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Chapters From Ron's Book

UNCLE JUNES

“Uncle Junes” is the name my original turkey hunting buddy, David Johnson and I gave to a 325 acre tract of land located along Cedar Creek near Winnsboro, South Carolina.  We named it that because the man who owned it and allowed us to hunt it had the first name of “June” and he treated us like he was our uncle.  Some things are NOT that complicated.  On a couple of occasions I hunted it with others during the years I lived in South Carolina after David had returned to Maryland and – OH what times we had hunting turkeys at “Uncle Junes

GOBBLIN’ GEESE - On one of our 1st trips to Uncles Junes, David and I, while scouting the property the first evening, found a beautiful 20 acre or so jewel of a lake nestled in a hollow between two hard wood ridges.  The turkeys, we had been told, loved to roost all around this lake in the tall pines and oaks.  At one end, away from the favored roosting areas was a big dam which was about 50 yards long.  As we walked across that dam for the first time, I began to spot a tremendous amount of turkey droppings.  Many, many of them in the perfect “J” shape.  They were green and white and most as fresh as they could be.  In the turkey seminars etc that David and I had just taken the year or so before, this perfect “J” shape was pointed out to be the classic “droppings” of a gobbler.  We were shown that the hen plop was in the shape of popcorn. 

Well, the more we looked the more we found, from one end of the dam to the other.   I being the smarter of the two quickly figured out that we had stumbled onto the Mother of All Strut Zones.  I deducted with my superior power of reasoning and pure woodsman ship that the gobblers flew off their roost at daybreak and sailed right to this “Strut Zone” to do their thing in the morning light that would always come up at far the eastern end of the pond.  These gobblers of course would know this and be like models on the runway, literally strutting their stuff on this dam.  We quickly made our plan and we each took an end of the dam to build our blinds.  We spent a half our or so on each, then we inspected each others blind, made some suggestions and worked to make them perfect. 

We cut branches and drove them into the ground, sawed off and hauled some big Beech limbs, wove in pine branches and fussed over our ambush sites until we were satisfied.    We could barely sleep that night in anticipation of seeing those big long bearded, hook spurred gobblers sailing into our waiting ambush. 

A half hour before dawn we were nestled in, guns locked and loaded and near vibrating with anticipation!  We had made a pact that neither of us would shoot unless at least TWO mature gobblers were on the dam and of course we would take the gobbler that was on our end.  We had it all figured out to the “Nth” degree and we were very pleased with ourselves for being so sharp and clever!

As I sat there I visualized over and over the sight I KNEW was coming.  They would come from the hardwood ridge to the east, gliding from the hilltop right at us out of the sun that was in our eyes.  They would airbrake at the end of their flight and land right in front of us on the dam.  Suddenly, my squinting into the sun eyes saw them – just exactly as I had imagined.  Two together coming right at us just as we’d planned.  Even though I was fixated in jaw drop ecstasy, my hunting instinct was razor

sharp and I can still remember every detail.  There were crows cawing and a plane droning overhead and not too far off geese were honking. 

On they came like Japanese “Zeros” out of the sun.  300 yards, then 200, 100 yards and closing.  I take my safety off and shoulder my gun, nearly going blind from looking into the sun – but not daring to look away.  I can hardly see as they veer to my left to land but my eyes do clear and focus on, on – two of the prettiest Canada Geese, you would ever want to see.  Ever want to see ANYWHERE but in the middle of our strut zone.  In jaw drop awe I watched as both took a crap, laying down perfect “J’ shaped “turkey droppings”.  We both sat at opposite ends of the dam in our perfectly built blinds – in disbelief!  We then made our way to each other, slipping out the back of the blinds and made a pact then and there to NEVER, EVER, tell this story to anyone.  And we never did – ‘till now!

 

Travis and the hen from hell – I made a great friend out of a local taxidermist named Don Travis.  Don was and still as a natural born killer.  He travels all over the world hunting game I have only heard of – and almost always gets his man, uh, trophy. He then brings it home, or at least the part he wants to make a world class mount of for his collection.  Award winner taxidermist and also a world class, friend.  He is of course a good guy to boot!

One year I talked Don into coming down to hunt with me at Uncle Junes.  He agreed and brought a relay nicely done hen wild turkey he had mounted on a board for the hunt.  I had built us a blind over a chufa patch for the times we weren’t taking them on in the woods and hollers.  I also had developed steppe throat, with accompanying laryngitis.  I could barely talk when I wasn’t coughing my kidneys out.  But, plans and airline tickets had been bought and the hunt was on.

