Never too old for turkey

Published 12:06 am Sunday, April 5, 2009

NATCHEZ — Carolyn Harper sits outside by herself for nine straight hours, sometimes in the freezing cold or pouring rain, waiting for that elusive catch.

She makes the call and waits patiently for the giant bird to strut near, steadily aims her gun and fires as she’s done so many times before.

Harper, 72, has been hunting deer for more than 40 years, but she didn’t take up turkey hunting until she was 60 years old.

Email newsletter signup

Now, 12 years into the sport, the Natchez resident is an avid turkey hunter.

“I’m the only one in my family that hunts turkeys,” Harper said. “I hunt every day except Sundays, if the weather allows, until I get the limit. I go every day and stay all day, and I look forward to it more than deer hunting because you see more wildlife, and spring is such a wonderful time to be in the woods.”

And she’s good at it.

Harper’s most recent kill, on March 23, was a 24-pound gobbler with an 11-inch beard and 1 1/4-inch curved spurs.

She said it’s the biggest one she’s ever killed, by about half a pound, although she has killed one with a longer beard.

“He strutted, drummed and gobbled off and on coming to me and had a number of hens and several jakes with him,” she said of the most recent turkey.

Harper began turkey hunting when her family bought land in Jefferson County off the Natchez Trace for deer hunting.

She said she saw so many turkeys while deer hunting that she decided to give them a shot. Her son Noland had done it before, and so had her husband, Bob, many years before.

Noland agreed to take his mom on her first turkey hunt, but when they didn’t find anything in the morning, he volunteered to head home to take care of Bob, who was laid up after back surgery, while she tried again that afternoon.

And Carolyn had finally been successful on her own.

“I called them on the phone and told them I had killed a turkey,” she said. “My husband asked how long the beard was, and I said, ‘It looks to be about 10-inches long.’ My husband just laughed and told my son, ‘Your mom actually thinks she killed a turkey with a 10-inch long beard.’”

Carolyn was off on the estimation, but in a good way.

The turkey actually had three beards — 10.5-, 6- and 4.5-inches long.

Bob said he told her it was unusual for a turkey to have more than one beard, and from that moment on, his wife of 56 years was hooked.

“I got the bug,” Carolyn said. “I just enjoyed it so much. It was so exciting to watch them come in and do their strutting and all that. I love scouting, trying to find out where the game is.”

Carolyn has bagged her three-turkey limit for the spring season, so now she said she will appreciate the wildlife in another way — by turning it into art.

“I will go out there and photograph now,” she said. “I’m an artist. I have limited edition turkey and deer prints in watercolor, and I do pen and ink drawings also. “I have charcoal drawings of turkey and deer and quail and ducks, and I’ve drawn antebellum homes in pen and ink.”

No matter how Carolyn is involved with it, she said she loves being a part of nature and hunting.

Her family spent Thanksgivings deer hunting while her children were growing up, and she and Bob also bow hunt and have hunted squirrel and doves.

And even though she’s retired twice — from BellSouth and Copiah-Lincoln Community College — the now independent insurance consultant doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

“She likes to turkey hunt more than she likes to deer hunt, and she really loves deer hunting,” Bob said. “So that’s about the size of it.”