Outdoor Life Archives: Spring Gobblers are Dumb, February 1983

A turkey hunting feature from the 1980s ruffled feathers among readers

dumb

This post references a feature in the February 1983 issue of Outdoor Life, which will be free to the public for the rest of the month. To check out the OL archives, visit covertocover.outdoorlife.com. For a free 30 day trial, click here.

By 1983, a new era in modern-day turkey hunting was taking hold. The National Wild Turkey Federation was hitting on all cylinders; successful wild turkey trap-and-transplant programs were exhibiting promising results, and many states that had too few wild turkeys to hunt were opening seasons. Outdoor Life’s own Charlie Elliot, The Old Professor, was still teaching the masses how to get their gobbler and Ben Rogers Lee was the acknowledged king of turkey calling.

Among hunters, especially those of us who had yet to shoot one (and there were many), wild turkeys were almost mystical creatures that could both see and hear better than any monster whitetail buck in the woods.

“If they had the ability to smell,” the saying went, “no one would ever shoot one.”

I was a 24-year-old associate editor at the time with a full 3 months under my belt. I, too, revered the wild turkey. When editor-in-chief Clare Conley doled out February’s feature stories for editing he handed me two: The Walleye Whiz (I had never fished for walleyes in my life) and a tactical turkey hunting story by Larry Dablemont. His instructions were simple.

“The title of the turkey piece is: Spring Gobblers Are Dumb,” he bellowed. “Don’t even think of changing it.”

I recall taking pencil to paper (no computers back then, of course) as if it were the SATs. Of course, I didn’t change the title of the piece, though I didn’t agree with it and knew we would be barraged with disparaging letters once readers got their hands on the story. We did—hundreds of letters.

Since then, I've shot quite a few turkeys—caught a bunch of walleyes, too—but the story remains one of my all-time favorites. Charlie Elliot was even proud. Thanks to our new searchable archives, you can now read it here for free. The tactics stand the test of time.