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Turkey (pg3)

I’m focused on where I expect him to come from when I see movement off to the left, coming out of the clear-cut area and into the woods above me at about 75 yards. Its big and black and yes, it has a long beard. As the bird on the ridge above gobbles again, this bird moves quickly down toward me with plans for the hen he had heard just a few moments before. He stopped just behind some light brush, scanned the woods below intently, and then took a few steps to put his head and much of his body behind a double tree within range. By now my gun is up and the safety is off and I’m mentally making sure that my cheek is firmly against the stock and that I’m looking straight down the elevated rib of the Browning. A half step later his head and neck are clear of the trees and I fire without hesitation. The memory of that big bird flopping down that little ridge and into the gully is one that will always excite me. I walked to the bird and confirmed that he was mortally wounded, then retraced my steps, counting the 35 paces between where the bird came out behind the trees and my cushion on the ground. 

After cutting out the date on my first tag for 2004, I placed it on his leg and appreciated the sharp spur of the 3 year old bird. As I lifted him to admire his beard and the metallic bronze sheen of his feathers, it occurred to me that he felt lighter than most of our mature toms and that he had probably been working overtime to compete with the more vocal gobbler who had entertained me for the better part of the morning. I suspect my bird had done more than his share to service the hens of the north country. 

The pack on my back felt considerably heavier as it settled around my shoulders as I began my hike back to the truck. But that’s a good burden to bear."

April 25 - Turkey # 20 - Eric Pederson - Visiting from Jupiter, FL and a guest of Richard Speer's, Eric and Richard ventured into Area 7 early Saturday morning.  They scored with Eric's first ever turkey - a 13.75 pound jake.

April 19 - Turkey # 19 - Marcus Sheanshang - Another first ever experience.  This was a true classic when a plan is executed perfectly - by the bird as well asMaracusAtScene3 the hunter.  Marcus and Nat Harris had first pick the night before and chose Area # 7.  Wilson Burton had described the particular characteristics of a bird he had chased for the last two days - one with Nat and one with Justin Fontenot - which was that the bird was very vocal and traveled on top of and between food plots 2 and 3 early in the morning.  So, Nat and Marcus left early to be in position before light at the ground blind on top of Food Plot # 2.  At first light, a fly down cackle brought a far away response...some soft yelps were rewarded with a few gobbles, getting closer with each outburst...and finally a few clucks brought the curious guy just a little too close.  Marcus closed the deal at 6:15 AM with a 2 3/4" Remington Heavy Shot, # 5's at about 34 yards.  His first ever prize was a 20 pounder, with an 8" beard and 1" spurs.  Needless to say, his drive back to Cincinnati that day was most enjoyable.

SidDassinger2April 17 - Turkey # 18 - Sid Dassinger - We have a violation here.  Unbeknownst to Sid, his guide Skip Neblett, also his boss at Vanderbilt as an intern in Pediatric Surgery, led him astray.  It seems as though everything is fair in the world of turkey hunting, so Skip and Sid managed to spot a bird in area 6 - not the area they had drawn.  They set up calling across other potential hunters and managed to steal the interest of two birds.  After the first got within range however, Skip, the boss and master decided they should go for the Double and would not allow Sid to pull the trigger until he also had a shot.  Someone was looking after the second bird and he refused to be fooled.  At 25 yards, neither could stand it any longer and Skip reluctantly approved the harvest.  For his first ever turkey, Sid bagged a 3 year old bird weighing a worn out 15 3/4 lbs., sported a 10" beard and had 1" spurs.

