Think On This
Misery Loves Company Misery Loves Company Misery Loves Company Misery Loves Company
  • There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. - 1 Co 10:13

...I am glad I'm not a turkey, and two, I don't ever want to find myself in a situation like they were in—harm's way, not sounding the warning call to others, and refusing to take a path of escape I have been promised by my "Helper", Jesus Christ.

"If you let one more turkey pass in front of you again without me hearing a bang I'm never going to let you hear the end of it!" Jay was really just being very kind—actually kinder to me than I really deserved. Very inexperienced as I was, I was soaking up everything I possibly could from Jay about the perfection of turkey hunting and turkey calling. We were on our third day of a Spring turkey hunting trip in South Georgia. For the first two days Jay had skillfully and patiently called up several turkeys for me that I had failed to take a shot at before they scurried off into the sunset. Jay, an expert turkey caller and hunter, called in the first turkey I took on my first turkey hunt with him just three seasons before in this same area. He definitely gets all the credit for calling in my first Tom—and all the blame for the tons of turkey stuff I now have that I have had to hide from my wife over the past three years.

Since that first hunt with Jay, I have actually been consumed with the sport. About five years ago I was reintroduced to hunting. Since then, I have hunted deer, pheasant, duck, geese, quail, dove, and coyotes but turkey hunting is definitely the most addictive sport I have ever tried. I even practice my turkey calling in my car when on road trips in an effort to master the skill. I get some weird looks from folks around me when the car windows are down—no one else in the car with me, my mouth not moving but strange sounds emitting out of my vehicle. A driver sitting beside me at a red light once asked if I was alright or needed any help. I guess the sounds I was emitting must have sounded more like I may have been choking rather than a hen looking for courtship. Once you start turkey hunting you are hooked. Anyone can sell you anything that makes a hen or gobbling sound, has feathers, spurs, and resembles a turkey, or any part of one.

On this particular warm March morning—oh yeah, I had good excuses for not firing at the turkeys Jay called up for me the first two days. On the first day, he called up three from the wrong side of me—I couldn't turn my gun without them seeing my movement—all his fault. On the second day he called up three more that flew down off their roost. They flew right over my head, landing just 40 yards right in front of me. I didn't fire again. I loved watching the landing, then the takeoff—first touch and go I have seen since serving aboard the Navy aircraft carrier, USS Forrestal, off the coast of Vietnam. Jay's fault again—he should have warned me. I thought they were just warming up. I assumed half the fun was watching the birds for a while until you decided which one you wanted. Jay got the point across, however, with an, "Are you crazy?!"

We had arrived in the woods on a 2,000 acre farm just before sunrise. As we quietly made our way into the hunting area, Jay was truly ribbing me about not firing on the gobblers he had called on the two days prior. This morning I promised him if he called in anything within hearing range, I was going to fire off a round in their direction, regardless! Jay knew the terrain like the back of his hand, having hunted it many times before. This morning he had a special place in mind—a dried up river bottom where he had heard gobblers before. After making our way atop the ridge overlooking the river bottom, Jay, with a raised arm motion, gave his "sheeeeeeee" sound (that's Southern for quiet), quietly removing his slate call from his vest pocket. He struck a couple of calls and, sure enough, we heard a gobbler in the river bottom downstream to our right. We quietly but hurriedly made our way down into the bottom to get set up. Jay, always being considerate for his senior and a novice like me, made sure I was set up in the right place to have the best possible attempt at taking the best shot at the best bird.

Having hunted with him several times before, I was able to do some things without coaching he had previously taught me—like always pick a large tree, if possible, to settle back against so if you have to move around while sitting against it, your movement won't make the top of the tree sway and draw the attention of the turkey. A turkey has keen eye sight and can see you blink from a mile away. They aren't actually smart, just very wary. I am not being unfair or unkind here—no one has ever accused me of being smart either. My eyesight isn't as good as a turkey's either. They are always watching for predators: bobcats, coyotes, hunters, etc. He also taught me to rake away the leaves from around the tree with my boots where I would be sitting in case I have to stretch or move my legs I won't rattle the leaves and make noise once I am in place and settled. This tip has also been known to help uncover a "No Feet"—a snake!

