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Courtesy David Coffman
David Coffman with his first tom in four years
Courtesy John Wright
Extra ears helped John Wright bag this turkey.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Spring gobbler season in Virginia has been around long enough-since the early 60s-that some hunters legitimately now can be called old-timers in the sport. People like David Pollock, John Wright and David Coffman.
Maybe they would bristle at being called that, but I have the right to do so, because I am the oldest of the bunch.
Along about this time of the season, old and young hunters tend to get bearded and bleary eyed, so how have our three wise men fared?
"I reached a milestone Saturday in killing at least one spring gobbler for 40 straight years," Pollock told me.
"I never had that kind of run as a goal, but over the last few years I was aware of the possibility. I think back over the years and have to thank God for being blessed to have had all those fabulous spring mornings in the mountains of Virginia, the piedmont of Mississippi and the coastal plains of Florida.
"During those seasons I killed turkeys on the first day and turkeys on the last day, including having to kill a gobbler on the last day at 11:57 a.m. (three minutes before legal shooting hours end) to keep the streak alive.
"The experience made for one of the most memorable; although, as you know, the most memorable parts of all spring hunts are just being there to hear the first bird sing and walk through the wildflowers. We are truly blessed."
Pollock, who is in the real estate business in the Roanoke Valley, invited me to hunt with him, telling me he knew where a couple gobblers could be found on "some relative flat terrain." I assume that was for my benefit, not his.
I have killed turkeys with Pollock, both spring and fall and in the company of the legend turkey man, the late Kit Shaffer.
"I thought of you and Kit on my ride to the turkey woods on Saturday morning," Pollock told me. Memories are a big part of this sport.
One of the things I admire about Wright even though he is in his early 70s he retains a child-like fascination and awe for the outdoors, be it speckled trout fishing on the Eastern Shore or turkey hunting most any morning in the spring. He is a retired ABC Board director of law enforcement who lives in Amherst.
On opening day, he killed a tom while hunting with Chuck Tolley, who Wright described "as the best turkey hunter going, and I have been with some good ones in my almost 50 years of spring gobbler hunting."
Tolley's proficiency with a variety of turkey calls is outstanding, but what impresses Wright the most is his exceptional hearing.
"This AM he heard three gobblers that I could not hear even with my $4,000 hearing aids," Wright said. "Just before my gobbler appeared, Tolley whispered in my ear, 'He is right over the rim of the hill in front of you. I can hear him drumming.' Sure enough, within a minute the gobbler eased over the hill right where he said he would be."
Wright has an investment in Tolley, whose Dad was a fellow ATF agent who didn't hunt and asked Wright if he would take his son, who was about 12 at the time, hunting,.
"The first time I took him he killed a gobbler and he was hooked for life," Wright said.
Following Wright's recent opening day success, he took a cousin from West Virginia hunting the following Tuesday and watched him kill a 22-pound tom. Wright hunted every day of the week except one, which he took off to rest.
"I just can't go like I once did. Have to admit, I'm getting old."
"It's been a long time coming!" is how David Coffman described his successful opening week hunt on hunt club property in Louisa. Coffman, who is the editor of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries "Outdoor Report," killed a 20.5-pound gobbler that had two beards, one 11 inches, the other 6.
"It was the first bird I'd gotten a shot at in 4 years," he said.
Before daylight, along the edge of a field, Coffman and his hunting partner, Sherwood Londeree, heard four gobblers sounding off in separate locations. While closing in on the "hottest" one, a different gobbler sounded off less than 150 yards from them.
"We got as close as we dared and set up 30 yards apart," Coffman said. "Sherwood hit his slate and the tom thundered back with a full, long gobble. He flew down off the roost strutting when he hit the ground, coming to Sherwood's yelps and clucks. I had a hen decoy 10 yards in front of me, and a few sweet purrs from my rustic-throated chestnut box call turned his strut toward the decoy."
Suddenly the scope on Coffman's 12 gauge was filled with the tom's powder-white head.
"Great friends, great weather, great shooting, great hunt and great memories," said Coffman of the hunt.
As for memories, Coffman and I have our share, one of which was a hunt many years ago in South Carolina when I killed a tom under the watchful eye of Kit (there's that name again) Shaffer.
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