Local hunters ready for turkey season

Published 12:02 am Sunday, March 10, 2013

NATCHEZ — Friday marks the start of Natchez resident Gus Perry’s favorite time of the year.

Perry, a local turkey hunter, has been eagerly anticipating the start of turkey season, which opens Friday. He said there’s no other chase that offers more of a thrill than the one he gets in early March when the weather begins to warm and the birds begin to gobble.

“Turkey season is the sport for me,” Perry said. “The rest of it — deer hunting and all that — is just extra. Turkey hunting is what I wait for every year.”

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Perry’s not alone in his love for turkey season. Local hunter Dempsey White also said he looks forward to chasing the birds every year, and it’s the challenge of the sport that gives him so much enjoyment.

“I think it’s the challenge of being able to actually call the turkey up to you, being able to use your skills of being in the right place at the right time, then harvesting him,” White said.

That’s not an easy task, White said, since the bird’s eyesight is so strong.

“Their eyesight is about 10 times greater than human eyes,” White said. “You have to be totally camouflaged, and you can’t move at the wrong time.”

Perry said it’s not just a turkey’s eyesight that gives the bird an edge in the chase.

“They can hear a twig snap,” Perry said. “You can blink your eyes, and they’ll see you. They’re very sharp. You have to be well-hidden and very still, unless you want to take one 40 to 50 yards away.”

Which is not something Perry likes doing, he said.

“I won’t shoot a turkey if he’s past 25 steps (from me),” Perry said. “The closer you can get him, you’ve beaten him.”

Compared to deer hunting with a gun, White said hunting turkey is a very different kind of sport.

“The fact that you can hear the turkeys gobbling, approach them, sit down and try to call them to you — you actually know that the game is right there,” White said. “Bowhunting (deer) is a little different, but if you’re with a gun, you’re just sitting in a stand and waiting.”

Perry said duck hunting is somewhat similar to turkey hunting, but there’s the added challenge of trying to get a turkey’s mind off a potential mate.

“Duck hunting is more like turkey hunting, since you’re trying to call him in,” White said. “Getting him away from the hens is the real challenge. If you can get him to come to you, you’ve really done something. In most cases, you’re not going to call him away from the hens. He won’t come to something he hears when he has something he can see in front of him.”

In addition to being a good caller, White said woodsmanship is one of the best skills to have as a turkey hunter.

“Being able to move in the woods and knowing the woods you’re hunting really helps a lot,” White said. “Calling is kind of a secondary thing, but the better a caller you are, the better chance you have.”

While some hunters might enjoy actually taking a turkey, Perry said that’s not the most thrilling part about the hunt.

“It’s being out there and calling him,” Perry said. “I’ve watched many turkey walk off. I don’t have to kill every time I go into the woods. If I can get him close enough to take him, I’ve won.”

There’s always that one that got away, however, and White said losing one you really want happens at least once every season.

“It’s pretty common,” he said. “You get to hunting, and you hear a particular turkey, so you go back every morning and try to get there and kill him, but something always happens. It’s like that huge buck that always gets away. All adult turkeys are pretty tough to kill.”