WilsonNatApril 15 - Turkeys # 15 & 16 - Wilson Burton & Nat Harris - Wilson and Nat set out to tag team a Big Boy in a couple of areas.  They started in Area 10 to listen and identify their bird.  by 6:20 or so, they decided to go to the gobbling bird in TVA.  They walked up the Silver Gate Rd, past the entrance to ground blind 80 and stand 7/47 and on to the upper end of the TVA road.  After a short set-up, the bird had "moved" to the west and was on the next ridge (near 7/47).  They backtracked, set up at the base of 7/47 and heard nothing.  Later moving down the ridge, they heard one then two or more gobbles near the top of food plot 3.  Wilson set up on the top of food plot 2, Nat at the top of food plot 3.  As the birds moved back and forth from one to the other, the nearest caller said nothing and the away caller continued to talk to the gobbling birds.  Around 8:30 or so, one had approached within 10 feet of Wilson and gobbled.  Shortly thereafter, he moved from behind the brush and trees and was taken.  Curiously, as soon as he took the shot and nailed him, Wilson started yelping to calm everything down.  About 2 minutes later, a bird silently approached Nat's position and was harvested at 20 steps.  Two birds, two minutes apart.  Great team effort.  Wilson's bird was the 2 year old loudmouth weighing in at 16.25 lbs., with a 9" beard and 7/8" spurs.  Nat's was the quiet 3 year old weighing 20 3/8 lbs., with a 9 3/4" beard and 1 1/4" spurs.  Great team effort!

NateTurkey # 17 - Nate Greene - At 4 o'clock that afternoon, fresh from his three hour power nap, Nate ventured into his vehicle in search of anything that looked like a turkey with a beard.  Jimmy Barnes had casually mentioned that at 2:30, he had seen a strutting bird in the field near Stand # 1.  Armed with that information, Nate by-passed his area of first choice and proceeded to the west end of the property for a possible road kill.  And, the bird was still there!  So, in his best stealth move for a 6'-4" 225 pounder, Nate "uniqued" up on him, meaning, he sneaked up to a position about 40 yards from the mating scene.  Around 4:45 PM the bird finally managed to move into the small window Nate had created through the brush pile...Nate fired and relieved himself of two years of frustrations with the elusive turkey birds.  Understandably, he was once again welcomed home and at the office.  The old grouch had finally removed Onus (the monkey) from his back.

April 10 - Turkey # 13 - Doug Hardcastle - This morning Doug, Billy White (the box call, not the person) and Robert Alexander ventured into the woods.  By 11:00 our thirteenth bird was hanging in the game station - 16.5 lbs., 8 1/2" beard and 1" spurs.  See story below. 

By the way, Doug is now out of tags, but is available for guide service.  Call him at your convenience.  Or, if anyone has any breakfast, lunch and or supper requests, please give him a day or two notice.

The Gospel Truth...according to Doug...Giving credit to a tip from Nate Greene, Doug and Robert selected area 2 W (Old Homestead Hollow).  Saturday morning, they approached from the top...hooted...birds were close...called...birds obviously had other things on their minds and traveled away.  Doug and Robert then drove around and approached them from the south, climbing up the hill beside the hollow.  At the top, near stand # 60, Robert took one ridge and Doug the other.  Robert sweet talked two, then three full about 100 yards.  One by one they approached, then followed hens down the hollow and out of sight.  The last one was about to go down the hollow and gave Doug an alert look.  Doug took the opportunity.  10 gauge, 3 1/2" Mag, # 4 Hevi-shot...down for the count.  Knowing the distance was pretty far, he jumped up and ran over to the bird in anticipation of having to shoot him again.  Not so.  The bird didn't move.  Robert picked up all Doug's stuff, his empty shell (soon to be bronzed), his wad, etc., and paced the distance to the bird.  Believe it or not, it was 66 yards!  DOA at 6:45 AM. 

Turkey # 14 - David Neblett - This breaks the record of 13 for each of the last two years!  Story has yet to be sent to the Webmaster; however, we have learned that David called in a bird from an adjoining county while jogging.  At first light, the bird appeared, gave David a decent look...David fired...and as they say, the rest is history.  Some day, I'll correct the story.  In the meantime, the bird was checked in as 18.5 lbs., 8 1/2" beard and 3/4" spurs.

April 9 - Turkey # 12 - Doug Hardcastle -  With his new purchase, a Billy White Hustlin' Hen Box Call, Doug managed to slip into area 10 and park at the runway intersection.  After blowing his own truck horn to announce his presence, he ventured into his normal over-the-corn hunting technique.  But, the turkey sounded off to the northwest and forced him to move to shorten the distance to about 100 yards.  Down went the decoy.  Out comes Billy White, a mouth diaphragm and a slate caller.  Between the three he made a few yelps and cuts, then clucks, getting cut off by two gobblers at every sound.  At 6:08 AM, a jake landed within two feet of the decoy.  At 6:10 a large body flew in and landed about five feet from the decoy.  One sideways step and the show was over - 21.25 lbs., 9 1/2" beard and 7/8" spurs.

