On one of our fathers and sons hike we were camped in a beautiful
place that we called Red Rock on the Tinaja wash. We had been
served a good supper and the program was over. We were sitting
around the camp fire visiting and talking a little before retiring
to our beds. Lynn Taylor came over to our camp and asked me if in
the morning would be a good time to go turkey hunting. I told him
that I had come prepared and that I would be glad to take him out
in the morning. I cautioned him that we would have to leave by
four A.M. and that we would have to climb the ridge in the dark of
the early morning. He answered that he had never been turkey
hunting and really wanted to go.
I set my mental alarm and awoke about a quarter to four the next
morning. I dressed in the dark and put on my warm jacket and
prepared my twelve gage shotgun. I walked over to Lynn's camp
where he was ready and waiting. We quietly left the camp and
climbed north along the steep ridge in the dark of the early dawn.
I enjoyed the climb in the cool of the early morning and could see
the sky beginning to lighten in the east. We topped out among the
tall pines facing the head of the canyon to the west. I got out my
wing bone turkey caller and gave a few plaintive chirps.
Immediately we heard a resounding gobble coming from the trees on
the other side of the head of the canyon. The grey of dawn was
beginning to creep around us and after a few calls and answering
gobbles we saw the shadow of the turkey fly down from the trees
into a sparse undergrowth. The next gobble came from the head of
the canyon, and I knew he was coming toward us. I carefully put a
shell in the barrel of the shotgun and handed it to Lynn
whispering to him that it was ready to shoot and to pull the
trigger when he was ready.
After what seemed a long wait I could hear a faint chuck swish of
the strutting turkey as he inflated himself running forward a few
steps and dragging his wings. I could feel my legs beginning to
ache because we were crouched down behind a huge fallen pine tree.
I remember estimating that the tree trunk was at least three and a
half feet in diameter. We were completely hid from the approaching
turkey. Suddenly from what seemed just the other side of the log,
came a booming gobble. I nudged Lynn indicating for him to stand
and shoot. He suddenly stood up and pointed the big shotgun at the
head of the surprised turkey. For a frozen instant I could see
that big beautiful bird not ten feet away with his tail spread out
in a big fan and his wings dragging the ground. I could see his
bluish white head and his long beard nearly dragging the ground.
In that instant that big gobbler exploded straight into the air
flapping his mighty wings he turned and soared down into the
depths of the still dark canyon. Lynn seemed a frozen statue. He
turned around suddenly lowering the big gun asked in a surprised
voice, "What happened?" I answered simply, "Lynn you didn't even
shoot." He looked at me blankly and didn't say a word. I took the
shotgun and carefully unloaded the barrel.
We walked in the growing light of the day down the ridge into the
canyon to our camp. We had heard no other gobbles along the high
ridge. I knew that we had been very lucky to find this lone
gobbler so eager to come to my call. Back in our camp most
everyone was up and starting to prepare breakfast. I said to Lynn
as we parted. "It will have to be some other time."
The next year a couple of months before turkey season Lynn came
over to our home. After chatting a while he said that he and his
boys would really like to go on a big turkey hunt with us this
year. I told him that I would be glad for him to go with us. We
set the date and I told him that I would prepare and take
everything we needed and all that he would need for he and his
boys would be their sleeping bags and their guns to hunt with.
About a week before we were planning to leave Lynn came over and
told me that he could not leave his pressing work to go with us on
the hunt. I commented that I was disappointed that he could not go
and since it was all planned we would go without him and his boys.
Every year after that we would go through the same planning only
to find that Lynn had to much work and could not leave to take his
boys hunting. We were all caught by surprise by Lynns sudden
death. He never did take time to take his boys and go with us into
the Sierra Madre hunting turkey. I often thought of his desire to
take his boys and enjoy a trip into the mountains but never could
take time to do it. He was caught by surprise by that big
beautiful bird high on the ridge of the Tinaja Wash and was caught
again by surprise by his untimley death.
After Sam graduated from Choirpractic School he started to
practice here in Nuevo Casas Grandes. He set his office up in the
center of town and was building up a good practice. Some of the
medical doctors became jealous and began to cause trouble for him,
saying he did not have a license to practice medicine. Rather than
to stir up trouble Sam decided to move to the United States where
he could practice freely. John Brimhall invited Sam to come to his
Choirpractic Clinic and work with him. John is the son of Naomas
cousin LaRee Peterson. LARee is the daughter of her Uncle Erin
Peterson. The brother of Naoma's Mother.
Sam brought John and his family down home to Dublan to go with our
family on our yearly turkey hunt. That year we dropped into the
head of Trout Creek between the falls and camped there in that
beautiful place. Our turkey hunt was very successful and both
families enjoyed the camping trip. After that John would bring his
two boys down and I would take them turkey hunting. One year we
went up through Chuhuichupa and down into the beautiful Torro
canyon. We camped where the two canyons come together to form the
Torro creek. The first morning we hunted up the west canyon along
the beautiful little trout stream. Just as it was coming light I
stopped to call into the early morning air. I always used my wing
bone turkey caller with very good results. Each time I called we
would all listen intently but we did not get any answering
gobbles. Once I thought I heard a faint sound of the chuck swish
of a strutting turkey. I decided to find a place of concealment.
