An Owen County Turkey Tale

After last year’s dismal effort at turkey hunting, I was ready for greener grass and had indeed found it. My Owen County morel contact had a 40-acre woods for me to hunt and was to hike me through it the afternoon before the Hoosier wild turkey season opener, last Wednesday. All good until he had to push the trek back three days.

Ray Novak and I hunt 200-acres in Owen County and stay in a cabin. It is a neat place, but a little light on turkey. Last year, we hunted one day and Ray was called back to work unexpectedly. I went back. But did not see a turkey.

This woods was full of morel hunters the weekend before turkey hunting season last year. With this April being the eighth coldest in recorded history no one had been in the woods.

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Ray was fresh off a successful hunt in Tennessee and ready to go. His enthusiasm for turkey hunting never wanes.

Well before daylight we entered a familiar section of the woods, Ray began calling with his owl hoot trying to illicit a response from a gobbler on the roost. He hooted several times with no response. He moved 30-yards down the trail and during his second sequence of hoots, I heard a gobble.

I could tell Ray had not heard it. He walked back to me and I asked if he heard the tom. He had not and figured since I heard it, the bird must have been a long distance off. “We need to find one closer, “he said. I told him it was on the far hillside about 70 yards. Finally, the gobbler responded again, and we sat up across the ravine about 60-yards from the still roosting turkey.

Novak is an expert caller and got the old tom interested with a variety of sweet calls, clucks and purrs. Sunrise was 6:45 am and the tom and a hen flew down to our right at 6:30. There was fog in the woods that made visibility difficult.

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Ray whispered, “The tom flew down first and a hen is with him. She is coming up the hill towards us,” he whispered. The gobbler laid back about 60-yards, He stood on a log and fanned his feathers. It was surreal looking through the fog.

When the hen saw our hen decoy she began to cluck. The tom was now interested and moving forward. He was just inches from getting behind a tree. Ray whispered “Wait, wait.” I whispered, “I’m on him.” At 32-yards I squeezed the trigger.

Novak jumped up giving me hugs and high fives. He enjoys giving his old Babe Ruth coach the bird.

I left my buddy in the woods and never saw him until 7:30 that evening. He spent 14 hours in the woods. Ray would send an occasional text. He saw turkeys all day. There were three toms feeding together that did not seem to like the decoys and hung-up at 100-yards.

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At one point a big gobbler was closing the distance. Ray had the gun on him at 52 yards when a thunderous gobble came from 40 yards inside the woods and ran the would-be Thanksgiving dinner away.

When there came a knock on my cabin door at 7:45 the next morning, I knew my friend had got his bird. His was a three-year-old with a 10-3/4” beard and 1-3/4” spurs. Mine was a year younger with a 10-incher beard.

We stopped on the way home to see the new property, but it was no longer of any significance.


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Rick Bramwell
Rick L. Bramwell is 74 years old and began writing for the Anderson Herald Bulletin in 1972. He likes to hunt small game, deer, turkey and morel mushrooms. Bramwell’s 174-7/8 typical whitetail is the largest ever taken in Madison County. He used to compete in Red Man and BASS Federation tournaments, but is now content to fish ponds and small lakes for bass and panfish. For most of 43 years Bramwell has coached Baseball and softball. He has three grown children and resides in Madison County, near Pendleton.


  1. Love this story….a man and his bird…or a man get the bird…or was it a man flipped the bird?!! Anyway, funny and poignant. Thanks for sharing.


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