April 7 - Turkey # 10 - Will Morgan -  Mind you, this is only the morning of the 5th day.  Will and his chief turkey consultant, Jimmy Barnes, went into Area 1 W this morning.  In classic fashion, they heard...went to the gobbling bird...set up...called seductively...immediate response...gobbled all the way in...over 20 minutes worth...full strut...21.25 lbs., 9" beard and 7/8" spurs. 

ConandDonAlexanderTurkey # 11 - Don Alexander - Con's guest, Robert's cousin - Since there were so many birds in the Rifle Range early yesterday, Con encouraged his guest Don Alexander to explore the easy pickens' in the clover at the 200 yard marker.  Lo and behold, those other two birds show up.  Don manages to score on one.  However, he chose the traditional method by shooting him in the head at a reasonable distance of some 30 yards.  Super day!  And, we have about 35 more days to break our record of 13 - only 3 birds to go for the record!  More accurate details of this bird to follow....

April 6 - Turkey # 9 - Con Knox - Tuesday afternoon, Con spotted three strutting Toms in the Rifle Range near the creek bed.  Using his unique best crawling stealth technique, he managed to sneak up the creek to the nearby Toms, bolted from the security of the creek cover, blasting away commando-style, trying his best to address the middle bird, and fired once, twice then three times - in the butt!  After the third, the poor old guy finally gave up!  At the moment of final breath, his statistics were 19.5 pounds, a 12 1/2" beard and 1" spurs.  Nice ambush!

April 4 - Turkey # 7 - Con Knox - Sunday, the talking was a little less, but Con managed to sweet talk a jake into his area.  Since Con arrived at 2:30 and recorded only about 2 hours sleep, anything that presented an opportunity was in trouble.  At 8 AM, Con and a jake met for first and last time - 12 3/4 lbs., 3 3/4" beard and 1/2" spurs.

Lost in the shuffle in the wee hours of Sunday morning is this little story.  Saturday afternoon, Master Guide Frank Stephens hosted a turkey-less hunter, Doug Hardcastle, and took him to the same spot he and Robert had hunted that morning.  They even parked about 5 feet from the spot he had earlier parked.  So, with two opportunities to retrieve all necessary hunting equipment, that morning and that afternoon, the feeling is that Frank expected Robert or Doug to spot his shotgun leaning up against a tree and bring it back to the truck.  Neither recognized that responsibility.  So, Sunday morning when Frank and Robert were going to do the "Dream Team" thing gun.  According to Frank, it was either Robert's or Doug's responsibility to look after his needs.  So, the first order of business Sunday morning was to violate the Love's territory at about 3:30 AM and capture the lost weapon.  Needless to say, no turkeys talked to Jim and Jimmy Love that morning.

wm-turkey-04-smTurkey # 8 - Will Morgan - Will had the pleasure to be set up on the road calling across the road to a gobbling Tom in the adjacent area.  At 6 AM, two hunters in a white truck decided to change locations and drove by to hunt their territory.  Several cussins' later, at 10 AM, Will returned to the same spot, set up, called once and the bird flew across the creek and engaged # 6 Hevi-shot at 15 yards.  Will didn't feel any remorse about trespassing across the road and retrieving his bird - 20 3/4 lbs., 9 1/4" beard and 1" spurs.

April 3 - Saturday - April 3, 2004 - What a day!  The gobblers were talking and several people scored.  The day ended with 5 mature birds and one jake for a luck lady first timer.

Turkey #'s 1 & 2 - Robert Alexander and Frank Stephens.  At 6:30 that morning, 4 - 6 (depending on who you ask) Toms showed up in full strut.  Robert shot.  Frank shot.  The season begins with Frank's 17 lb., 9" beard and 1" spurs coupled with Robert's 16 lb., double beard totaling 14 1/2" and 1" spurs.

FrankRobertDreamTeamThe "Dream Team - 2004"
Frank Stephens & Robert Alexander


Turkey # 3 - Wilson Burton - By 7 AM another Tom had the misfortune to bump into Wilson - 18.5 lbs., 9" beard and 7/8" spurs.