We all sat down behind an old rotting pine tree trunk. Johns two
boys sat down and leaned back against the fallen log. I called
again but got no answering gobble. I could hear faint turkey
noises and the unmistakable sound of a strutting turkey. I looked
at John and he was sitting alert with his shotgun ready leaning on
the log. Suddenly a big turkey gobbler strutted into view about
twenty steps from where we were hiding. I didn't dare move to
alert the boys in any way. There was a loud boom and that big
gobbler wilted to the ground. Flopping wildley. John and I got up
and walked to the turkey. John's older son caught entirely by
surprise began to cry and whine in a loud voice. "I wanted to
shoot him!" This wailing continued all the time while John cleaned
the big turkey gobbler. John explained quietly to his son that the
turkey was suddenly strutting right in front of us and all he
could do was to shoot him without waiting for his son to get ready
to shoot. I had seen some turkey hens running up the canyon after
the shot had frightened them. I knew it would be useless to follow
after them, so we turned back to camp.
I prepared a leisurely breakfast of hotcakes and scrambled eggs.
We sat around camp for awhile enjoying the beauty around us. The
sun was darkened by the drifting clouds and soon it began to
sprinkle. We moved under our kitchen fly to get out of the light
rain. The rain continued on into the night. I settled down without
worrying about getting up in the morning. I was awake when the
early light filtered into my tent.
Suddenly a booming gobble brought me out of bed searching around
frantically for my clothes. I dressed hurriedly and crawled out of
my tent into the misty rainy morning. I could hear John and his
boys talking excitedly in their tent. When they came out they each
had their gun in their hands and were ready to start toward the
sound of that booming gobble. We crossed the creek and up a steep
bank onto the long sloping ridge that led up to the top of the
high ridge. We stopped occasionally to call into the misty rain.
The rain got less as it became lighter. About half way up the
ridge we stopped by a huge jutting rock and called again into the
still morning air. Two gobbles one right after the other answered
us from across the low canyon. Again the gobbles came. They
sounded to me like they were challenging each other. After a long
silence I saw a strange sight. I could see a big gobbler fleeing
away from another big gobbler who came strutting along behind. For
few moments we could see this strange procession coming toward us.
They were soon lost from sight among the trees and bushes in the
bottom of the canyon.
John and his younger son sat with their backs in some wet bushes
at the top where the trail came up out of the canyon. The older
boy and I were standing down a little ways at the edge of a huge
rock near where the trail passed by. I indicated for the boy to
prepare to shoot. All was silent for what seemed like a very long
After what seemed a long weight I could see that John was ready
and tense waiting. Suddenly there was a sound of running feet and
the turkey came running up the trail right in front of the older
boy. He was so surprised that he shouted out, "There he is!" At
this loud shout the turkey flew straight in the air and John shot
him and fired a fleeting shot at the other turkey as he sailed
away down the canyon. John ran down and recovered the flopping
turkey before it went very far down the hill. Again the older boy
was caught by surprise and did not even shoot. John explained to
his son that he had not shot until the turkey was in the air for
fear of hitting his son who was about three feet from the turkey
when he called out his surprise.
The next year when John and his boys came down I took them to our
ranch in Corrales. We camped under the apple trees near the creek
where a big pine tree sheds its needles to form a nice bed of pine
needles for my tent. The leaves of the apple blossoms were falling
like snow drifting down to the ground. We got into camp late in
the evening. We set up camp and ate supper before drifting off to
our beds. The next morning we all got into the van found our way
across to the gate out of the property. We climbed up the steep
ridge following the faint road to the top of the continental
divide. We went in the gate into the Whetten ranch and parked the
van just as daylight began to show in the trees. We walked about
300 yards to the rim of the Diablo canyon.
The turkeys began to gobble in every direction. Some near but most
far away. It was a still clear morning and the sound came drifting
to us on the clear cold air. John had a new turkey caller, so I
suggested that he and his older boy go along the rim to where he
could call up the turkey. I took the younger boy with me and we
walked south on a dim trail across the mesa. As we came near the
edge of the next canyon we found where a large old juniper tree
had fallen across the trail. The trail long since had been worn
around the tree and continued on down into the canyon. We made
ourselves comfortable among the long dead branches of the old
juniper tree. We were facing directly down the trail where it came
up straight out of the canyon. As we settled down to wait in the
growing light of the dawn, we heard the boom of a shotgun and knew
that John or his boy had shot a turkey behind us on the rim.
