Country Living - Turkey shoot

By: Julie Cotton

Remember when we played “bang bang”?  We shot them down, “bang bang” they hit the ground, “bang bang” that big loud sound, “bang bang” we shot those turkeys down. Well, not quite the lovelorn sentiments from that old Nancy Sinatra song, but a great analogy for my first foray into guns and shooting. I had tried for some time to get a wild turkey shoot across the line when, thankfully, my colleague and this publication’s roving journalist “Mr Jonathan” pinned down a Sunday for us with some expert type friends of his. On location, out of a van filled with the ultimate testosterone boys’ toys, hopped two muscle-bound men that looked like they meant business. For the purpose of anonymity, I will refer to them as Mr A and Mr B. With loaded guns in hand, we were given a strict safety and operational briefing before heading off on our hunt. We could see a big mob of turkeys down the gully and headed briskly in that direction.

“My perfect fantasy of protection amour was playing out in front of me.”
“My perfect fantasy of protection amour was playing out in front of me.”

I was feeling incredibly inept and  vulnerable with a pump action shotgun braced across my chest. These men looked wonderfully natural; my perfect fantasy of protection amour was playing out in front of me. Advancing towards the crest of a hill, Mr A motioned to move slowly towards the turkeys. I just figured it was a case of take aim and fire once they were in close sight. Gulp! My chest was an exploding beatbox.

Bang! Bang! Bang! The air was ablaze with gunfire. These men had started their mission. I glanced down the barrel, unlatched the safety button, squinted and tensed then, Ka Boom! The recoil of that gun took my breath away and knocked me back a step. It was like being punched in the shoulder, but I had no time to think. These men were still firing when I remembered I had to slide the body of the gun back and keep shooting. I slid it back and it jammed. The men were reloading. I felt woefully useless and could only stand there like a silly damsel in distress waiting for help.

Mr A fixed my gun and by this stage the turkeys had bolted. In a scene reminiscent of the sniper movies I watched on Netflix the night before, Mr A  instructed myself and Mr B to take the flank while Jonathan and Mr A moved forward. The turkeys took flight – topography and speed is their armour. The men chose an attack route and with that heavy gun I hauled my hideously unfit butt up and down hills, over fences and through scrub – quietly dying and breathless until we cornered them again near a swamp. Bang! Bang! These boys were on fire. I shot again, this time heeding advice and keeping the gun firmly tucked in my shoulder.

The guns rang silent, and we could see we had culled out several of them. With no time to catch my ailing breath, Jonathan and Mr A bolted up the hill again after them. Meanwhile, Mr B was being so benevolent – taking the rear with me and trudging along my slow path for moral support. I felt really bad that I was such a heavy anchor to him, but to be honest I adored the polite conversation we had. We reached the top of the hill in a pine forest to find Mr A and Jonathan had skillfully managed to cull out another lot. Some more came into range and the men lined up to take aim. I just did not have the heart to tell Mr A or B that my gun was jammed again. In any case, the view I had of the hills behind those men in pointed stance was surreal, structured and strong against the curvature of the landscape.

We walked for hours that day, over the hills and far away. I appreciate for these highly skilled men the day was merely boyhood adventures, torn out of pages from old storybook novels, re-read and intertwined in their adulthood. For me, it was the aching reality that I possibly wouldn’t be the army’s first pick for frontline combat, and the war-era romance novels that I devour are not a training ground for turkey shooting.

I will never know if one of my bullets connected with a turkey. I just know that these pests on mass are incredibly destructive to the environment and food production and must be respectfully contained. The next day my muscles were so sore I could barely move. Perhaps I was the biggest turkey of all, ha ha ha.

Julie Cotton


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