Turkey # 4 - Richard Speer - After communicating with this bird for awhile in several different locations, Richard followed the bird and his entourage of hens up the Silver Gate Road and found them in the middle of the road with a lot of tall warm season grasses between.  He pulled another "Speer Sneak" and shot his at 20 paces - 20.75 lbs., a fungus-effected 3 1/2" beard and 1" spurs.

KristieJake3StandingTurkey # 5 - Kristie Sheanshang (Marcus' wife) - At 4:30 PM or so, Greg, Marcus and Kristie decided to venture out and take their chances near stand 19 and in the woods beside some recently bush hogged corn.  The three split, each covering about 50 yards.  At 5:30, Kristie detected something sneaking through the woods toward the field, checked that all three had beards, slowly panned her face and gun into position and fired.  First real turkey hunt.  First turkey a jake 14.5 lbs., 4 1/2" beard and 1/4" spurs.  Nothing to it!


Turkey # 6 - Philip and Eric Fontenot - Not to be outdone with all the shooting around them, Philip and Eric stayed out all day.  Finally, the big guy showed up.  In normal paternal courtesy,  Philip allowed Eric to position his Benelli Black Eagle and pull the trigger.  "Click" was the response.  Philip then took him - 16 1/2 lbs., 8 1/2" beard and 7/8" spurs.

April 3 - Friday - Opening Weekend, 2004 - The draw for territories was held Friday night at 8 PM.  However, prior to the draw, Philip Fontenot mentioned that someone recently had run out of gas in his four-wheeler.  Since Philip had been featured in an earlier experience on this website, he was compelled to let someone else have the limelight.  That night he presented a "Got Gas?" T-shirt to the lucky winner for 2004.  I'm sure most thought that was the end.  However, the next morning a large banner had been placed across the main entrance road for all to see...just a gentle reminder for someone to check his gas gauge.  Later, the lucky recipient had his picture taken in front of it.


November 27 - The 2004 spring season and bag limits were set this week as April 3 through May 11 - 39 days.  An additional youth hunt is scheduled for May 15.  The bag limit remains one bearded turkey per day, not to exceed three per season on the statewide hunts.  The limit in WMA's is one per day, not to exceed two per season.  However, the total bag limit for the year is four.

July 22 -  The fall turkey season has been established as Nov 15 - 21.  Fifty permits are available for Benton county for the shotgun hunt.  Also there is non-quota archery hunt (no permit required) with a 1 bird limit for that same week.  For the complete TWRA proclamation on the turkey season, visit section IV, page 8 at

April 28 - Richard Speer has done it again - turkey # 3 for himself at Heart's Desire, and turkey # 13 overall at Heart's Desire this season. 

From Richard via cell phone,  "I managed to get # 3 this morning - also from Area # 7.  This time I went up Hammer Ridge Road to ground blind # 85, set up, soft called and a hen showed up.  So, I now have a live decoy.  She did her thing for awhile and a nice tom came in silently.  At 29 paces, I dropped him with # 5 Hevi-shot - 17.5 pounds, 10 1/4" beard, and 3/4" spurs.  The deal was over at 7:10 AM.  This has just been a fantastic year!  Thanks to all of you who worked so hard early on to make HD what it is today." 

I also have a picture, but I cannot get this site to accept it yet.  Gotta' go find a certain 14 year old who can tell me what to do.

April 25 -


"...I took this 19lb. 4oz. turkey in food plot #2 on 4/25. I had lunch with Robert and Doug before I left for HD and they suggested I hunt that area. I sat through a rain shower and watched some hens feed.  Then at 6:30 pm, two gobblers came out under stand 14.  I ranged them and they were 58 yards ( a Hardcastle shot with no results ).  The biggest one didn't come out very far at all but this one ventured to 54 yards, then started back into the woods and I took the shot.
I used a laser rangefinder and stepped it off...54 yards with 3" Hevi-shot #6.  He didn't go anywhere but I had to use the "boot on the neck" hold to euthanize him.
I am definitely a believer in Hevi-shot.  Anyway the results are 19.4 lbs. and 9in. beard and 1in. spurs..."