As we approached the dried up river bottom, Jay quietly began selecting his places to step. In order to take advantage of the quieter places he had trod where the leaves were already crushed and the twigs broken, I walked behind Jay looking at his foot prints and stepping in them. With just a slight hand motion Jay pointed out to me a large tree to sit in front of, looking down the river bottom. Once again with hand gestures, he indicated where he would be sitting—to my left, about twelve yards behind me—looking across the river bottom that was approximately 40 yards across. Everything he had taught me had now kicked in: I swept around the base of the tree with my boots, got seated and comfortable with my back against the tree. Sometimes one may have to sit for a long time without moving, so, I made sure I was as comfortable as could be. I cautiously pulled the camouflage mask over my face, exposing only my eyes, then pulled my cap down tightly onto my head. Slowly, I pulled my right foot toward me, raising my knee up to my chest, positioning it for my gun to rest on. I couldn't see Jay now but I was aware he was fairly close behind me. I was just waiting on him to scratch another call.

Within several minutes from both of us settling in, Jay began to scratch a beautiful hen call on his round slate with his striker. Well, I guess the beauty is in the eye of the old Tom but I believe if I were a gobbler I would have to risk one eye and come take a look. Jay isn't one to over call, as some callers do. He sometimes strikes a call and waits for what seems like forever before calling again. However, after his call this time the gobbler made another thundering gobble. Once again my heart began to pound. I readied myself—eye down the barrel, looking straight down the river bottom. The screeching sound of the gobbler had come from directly in front of me. It sounded as if it was about a hundred yards away. My eyes were fixed but no movement was visible. It was deafening quiet. Several minutes had passed since he had touched the striker to the ceramic slate. Oh my, now I could hear clucking from behind me, louder and louder—surely Jay can see from what and where this was coming, I thought. I remained very still—gun still on my knee and not daring to turn my head in the direction of Jay or the clucking. I knew the slightest movement could scare them away.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my left eye, five Jakes (young toms) walked within 20 feet of my shoulder. Goodness! Jay could have tripped them with his gun barrel as they paraded in single file past us! No doubt our camouflage was working. As the Jakes continued their leisurely walk down the river bottom in front of me, Jay remained silent—no calling. I followed the Jakes with my eyes in and out of the large tree trunks that covered the old river bottom until the last one was out of sight. Within a minute after they disappeared I began to hear what I assumed to be the young Jakes, and the Tom we had been waiting on, cutting up and fighting, with some really intense gobbling and cackling that led me to believe we probably wouldn't be seeing the old Tom we were calling during this trip after all. To my surprise Jay continued to keep the call quiet—not a peep—what is he thinking?

I continued to sit, focused on the passageway through the trunks of trees where the Jakes disappeared. A slight haze was now beginning to appear in the river bottom as warm beams of the rising sun began shinning through the trees, hitting the wet leaves on the ground and spotlighting a tree trunk here and there. My heart rate was finally starting to resume a normal rhythm; I had actually relaxed my grip on my gun and once again flattened my back against the bark of the large hickory tree. Wait! I thought I saw something white move straight in front of me, not something, not two somethings—it has to be a vision—four large toms were approaching me, coming straight at me, huddled together about two feet apart. Oh my gosh! My heart was pounding so hard I was afraid its beating sound would tip them off. Concealing my movement from them, I slowly arched my back, positioned my gun as it rested on my knee with sight and barrel now at eye level, slightly moving the barrel as necessary only when they would turn their heads left to right. Slowly, almost mechanically, they stepped closer and closer. I believe they could have actually walked past me as the Jakes had but I wasn't going to let that happen. I wasn't going to disappoint Jay or give him anything to harass me about from this morning on. It never occurred to me Jay wasn't watching what I was witnessing. I actually never thought anything about him being behind me; it was just me and the four toms in this picture.

As I focused and aimed the barrel at them I began to concentrate on what appeared to be the biggest one, the one with the longest beard. OK, take a deep breath, I said to myself; I have made my decision: the biggest tom. All four are still walking closer and closer—now within 20 yards. I eased the safety off my gun, slid my finger to the trigger and let my breath out through my nose and squeezed. Boom! The tom went down, falling over head first in a small puddle of water! Thinking he might recover and take flight, I kept the gun at a ready.

