It’s 4:30am. I’m scarfing down banana, cereal and black coffee in preparation for turkey hunting. Freddie Black is on his way to pick me up. He’s the chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which down here is bigger than the President of the United States.
Within a few minutes we’re riding along the levy of the Mississippi river in the pitch black, the truck stereo is crooning country music. “See this wind blowing like this, that’s not a good thing,” he says. “You can’t hear the gobbles as well. You want a perfectly still morning where you can hear a long way.”
Turkeys are like ghosts, if they’re not vocal you swear there aren’t any in the county. One morning they gobble everywhere, the next morning you don’t hear a thing. Subtle changes in barometric pressure or the weather makes them act differently. And having recent information is important. They’ll roost in the same area. If you have one that’s gobbling one day then he should be active the next day, but you never know.
“Shotgun shooting is all how you put the gun to your shoulder the same every time and all that,” he says. “And when you’re sitin’ you gotta feel comfortable with the elevation, and make sure it’s flat when you’re lookin’ at the bead through the barrel. The red dot scope really works good.”
Freddy sprays OFF on me in a cloud. “You don’t mind if I spray your head?” Then he hands me a pair of knee-length camo rubber boots.
Greg Hillis, one of Freddie’s farm managers, arrives in his own pick-up. He shakes my hand and says, “Most of my turkey recipes involve a lot of chicken.”
The woods is starting to become visible as my eyes adjust. A single bird twerps. I can just begin to see the crimson clover.
“I love hearing the house wake up,” Hillis says.
Then Freddie says of a far-off turkey: “He’s gonna get to meet Miss Georgia. He’s gonna have Georgia on his mind.”