April 23 -

Actual story per David Neblett, son of Skip: 


"...We initially set up on the top of a ridge and had 3 gobblers walk up near us at around 7:30 am.  They were interested and came almost within range a couple of times, but could see no hen, so they went off.  We worked our way around the road hunting in various spots throughout the morning.

Around noon, we ended up over near the sign for Coble Ridge.  There, we dropped down into a hollow and decided to stalk through the creek bed, listening for calls.  After walking a little ways, we heard a close yelp and quickly set up in the creek bed.  Dad called and got an immediate gobble.  A few minutes passed and dad called again, followed by a closer gobble.  Around 15 minutes later, here came 2 gobblers along an old overgrown road that dead ends into the creek right where we were set up.

I killed a 2 year old bird at 25 yards at about 12:50 pm.  I shot him with Winchester High Velocity Supreme #6's.  He weighed 20.2 lbs, had a 9.5 inch beard, and 7/8 inch spurs.  It was a perfect hunt. 

I am attaching a picture in case you want it for your records..."


NedPriestBraggingApril 21 - This morning, a minimum of 500 turkey gobbles greeted Ned.  He started out on the 7/47 ridge down toward the TVA property.  After working several birds, all very interested in everything Ned had to say, he decided to move to a position on the north side of food plot # 2.  As he stood up, his silent friend, satellite bird # 3 or 4, made and busted him.  End of morning story. 

However, that afternoon, he went back to the top of food plot # 2 to roost one.  Lo and behold, a big boy appeared and will not see tomorrow because of # 6 Hevi-shot...DOA at 7:30 PM or so...15 lbs., 9", 7/8" two year old.  Congratulations!  Obviously, all of us should schedule to be hunting next Easter weekend.  Per Ned, "Two days, two birds...nothing to it."

This means we have managed to harvest double digit turkeys for two years in a row.  Nice job, Jimmy Barnes.  Nice job, hunters.  Nice job, clear cuts.  And, we still have a few more weeks of the season.

April 20 - # 6 Hevi-shot was the ticket for Ned Priest at the far end of the clover field near the SMZ (streamside management zone) near the old Mossy Oak "bio logic" field.  Around noon, several Toms  had been using the small area as their strutting area.  Ned did the HD usual - got on hands and knees, duck walked 20 - 30 yards and dropped him at about 40 yards on the far side of the creek...18 1/2 lbs., 9" beard, and 7/8" spurs - a good two year old bird.  Nate Greene participated kinda' sorta' in that he spotted the birds several day prior.  Then Robert Alexander and Nat Harris moved a one man duck blind (the same one which has already been used for several other birds) into an advantageous place and Ned did the rest.

PhilipwithTurkey1April 18 - The next morning, Philip Fontenot, world renowned (or, at least, regionally famous) dentist from Old Hickory, managed to get a "two-fer", meaning, he got both a beaver and a turkey on the same hunt. 

 Early that morning, he managed to sneak up on a beaver, dispatched him with # 6 Hevi-shot, then went turkey hunting around Blake Hollow # 2 field.  Something annoyed him, like a honking horn or whatever (???), so he decided to return to his four wheeler to see what the problem was.  On the way, he heard a gobble, looked up, saw a "big boy", called, got a quick response, called again and "Big Easy" started walking straight to him... the rest was quick and dirty... at 42 steps, the "man" fell... victim of # 6 Hevi-shot also!!!  Thank goodness for the honking horn across the river.  Other picture and details to follow...  So, now we're up to eight birds!

JimLoveTurkeyApril 17 -  Again, later that day, Jim Love of Brown's Diner fame in Nashville, managed to spot a group of Toms in the bottoms near the Silver Gate, maneuvered to an opportunistic spot and nailed a very nice bird.  17 1/2 lbs., 9" beard, 3/4" spurs.  # 6 Hevi-shot did the trick.

April 17 - Later that day, Skip Neblett of Vanderbilt pediatric fame, who for some reason has been rather tight lipped about his turkey hunting and sighting experiences, managed to snag a nice Tom via the "creep and sneak and crawl" technique. SkipNeblettTurkey He apparently had been hunting the ridges around the donut field, spotted or  heard a Tom or two, followed them mentally until he decided where they were heading, quickly closed the gap, 'belly crawled" the last 30 yards or so, and blasted one on his arrival.  There's more to the story - I'll just have to refer to my notes to get it "right", whether or not it's factual.  Details to follow...