What I was now witnessing was truly unbelievable. I became awed in the fact that the remaining three Toms began scurrying around and didn't take off out of harm's way. I had only seen this watching turkey hunting shows on the Outdoor Channel. Suddenly, one of the remaining three toms jumped on the back of the downed tom I had just shot. He began pecking and flogging the downed bird with his massive wings. I knew turkeys were very predatory and territorial but wow! As I continued to watch this spectacle, I am now totally unaware of anything else going on—just waiting to see what might happen next. It had just crossed my mind about Jay when, with a roaring bang that almost shook my insides, came a shot over my shoulder from Jay's 12 gauge Remington 870. That thing sounded like a cannon—could have just as well been! He shot the bird that was on the back of my downed tom and now there were two boys down! You have to be kidding me, I thought; the remaining two toms stayed on the scene with heads raised, looking proud to be standing.

I could now hear Jay over my left shoulder whispering: "Bill, be still, be still." I kept my gun at rest on my knee and remained as still and quiet as a mouse. I don't think I had moved my gun barrel even a smidgen, watching those two remaining toms scurry around the two downed ones. Well, it was apparent they were going to hang around for the viewing of their two buddies, both seemingly thinking to themselves: I am the "Big Boy now, and I'm glad that's over!" I couldn't believe it; they just continued to strut around and wouldn't leave. You know, it just doesn't seem logical to shoo away game you're intentionally hunting.

As I continued to watch the two remaining toms prance and strut around, I once again took aim at the larger bird remaining and, almost as an involuntary movement, I squeezed the trigger once more. My shoulder was pounded from the three and a half inch magnum load as the third tom went down. Now I am watching the last dancer on the river bottom floor in full strut: feathers spread, showing all he had—proud to be the last man standing, not willing to leave until he made sure his predecessors wouldn't be returning for re-election or a hostile takeover.

I'm sitting there, three birds down and thinking there was going to be plenty of turkey in the freezer, and Jay can't...BANG! Another shot by Jay from over my shoulder rang out—all Toms now down within a twenty foot circle. Jay took the last bird of the four: four total shots, four toms down. I sprang to my feet pushing my weight against the tree as my legs slowly elevated my body, scraping bark from the tree with my back as I went. Jay slapped me on the shoulder and said, "If we had that on camera we could make millions. Been hunting turkey since I was twelve and never seen anything like it." Jay was only 30, but this had truly been a hunt of a lifetime for both of us. What a way for Jay's season to end. He had bagged a bird just a few days before, and now these two on this hunt. Fact is, Georgia's game limit on turkeys is three a season,one or all three on one day—good thing for both of us. One other thing that is also a fact; I haven't had to listen to Jay rib me about not taking a shot at those birds he called in for me. I can also assure you he has repeatedly told this hunting story to more people than he saw at the last Georgia college football game he attended!

As we gathered up the birds, both of us, with one over each shoulder, beginning the long climb out of the river bottom toward the truck, we talked about the birds hanging around like they had after they heard the big boom of our shotguns. They had witnessed their fellow brothers go down; and they ignored all the natural instincts to run—they could have but they were greedy, invincible, selfish and irresponsible. They probably really wanted to leave or knew their true instinct was to do so, but just didn't. When startled or fearing danger, a turkey emits a sharp "CLOCK-CLOCK-CLOCK" sound as a warning to their fellow brother. None of the four Toms we took had made a sound. As I mentioned earlier, there is a hierarchy among Toms much like that of other animals, such as, the lion and deer—you know like, King of the jungle and the biggest dominant buck. Obviously they are willing to take a chance to accomplish their selfish ambitions, or, that invincible thinking may just kick in: "Nothing will happen to me!" Seemingly, toms have huge ego's when among fellow toms.

