Story Courtesy of Joe Reams
Growing up, hunting season was an exciting time in the Reams household. Not only did my daddy own and operate a hunting business, but he also loved the sport. He grew up in the small town of Greenville, Fla., the perfect place to fall in love with the outdoors. Daddy has always been drawn to the woods. He used to tell me that when he found himself in those woods after dark, he would use the opening in the trees above him and the light of the moon to find his way home. That was another thing my daddy loved—telling stories. Pull up a chair next to Joe Reams for more than five minutes and, rest assured, you'll hear a tale or two. In honor of turkey season, my daddy's love for hunting and his knack for telling enthralling tales, I'd like to share with you “The Rodeo Step Turkey,” the true story of Joe Reams' multiple encounters with Ol' Tom, the turkey that refused to surrender. - Savannah Reams, daughter of Joe Reams: ECB Publishing, Inc.
This is the story of a tough ol' bird.
You see, I had this fella from up in North Georgia down here hunting with me and he sure enough wanted him a good ol' gobbler to take back to Atlanta. Now you know that folks up there in the city know a lot more'n us down here in the sticks. They got all places to buy the best stuff to hunt with and the people that sell that stuff know an awful lot about hunting, so they give you plenty of advice, whether you ask for it or not.
Anyhow, I was ready when he got here and we did a lot of turkey talk and I gave my advice on what to use and how to kill that turkey, but I saw right off I was out-matched by more “learned folks” from the city. You know how it goes. We had a good meal that night and drank some of his favorite wine. I believe he called it “Bon Jovi” or something like that. Anyhow, it was pretty good for wine.
The next morning, we drank some coffee to clear that “Bon Jovi” out of our heads and headed for that Ol Tom. We set up on the edge of a hardwood swamp and a rye field. I had Ol' Henrietta, my decoy, out about 35 steps and we were in our blind waiting on daylight. As usual, the skeeters were having breakfast on the two of us, but when that turkey cut loose, we forgot all that. I let him know where we were and that was enough. He flew down and saw Henrietta and started coming, the king and his court.
There were three jakes coming in behind and he would stop every once in a while and chase the young boys away. It wasn't long before he crossed that line and city boy's big gun woke up the dead. That ol' bird rolled over backwards, then gathered himself up and flew out of there. Now I'm not startin' in to tell you what went wrong, but I'll bet my buddy don't listen to some salesman tell him about huntin' turkey no more. About a week later, I saw our Tom limping across a field and vowed to finish him before the coyotes got to him, but I never saw him anymore that season.
It was the following year, in late April, when I finally saw that crippled turkey again. I tried, but never could get close. A year passed before I found him again. He was walking better and was bigger and meaner. He had killed or run off all the young jakes around and wouldn't come in to nothing. I don't know how he knew me, but he stayed out of range at all times. He would answer me every single time, but fly down too far out, turn to me, gobble, walk away, stopping to gobble one more time just to make me mad. I can tell you, it was getting to me. I even made up this big plan to scare him to me. I went out and bought me a big ol' owl decoy with big glass eyes. The thing cost me about 40 bucks. I figured if I put that ol' owl out to where he was coming down, he might swing in close enough to shoot. No deal. He walked right up to that ol' owl, gobbled at him, and marched on out of there with that rodeo step of his. Another year gone and I was beat again. I thought a lot about that hateful bird during the year. I even glanced at my .222 every now and then, but you know if you shoot a Tom turkey with a rifle, your children will be born naked, or so I've been told.
So, we started up the fourth season. I took my grandson, Luke, who was seven years old at the time, hoping to kill something, but it didn't work out. We went again and came up short, but we watched him walking away and, guess what? He had a limp. So, I was back to the drawing board. I decided it must be me, so I brought in some serious turkey hunters that had called in more turkey than I've ever seen. I was to hide out in front and let my friend, Jim, do the calling, but Ol' Tom hit the ground moving. He had a lot of gobble, but wouldn't come in for anything. I was at my wits end when I finally decided enough was enough. I knew the exact tree he roosted in and was very tempted to shoot him out of bed. I just couldn't do it … but, I had another plans.
There was a fence about 100 yards from Ol' Tom's tree and, if left undisturbed, he would fly down across
that fence and out into the middle of a plowed field. I brought eight bales of hay out into the place I thought he would fly across and built a blind. The next morning, I put on some leather, low-cut soft shoes and started walking a little after 5 a.m. I didn't want him to hear or see nothin'. The moon was down, so I walked slowly to keep from tripping and giving myself away. The one thing I didn't do was check the weather. I wore one thin, long-sleeved shirt. The temperature had dropped to 37 degrees and I like to have froze to death. My shotgun was like a block of ice.
I propped the frigid weapon against a hay bale and sat on another. I sat for so long that when he cut loose with his first gobble, I nearly jumped out of my skin. Somehow, he knew something was wrong. Ol' Tom had been coming down about a quarter to seven, but it was 7:15 when I heard those big wings start pumping. Man, he was fast, I tell you! He crossed the fence line about 20 yards high and 35 yards down from me. I grabbed that icy gun and, I swear, pure instinct put me on that red head. It all happened in a heartbeat. The turkey went down and almost hit three deer that were nearby. We were all surprised! He hit the ground so hard that all the feathers were torn from his breast and his breastbone was broken in half. He only had about a ten inch beard, but the top half was grey. His foot was gnarled with one toe lapping on top of the other. There was a lot of shot in his legs, feet and lower body.
Now, I'm not proud of the way this ol' boy went down, but sometimes … a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.