt and Nancy Jo laughing at my expense. It would have been video gold had we been recording the whole Grand Poopah experience! As had Nancy Jo, I too fell victim to Grand Poopah’s spell. His image is forever ingrained in my memory.
Although we were not successful in harvesting a turkey that weekend, several other memories were made such as Nancy Jo trying to eat jelly beans through her face mask and plotting to use the gobble tube to wake us from our sleep as we were snoozing against trees. Nancy Jo and I watched a real hen that looked like a decoy and decoy that looked liked a real hen. Kurt and Mister had a good laugh as they watched Nancy Jo and I try to figure out if the decoy was real while trying to hide behind a single fence post.
A first occurred as a ribeye steak was placed in front of me and I could not finish it. A cat stole my contact lenses and case. This is the same cat that plays fetch! The cats entertained us all weekend. New games were played such as Cow Bingo. Im not sure I ever wanted to know what the prize would have been for winning. Cows followed us all weekend no matter the set up. We laughed and joked all weekend and potato became a dirty word. Kurt and I had given potatoes up for Lent. It was very kind for Nancy Jo and Mister to not eat potatoes even though it would have been fantastic with the steak. And sometimes having guests is the perfect reason to buy the coffee maker you always wanted even though you are not a coffee drinker.
Kurt and I attended a beautiful Palm Sunday service as the hunting came to a close and we headed back home. We packed our things, loaded the Jeep, and parted ways with a southern style sweet tea in hand. We both enjoyed our time hunting with Nancy Jo and Mister and hated our time had come and gone. I cried the whole way to the interstate thinking how it may be months or even another year before we would get to see our friends again.
Of course as soon as we left we came across a hen standing in the middle of the road and the tom strutting in the ditch; figures! The one thing I know is that I never want to see another cow while I hunt again! I think Mister got the last laugh as Kurt and I stopped for a sandwich only to be served french fries that we had to smell all the way home. The sweet tea accompanying my sandwich was not to the standard set in the south. We talked the whole way home about how we already missed our friends and our plans to return.
It did not matter we did not come home with meat for the freezer, the time spent with friends and the experience with Grand Poopah made the entire weekend. There is no way we could thank Nancy Jo and Mister for their hospitality, friendships, and adventures in the woods. Until we meet again friends!