Hum! Do any of these traits or instincts of a turkey sound familiar? What about the mistakes they made, or, rather, the choices they made? I look back on my life and recall times when I was with some other "turkeys," I mean, guys, when I witnessed, or as I hate to admit, may have imitated some of the same behavior I saw in that river bottom by the three birds after their friend and brother went down. Have you ever chuckled or smiled after you witnessed or heard someone you don't like may have experienced some bad luck, gotten in trouble, or just had some unfortunate mishap? You know, the neighbor who has that executive job, who doesn't work much or certainly not as much as you but has everything he wants and keeps buying things you can't afford, then suddenly loses his job? What about the guy who doesn't seem to have any compassion or care for anyone, is known to be dishonest but seems God is blessing him with more than you? Or, has your ego ever gotten out of control because you were the last person standing or the lone survivor after a company layoff, or spoken the words: "Glad it happened to them, not me"?

What about the times you could have warned a friend about a potential area of harm, not necessarily bodily harm, but financial risk, potential loss of friendship, etc...? you know what I am talking about—the old mentality: "Give him enough rope and he will hang himself." Could you have sounded the warning call to him instead? Saved him from embarrassment or harm? I admit, I could have at times and didn't. Could you have been the person that could have said: "This isn't a safe environment to be in; we should get out of here; or, let's excuse ourselves from this situation," taking a stand for what you know is right and good, providing leadership and being a witness for righteousness?

I feel all of us have likely experienced situations where we knew we were in the wrong place at the wrong time when faced with decisions that could speak volumes, good or bad depending upon the decisions we made. Not one of those old toms was willing to make the warning call in the face of their situation. There was clearly an opportunity for potential escape; they did not seek it. In God's word, 1 Co. 10:13 says: "A way of escape will always be provided"; however, it is our decision to seize the opportunity, listen to His voice and follow His direction placed on our hearts and in our minds.

In my career, I have traveled for over thirty years, spending many nights away from my wife and family, entertaining business guests and being entertained. I recall many situations where I felt very uncomfortable, finding myself in a place or circumstance where I was called upon to make a decision to either follow the crowd, "the other toms," excuse myself, or speak up and share with them why I couldn't follow them. You may be thinking: "Me too but there wasn't a way to escape"—just read 1 Co. 10:13. Every instance I recall in my life where I found myself in a bad situation I also recall the path of escape provided to me; sometimes a simple "I am sorry, but I can't" statement was all it could have taken. Have you ever heard the statement: "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time?" If he hadn't been there it wouldn't have mattered what time it happened, now would it? Remember the four toms? Not one turkey was harmed that wasn't there in that old river bottom that fateful morning.

It is difficult in our world today to resist the influences around us, however, as a Christian I am reminded we have a "Helper." Psalm 33:11 says: "We wait for the Lord, He is our help and shield." We should be strong in times of temptation but humble and kind in our witness. My pastor has recently been sharing about relationships in his Sunday messages and one point he made was: "Humility releases God's Power." Wow! Try it; he is right. God will give you the Power with the proper word's and the spirit of humility to deliver them if you just trust Him in your need of protection and escape. "God gives strength to the humble but sets Himself against the proud and haughty" - James 4:6. I witnessed firsthand what can happen to the proud and haughty—all four of them.

Misery does seem to love company. "Bad company corrupts good character" - 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV). We are known by the company we keep. We must always be on guard and alert to dangers and temptations around us—dangers of bad influence, physical and spiritual weakening of ourselves and others.

The tail feathers of the first old tom I shot that day is now mounted on my office wall. Every time I look at it many things come to my mind: memories of that special morning hunt and reminders of caution. I am also thankful for several things, one, I am glad I'm not a turkey, and two, I don't ever want to find myself in a situation like they were in—harm's way, not sounding the warning call to others, and refusing to take a path of escape I have been promised by my "Helper," Jesus Christ.

Pray for His strength and presence in your life. On that particular morning hunt, as Jay walked in front of me in the river bottom, I would only step in his foot prints. He had already proven the safest and best way—crushing down the things under his feet before me, making my way soft without causing alarm for what we came to accomplish—a great life lesson, one I pray I will always follow.

Let me encourage you: Let Him lead, walking in His footprints. He is the way and He will quietly crush the rough path before you and teach you His ways, drawing others to Him by your witness.

Author: Bill Lowery
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