Age: Ancient- 7 years! 20 pounds; 1 3/8 spurs, 11-inch beard.
Huckleberry Bill was a hill gobbler that lived in the Bogue Phalia Hills west of Meridian, MS. Huckleberry beat all comers for a few years. During my final season to hunt him we had several close calls as many people did. Huckleberry would stay near an old hilltop green field and spend his days courting hens and gobbling from his sanctuary. It was nigh on impossible for anybody to sneak up on him due to the proximity of the hill and his cunning demeanor.
I called him up one time for a young lady turkey hunter and made the mistake of putting a portable blind up for her. Old Huckleberry flew down to the ridge and walked just passed us at 5 yards and we heard him strutting, drumming and dragging his wings. However, when he got into the open he would never cross Jenifer’s open window. I watched him from my vantage point for 25 yards but didn’t have a gun. No matter what we did, Bill had an answer for us.
I decided to try my hand at him again with only a few days left in the season.
I spotted old Bill as he ran across a clover patch late one afternoon while trying to roost a turkey. Old Bill was sure to roost nearby, but had I waited too late to give the old Kingpin another try? As old Huckleberry Bill exploded airborne and sailed off into the deep hollow all I could do was watch and hope that he hadn’t been scared off into the next county.
There was only one thing to do and that was to don my favorite Mossy Oak gear, pick up my Remington Special Purpose turkey gun and load up some of Winchester’s red hot Longbeard XR shotgun shells and head to the woods early the next morning.
But before I left for the woods I made sure to put my Paul Meek Copper/slate in my turkey vest.
Arriving on a knoll overlooking a small clover patch and strutting zone before daylight, I was tuned in to nature’s sounds and listening for the first whippoorwill, owl hoot, and hopefully a lusty gobble from the king of Huckleberry Hill. But this bird wouldn’t be easy to fool as he’d beaten all comers and enticed a harem of hens all the while.
Suddenly the shrill hoot of a barred owl pierced the pitch black early morning stillness and awakened my senses to the smell of an impending thunderstorm bearing down on the area. I waited expectantly for that lusty gobble, but it never came as the night melted into a new day.
As a chorus of crows sang out across the hills and hollows with nary a gobble in response I could wait no longer. I crossed the small hill patch and moved swiftly to the peak of a ridge that dropped off into a deep hollow intersected by 5 other hollows.
The old bird had roosted here all season long, never straying more than a couple hundred yards. Some mornings he belted out gobble after gobble and others only a few, as he gathered his harem. One by one they disappeared until one morning he woke up- alone.
Six o’clock came and not a gobble was to be heard. He should’ve been gobbling by now, if he’d lived through the last onslaught of hunters, but I couldn’t be sure. I was in his bedroom now, too close to send out my favorite owl hoot, but I had to do something as time was slipping away.
I sent out three series of yelps to the north, west and finally to the south. No sooner had I finished my last series of yelps than I heard the flop, flop, flop, of wings very quietly signaling the gobbler’s descent from his roost.
Could it be possible that he’d heard my sweet pleadings and simply pitched off of his oak throne? I couldn’t take a chance so I quickly eased back up the trail and prepared for battle. Fifteen minutes went by and nary a sight nor sound of the bird was seen or heard. Crows flew close by and still nothing happened, so I pulled out my Preston Pittman Crow call and sounded out a raucous crow rant.
Goooobbbblllllleeeeeee! Thundered the grand old monarch from the foot of the hill, perhaps 70 yards away.
Ten minutes later he’d still not shown up, or made a peep, so I pulled out my Paul Meek copper/slate and purred softly four times.
Goooobbbblllllleeeeeee! The gobbler screamed out a thunderous gobble just over the rise about 25 yards from me. I dropped the slate, aimed my gun in his direction and waited.
Suddenly the phantom rose over the crest of the ridge and ducked under a huckleberry bush headed in my direction, only 20 yards away. Just as he squeezed between two huckleberry bushes I eased my gun slightly to the right and squeezed the trigger as the bead touched the gobbler’s head.
Ka-boom, roared the shotgun and a potent mix of Winchester Longbeard XR pellets struck home and the old gobbler collapsed instantly! A rush of adrenaline filled my being as I sprinted to the gobbler and admired his beautiful plumage and relished the challenge of matching wits with Huckleberry Bill one last time.
I paused for a moment of thanks over Huckleberry Bill and for a triumphant morning spent in the Southern Promised Land making memories with Paul Meek, Winchester Longbeard XR, and my trusty Remington turkey slayer.