April 17 - Turkey # 5 was taken by Wilson Burton.  His story is kinda' short.  In his words, "Story for #5:  The secret to duck hunting is to be where the ducks want to go.  This rule can also be applied to turkeys."  Now, what does that mean?  Was this an ambush?  Was this a previous sighting, set up, soft or no calling and wait?  I think there's more to the story.  His stomach was full of corn!!!WilsonBurtonTurkey

April 14 - Those two turkeys who frequented Area 7 near Stand # 6 are now down to one.  Today (Monday, April 14), Richard Speer, one of our newest and most enthusiastic members, managed to maneuver around until he put himself in position to take advantage of a recognized pattern of the two Toms.  They had been frequent (and vocal) visitors of the small field near the small "porta-potty" box stand and also the area behind stand # 6.  Richard started his day at 6:00 AM in the small field area, later shifted and spotted the two in the big field at 8:00 AM, unsuccessfully called to and chased them for awhile, left and visited other areas, returned, spotted them again, set up, got frustrated, decided to sneak ("neak") up on them and crawled to a prone position near # 6.  One by one the flock passed - hen, jake # 1, jake # 2, jake # 3, hen, then Tom # 1 followed by # 2.  Richard slammed the first Tom at 22 steps - 17 1/2 pounds, 9" beard, 3/4" spurs.  # 5 Hevi-Shot did him in.  Time was 1:25 PM - a 7 1/2 hour encounter - truly a unique ("uneak" = you sneak) experience!

Pictures to follow.........Something's wrong with my "save".  I'll get it soon.

April 5 - Having noticed that most hunters had approached Area 3 from the south, Robert Alexander suggested that Doug Hardcastle sneak in from the north.  At 5:30 AM, Doug heard the big boy, managed to secure a position about 75 yards from him, assumed the "Jimmy Barnes" set-up on a hill and softly called with his new box call.  At 5:45, the show was over - one shot with # 4 Hevi-shot.  Great hunt!

HardcastleturkeyDoug Hardcastle with his trophy Tom. 

19 1/2 lbs., 10" beard, 3/4" x 3/4" spurs

April Fool's Day (Tuesday, April 1st)
- Richard Speer harvested a 23 1/2 lb. Tom with a 10" beard and spurs of 1 1/4" each - probably a 3 or perhaps a 4 year old bird.  There had been a total of 5 Toms in the vicinity and this one finally maneuvered close enough (38 yards) for a clean kill using Hevi-shot.  However, Richard reports that they are still not acting "right" and have not separated and staked out their own territories.

Richard has a picture we'll scan soon.

Saturday morning, March 29th, marked the first day of the season and as usual the turkeys made fools of most of us.  But, not so for Tommy Hawkins!  On his first ever turkey hunt, he was surrounded by Jakes and hens all morning,  Finally at 11 AM, he decided to take one.  As he described it, the Jake weighed 60 pounds and was 6 feet tall.

HawkinsJakeFirst HD turkey of 2003 - March 29.  Tommy proudly displays a beard from his Jake.  Needless to say, we think we've converted another waterfowl hunter.

Philip Fontenot and Will Morgan with their double - April, 2002. 

The 2003 spring turkey has been set - March 29 - May 6. wmphillipturkeys

Turkey hunting at Heart's Desire is extraordinary.  The club manager, Jimmy Barnes, has a video with over 100 birds in one field and with 12 different Toms in full strut.

Our turkey population exploded with the increased nesting habitat created by the various clear cuts throughout the property.  Add the other ingredients for a healthy herd - food, water, roosting spots, hills and hollows, open fields for bugging - all of which are abundant at HD - and you have the perfect situation.

This past season, 13 Toms were harvested which included only 1 jake by a very enthusiastic first time turkey hunter, Eric Fontenot.

Here is a picture of Eric's brother, Justin, with his first turkey!  (Justin felt that Eric was getting all the press in this web site.)

 Justinturkeycopy420 Nothing is more exciting in the spring than being surrounded by a bunch of vocal Toms and figuring out which one you can set up on most effectively. 

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