 

The morning of his first day’s hunt I set Don up in the Chufa patch with his mounted hen decoy.  She sat just 10 yards in front of our blind as the chufa patch was small but very well and freshly used.  I sat with him for an hour or so, coughing my head off most of the time.  Finally I croaked to him to sit tight and shoot any turkey with a beard that came in, as I was going to leave and take my cough with me.  I knew he had no chance with me in the blind and decided to go to the back part of the farm while he hunted and I would do some scouting.

I spent a good hour and a half away and did hear a couple gobblers way back on the next ridge.  Upon my return I found Don in tears.  Now, there is NO crying in turkey hunting, at least NOT in front of your fellow turkey hunting buddies.  But, there was Don all red eyed and crying – but laughing at the same time.  He could hardly speak for laughing, and crying, but did his best to tell me the story of how shortly after I left a hen came into the chufa patch to feed.  He related that she fed a bit then upon spotting his mounted decoy, proceeded to drop her wings and march right up to it.  She circled it aggressively purring while circling the decoy with wings cocked at the side.  Each time she got to the decoys head, beak, area she paused a bit before racing past the beak. 

Eventually on about the tenth pass, she got her nerve up and leapt into the air striking that decoy with her wings as hard as she could, shouting the word “bitch”!  Don swears that’s what she said, “BITCH”!  She stuck it such a blow it fell over.  She immediately jumped upon it flogging it for several minutes while taking some time out to peck it about the head.  This went on for a number of minutes as Don watched in amazement.  She pecked and pecked till she broke through the skin and into the cotton.  She then started pulling cotton and string (brains?) out of the decoy’s head for several more minutes.  She would take a break every so often and go back to flogging it with her wings.  She got so angry she started pushing it with her chest and pulling it by the string from it’s neck that she actually moved it over 4 feet. 

She killed it and was going to get the corpse OUT of HER food plot.  The only thing that stopped her homicidal action was when she heard Don – “CRYING”!

Don and I got done laughing and crying and took what was left of his decoy and put it back in the truck.  We headed on to the far end of the property where I had heard some gobbling.  We set up on and called to what sounded like a gang of three gobblers for over an hour.  In they would come, gobbling all the way and then off they would go, leaving us.  Then I would crank them up again and they would double and triple gobble coming close, but then always going away.  Finally they just gave up and left.  We moved in to see what the deal or problem was and found it.  There was a big ditch that was walled off by cane grass on our side.  The gobblers just had no access to us and they are almost always reluctant to cross “barriers” anyhow.  This is where knowing your turkey hunting land comes in to play!

We moved to one final spot as I was getting sicker and sicker.  The wind came up and it got very hard to hear.  Your ears are always your best weapon and we had ‘bout gone deaf with the wind starting to really blow through the pines.  I set Don up on a ridge I knew they liked to feed on and showed this 100% Rookie the very basics of yelping and cutting on a box call.   I was running a fever and coughing my lungs out and couldn’t even whisper so I was of no use.  I moved off about 100 yards, leaving my buddy on his own and lay down under a big oak.  

As I dozed in and out of my stupor and at one point I swore I heard a turkey gobble, somewhere, but figured it was just in my haze.  Then I swore a shot awoke me, but again, just thought I was just wishing I had heard a shot.  I opened an eye and thru the woods saw an apparition – opened the other eye and the apparition turned into Don the killer coming at me waving my box call over his head with his monster gobbler over his shoulder!  It now has a prize spot in his hall of fame mounts.  I told you he was good!

 

I WAS THIRSTY – David and I hunted a number of times at Uncle Junes – often with, Uncle June.  He was a wiry old southern man with a passion for turkey hunting.  He was a dedicated turkey killer also.  I won’t go into details except to say that when he went turkey hunting he planned to come out with as many turkeys as he could shoot.

          David and I had not really known each other very long when we made one of our first trips to hunt with our new uncle.  We met him the evening before and were told what time to meet “at the cable” the next morning and to not be late.  We stayed at a local motel and as always, slept little the night before. 

We had our time planned out and on our way stopped at the local “Dash N Go”, for snacks and drinks for the cooler.  It DOES get mighty hot in the spring in South Carolina.  The evening before we had stopped into the same little store and I found they had a peach drink, on tap.  It was both a very southern thing AND very good. The morning of the hunt I was wanting some more peach drink, but not in a cup with ice.  David was hollering to “come on, we gotta go”, as I was looking to see if they had my drink in bottles.  AH HAH – I spotted a bottle with peach in big letters down in the bottom of one of the store’s big coolers, snatched it up and put it in the cooler in our truck. (This is important info).

