Two weeks ago my dad and I had the privilege to take Chipper Jones on his first turkey hunt. It was prime time for turkeys to mate so they were henned up bad. Although we got it done on the first day it was not easy. Knowing the land, where to set up, how to place decoys and call based on our understanding of Realtree Farms helped. Seeing someone like him get excited over a turkey hunt is cool too. Also, I think there is a good lesson to be learned for all turkey hunters out there.
Growing up in Georgia and only two hours from Atlanta, I am a huge Braves fan but even a bigger fan of Chipper Jones. At an early age my dad would often take me and a couple buddies up to a game. Chipper would meet us before the game to spend time with us and talk shop with my dad about where he was going to hunt in the fall once baseball season was over. He had always been good to me so I admired who he was as a ballplayer but even more as a person. It was an honor for me to be a part of his first turkey hunt and call him up a longbeard.
Chipper kept saying, “This will be my first turkey hunt on purpose.” We all know during the spring he has been busy the past 20 years with spring training and regular season ball. He arrived on April 8th with Major League Bowhunters Jeff Danker and Matt Duff. We woke up early the next morning and were in the woods by 6:45. Around seven is when we heard the first gobbles. Four to five birds all gobbled at one time but hens were yelping and cutting right back at me. You could tell they were not too happy we were trying to take their men away from them. We had our work cut out for us.
Two different times we set up on these birds. The first time we were set up before they flew down. And as soon as we heard them hit the ground they went silent. We called and called but got nothing. How could five longbeards not gobble when they gobbled their heads off on roost? Thirty minutes after they flew down we heard one gobble way off at a crow. We set up again but still no response. It was only 8:30 by this point so I was nervous that the birds just didn’t want cooperate today. Not exactly how I pictured Chipper’s first hunt. The key is not to give up. Through my years of hunting if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that anything can happen.
We drove around to another food plot where there have been birds in there almost every day between 10 and 12 o’clock. Sure enough I called and two birds gobbled in the chufa. We tried to set up on top of the road and call them in but unfortunately they were with a bunch of hens and would not break. Here is where it got intense.
The only way we would have a shot at these birds is to put a stalk on them. We got up from our spot and all four of us, my dad, Chipper, me, and cameraman Daniel Thomas were in a straight line. My dad had taken the removable fan from our jake decoy. At first I had my doubts about our strategy. There was not much cover for us to stay hidden and all we had was a fan. But it worked perfectly. During this time of year sometimes birds just need to see some kind of movement in order for them to break. My dad walked up with the fan and the birds broke once they saw it while I called from 15 yards behind. It is important for all hunters to remember that if you can just get something in front of them to see they may just come in. Thankful I have my dad to learn from on things like that.
It was an honor for Chipper to come down and kill his first turkey on Realtree Farms. I’m sure we will see him in the spring woods more often now that he has more time on his hands. Make sure to check out his Major League Bowhunter show on the Sportsman Channel. Watch our hunt on Beards or Bust, Episode 5. Hope everyone has had a great and safe turkey season thus far!
Remember, shoot straight and God bless.