by Steve Sorensen(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, April 11, 2013.)
“I am going to be good at this!” Four gobblers had just answered
the first call I ever squawked out on a diaphragm call. But that standard of
success – just hearing a gobbler – was all I achieved for a long time as I
learned that getting that first gobbler under your belt can be a real
That afternoon I had stopped at Smith’s Bait Shop on the
east side of Warren, and walked out with a Penn’s Woods single-reed diaphragm call
and an instructional recording. The record was the size of a 45 rpm single, but
it spun at 33. I still have it.
When you’re 21 years old
you don’t mind sitting in your dad’s lap
means calling in a gobbler.
I went home and played the record, made a few ear-shattering
sounds, and after supper rode my Honda motorcycle to Bauer Hill, just outside
Warren off Cobham Park Road. At my first inexpert yelp, those head-snapping
gobbles got hold of me. That was the moment I became a turkey hunter.
It was a long time until I graduated to being a turkey killer,
but I graduated from high school the next year. I don’t remember how many times
I went turkey hunting while in high school, but however many it was, I wasn’t
successful. And when I went to college, I made a terrible decision. I could
have gone to any one of dozens of Pennsylvania colleges within a few minutes of
turkey woods, but instead I found a college in the Boston area. And each year
when end-of-semester academic pressure mounted in May, I wondered if I could
find time to go home to western Pennsylvania and hunt turkeys.
Finally, in my junior year, I called home and asked for some
help. “Dad, can you find me a turkey to hunt? I’m coming home the second
weekend of May.” He obliged, and I drove eight hours through battering rain until
I pulled into the driveway around 2:00 AM.
Parents don’t need to be awakened when their kid is on the
road somewhere between Boston and Warren, so they were wide awake when I tapped
on their bedroom door. “It’s raining, and it’s gonna keep raining,” Dad said.
Are you sure you want to go?”
“That’s the only reason I came home. I’ll get some sleep and
be ready at five,” I replied.
It’s great to have a father who is willing to do your turkey
scouting, and go out with you when his odds of getting soaking wet are better than
your odds of getting a shot.
It was still dark when we drove up the hill – Bauer Hill
again – where dad had heard a gobbler several previous mornings. We eased to
the edge of the slope and as light began to filter through the cloud cover, I
let out one of my yelps on that old Penn’s Woods diaphragm. Down below, the
We slipped down to the bench, found the root ball of a
toppled cherry tree, and backed up against it – Dad behind me, and me almost in
his lap. When you’re 21 years old you don’t mind sitting in your dad’s lap if
it means calling in a gobbler.
That gobbler started coming. I called sparingly, worried
about making a mistake that would make him forget about ever coming to a hen
again. Finally, I could see him heading straight for us. Slowly. Each time he
picked up a foot, he’d think long and hard before putting it down ahead of his
When he was about 40 yards away he began circling to my
right. How good was my calling? That gobbler was proving it was good enough, but
I wasn’t confident enough to make any more calls as he looked for the hen he
thought he heard.
He kept circling to my right, and as slowly as I could I
twisted at my waist. The angle of the shot became more and more difficult. When
I couldn’t twist any more, I began to inch the butt stock of Dad’s old Ithaca
double from my right shoulder across my chest to my left shoulder. It wasn’t
easy – my right eye looking down the barrel at that tiny bead, and the stock on
my left shoulder.
Finally, I decided he wasn’t coming any closer. I fired, he
crumpled, and we celebrated.
I threw that gobbler over my shoulder and we hiked back to
the top of the hill where we had parked the old red International Scout. On the
way there, we encountered a Jeep, and inside were two of the best turkey
hunters around our area in those days – a retired state trooper and the owner
of Smith’s Bait Shop where I bought my call. But I was the one with the
If you’re a rookie hunter still looking for your first gobbler,
believe this: turkeys don’t care who
kills them. And if you’re a seasoned hunter looking for your fifty-first,
recognize that if a 12-year-old bests you, or even dumb college kid, the best
thing you can do is to be happy about it.
That gobbler’s fan never looked better than when I displayed it in the
back window deck of the copper-colored 1971 Plymouth Duster I drove back to