I told the boy that was with me to prepare his gun and rest it on
a limb pointing down the trail in front of us. I chirped
occasionally and listened for an answering gobble. We heard no
answer for what seemed a very long time. The boy was dozing beside
me when I saw a line of turkeys walking along the trail toward us.
I nudged the boy and whispered for him to get ready to shoot. He
carefully pulled back the hammer and waited sighting along the
trail. I whispered for him to hold it awhile. When the turkeys
came to within about 30 steps of us, I whispered for him to shoot.
Then came the loud boom of the shotgun and turkeys flew in every
direction. The two lead ones went down and lay flopping on the
ground. The boy dropped his gun and excitedly ran to try to pin
down the two flopping turkeys. In his excitement he cried out "I
got two of them."
After cleaning the turkeys we walked back to the van. I carried
the shotgun and one of the turkeys while the boy proudly carried
the other turkey over his shoulder.
When Tracy and Cathy were living here in Dublan, he was anxious to
go turkey hunting. He was always a good hunter but had left home
to finish high school in North Dakota, while living with Mary and
Doug. because of his absence from home, he was not able to do much
hunting. He invited Marvin Longhurst to go with us on our turkey
We left Dublan after school on Friday and camped on the ranch in
Corrales. We got into camp just at dark and prepared supper by the
light of the gas lantern. We talked to Lalo and had him bring us
the riding animals by three thirty the next morning. Promptly at
three thirty in the morning, Lalo came with the animals all
saddled and ready to go. We all drank a cup of hot herb tea and
mounted up and were on our way.
We went out through the west gate and up the west canyon until we
came to the trail that climbed slanting up to the top of the
ridge. There was no moon but the stars gave us enough light for
the animals to find the trail. I was riding along on a long limbed
pinto mule which loved to travel and kept well in the lead. She
fidgeted a little whenever I stopped to wait for Tracy and Marvin
to catch up. This beautiful mule had been given to me by a friend
who had a ranch above Three Rivers on the San Juan. He was Rafael
Garcia, the son of Rafael Garcia who had lived on the San Juan
ranch for many years.
We rode along the top of the Continental Divide just as the light
was beginning to show in the sky in the east. We stopped often to
use my winged bone turkey caller and listen for a response. We
entered the gate of the Maurice Whetten Ranch and rode southwest
along the beautiful little valley surrounded by pines. Soon we
came to the edge of a large meadow with a little stream trickling
through it. Here I chirped again and received an answering gobble
from the trees across the meadow. We rode back into the trees and
tied our animals. We walked back and found concealment at the edge
of the meadow . I was worried because there was a big black bull
grazing near the little stream in the bottom of the meadow. I
could see the turkey coming fast stopping only to strut
occasionally. He passed the bull unconcerned by his presence. He
crossed the little stream with a hop and continued strutting
towards us. Suddenly there was a loud boom and the turkey wilted
to the ground. I was surprised by the shot because the turkey was
about 50 steps away. Tracy commented, "I was worried because the
turkey looked to me like he was getting nervous and was going to
leave so I shot him." I told him that I thought he was taking a
big chance for that was a long shot for a shotgun. Tracy tied the
turkey on the back of his saddle and we rode back to the edge of
the Diablo canyon rim. We chirped there for awhile but got no
answering gobble. We decided to go on back to camp because we had
to return home that afternoon. We went back and rode over a little
wooded Ridge. There we stopped so that I could send a final call
into the still morning air. A booming gobble answered from back
the way we had come. It sounded close so we dismounted and crept
aways away from our animals and spread out a little along the
ridge. The turkey kept gobbling and coming straight toward us.
Soon I could hear him strutting very near. From where I sat I
could not see him, but I could hear the chuck swish of his strut.
After what seemed a long silence I finally heard the loud boom of
the shotgun. I got up and joined Marvin and Tracy who were
standing looking at a big gobbler lying at their feet. I said,
Pointedly to Marvin, "The one who shot him, will have to clean him
and carry him." I was surprized and a little annoyed when Tracy
began to clean the turkey.
I had distinctly told them that it was Marvin's turn to shoot.
Tracy carried the turkey back and tied it behind hid saddle with
the other one. We rode on down to our camp. While we were packing
up to go home Tracy apologized to Marvin, Saying, "I could see the
turkey had stopped strutting and was starting to leave, so I had
to shoot so he wouldn't get away" Marvin answered, "Every time I
would aim to shoot a little limb of leaves would get in the way."
I was very surprised to find out that Marvin had not shot the
turkey. I was caught by surprise when Tracy cleaned the turkey and
carried it back to camp, because I thought all along that Marvin
had shot the turkey.
As I remember these moments when we were caught by surprise I
think of the implications of the different ways we can take a
moment of great surprise. We can learn to prepare and accept any
situation without freezing up or over reacting to the situation.
We hope you are all well and enjoying the beautiful spring weather
and the blessings of our Heavenly Father. This time of year always
reminds me of the many enjoyable turkey hunts that we have had in
the beautiful Sierra Madre Mountains.