Off we went, making it on time.  The morning’s hunt involved a lot of hard walking in the hot sun.  David and I hunted together and as it approached noon, we approached Cedar Creek, nearing the truck.  A turkey gobbled between us and the truck, twice.  As we stood, making some hasty plans, whispering so not to spook the turkey in the silence along the creek and small pasture.  A shot rang out.  It was very loud and ringing up the hollow towards us.  Then in rapid procession another and another.  Then quickly two more, five shots in all in about 5 seconds.  Then two more about 20 seconds later.   Suffice to say the morning’s “silence” was “disturbed”.  So was our gobbler as he never made another sound.

After a bit we trudged hot and tired and oh so thirsty back to the trucks and our meeting area.  When we got there, Uncle June’s nephew Maxie, was waiting.  Just as we started to take off our vests, mopping the sweat from our brows – here comes Uncle June marching up the lane with not one, not two but three, Jakes, in tow.  “Five came in and I could only get three of ‘em” he said some what disgustedly!  We on the other hand thought three was pretty good, at one sitting!

We congratulated him then popped the trunk on David’s Ford Explorer and dived into the cooler for our drinks.  I found my “Peach Soda” I had been aching for since mid morning –quickly twisted off the top and chugga lugged it.  I got about half of it down and had full intent of getting all of it down when it hit me.  A burning sensation from my lips to where ever the first of it had reached.  Like in the movies I spit a huge spray of it as far as I could.  Threw the bottle down and snatched David’s coke from his hands and drank all of it. Then grabbed ice from the cooler and shoved it in my mouth which surely must have been on fire, complete with flames and smoke!  I finally got a hold of myself long enough to find and read the bottle – “PEACH SNOPPS”!!  YIKES!! 

 

Magical Place But Nothing Lasts Forever – Uncle Junes was just one of those magical places.  There was ALWAYS something going on there and it would most likely be fun and have a turkey or two involved.  There was one time when I had a gobbler cornered next to Cedar Creek where he set up a strut zone going back and forth like a soldier on guard duty.  There was a small wide open pasture between me and him and I couldn’t cross it without him spotting me.  He wouldn’t come to me for the creek which was 10 feet wide AND deep and he was on the other side of it from me. 

          He just loved my calling and did his strut zone thing for near 2 1/2 hours.  I’d set up under a big cedar tree in the warm spring sun and – fell asleep three times while working him.  Twice he woke me up gobbling, I guess wondering why I wasn’t calling to him.  I never got him as eventually David came looking for me as I was an hour late for our meet up time and ran my gobbler off – Thank God!

          On another hunt I heard an old Tom sounding off and a Rooster answering him from his pen on the far back end of the property.  I got between the two would be combatants, laughing at them fools challenging each other.  I am sure the turkey saw me when I set up about 30 yards from the rooster’s pen, for when I got into position I could see that he was across an old gravel pit with nothing between us.  I COULD see though, that the red Fighting Game Cock Banty meant every word of it.  Pound for pound I’d put my money on the rooster!

          Dale Rhom, a friend of his and me found ourselves there on an afternoon hunt in the spring of 1989.  I knew that gobblers often made their way into the cool bottom behind the pond’s dam when it got too hot for those black bodies to be exposed to the sun.  We had just walked into the cool shady area next to a hardwood hill when Dale’s buddy let out a low whistle and excitedly waved us over to his spot.

          There all coiled up and sound asleep was a 4 foot copperhead snake.  You know that gives you the chills as Copperheads ARE very poisonous and have a reputation of being pretty aggressive.  The man said for us to back up as he was gonna shoot that snake.  I told him to hold up on that shooting as we had just got there and I knew there were turkeys near by.  I didn’t want our afternoon hunt to get blown away with the copperhead.

          All agreed that snake needed to go on to wherever snakes go when they get dead.  I assessed the situation and asked for a good sized forked stick.  One was found.  I took it and stirred the snake then pinned his head firmly to the ground with the forked stick.  I asked Dale to hold the snake down firmly, please.  I then took out my knife and proceeded to cut that copperhead’s head, OFF!  Now that was bad enough to my onlookers but then I picked up the writhing headless, thus poisenLESS body up and stuffed it into my vest back where the turkey goes.  It commenced to writing around and several times I had to catch it trying to get out and stuff it back in.

          My hunting buddies figured I was just a little out of mind and asked why I had the headless snake in my vest, crawling all around like that.  I answered that I planned to put it in my freezer and have my taxidermist buddy Don Travis make me a cured snakeskin from it.  He did and it now hangs over the door in my call making shop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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