Turkey hunting legend loves fall season


Ray Eye must be part turkey; I don’t know how else to explain it. The man just flat out speaks their language.

After over 50 years in the turkey woods, hundreds of birds under his belt and countless turkey-calling championships won, “Uncle Ray” has earned the title of living legend.

The man doesn’t just know how to call and kill turkeys, though. He’s also an expert outdoors communicator. He’s the author of the book “Ray Eye’s Turkey Hunter’s Bible.” He produces DVDs. “Calling is Everything” is one of the most famous. He gives seminars across the country, writes magazine articles and hosts a weekly outdoors radio show. Ray is today’s turkey hunting Renaissance man.

I was fortunate to be invited, along with about a dozen or so other outdoor writers and industry folks, to Ray’s annual fall turkey camp. Now, I’ve killed a couple of fall turkeys before when they made the mistake of walking past me while I was deer hunting, but I’ve never purposely set out to hunt fall turkeys. Having watched some of Ray’s videos prior to joining him in camp and having read a number of articles about fall turkeys and watched some television show episodes devoted to the topic, I knew going into camp that the spring hunting tactics I’m used to exercising weren’t going to work. The birds would be bunched up and gobblers would be hard to kill. It was a challenge I was looking forward to.

Ray got to camp a few days early so he could locate some birds for the rest of us, but the birds just weren’t where they usually are. This happens in the fall. When the birds are bunched up thick as thieves, if they’re not there, then they’re just not there. But Ray wasn’t going to have any of us not being on birds. He enlisted the help of his turkey hunting partners, including his younger brother Marty, and they fanned out through the hills in search of flocks of turkey.

Bill Cooper, a noted outdoors writer, slipped back into camp on the evening of the first night with good news. He had found turkeys, lots of turkeys. Since I was trying to kill one with my bow, which made me a little crazy in the eyes of a few locals, ol’ Cooper allowed me to tag along with him the next morning. I figure he didn’t find my stick and string a threat to his chances of success. Boy, was he right.

Sunrise found Cooper, Marty Eye and myself perched high upon a bluff. Steam was rising off the green fields in the river bottoms below. The colors of fall were in all their glory. It was a magical sight. We heard a turkey fly down and another and another. They were right where Cooper said they’d be.

Marty Eye popped his diaphragm call in his mouth, and what I listened to for the next 30 minutes is what it must have felt like to sit front row while Mozart performed a masterpiece. I’ve considered myself a decent caller for a few years now, but after listening to Marty work his magic, I know just how far from the top of the turkey-calling ladder I truly sit.

As Marty kee-kee called, I just sat with my mouth hanging open. He is truly a master.

The turkeys were fired up, but they just wouldn’t commit. At one point, Marty clicked his safety off and started leaning in for his shot. That’s how close we came, but it never happened. The birds closed to 60 yards but dropped off the ridge just before we laid them down. Marty ran out of time and had to leave for work.

Cooper and I continued on. We broke the birds up hoping to call them back together, but to no avail.

In the end, the hunting, scenery and camaraderie were incredible. The killing was a little tough. A few birds did hit the dirt, but that’s not what it’s about anyways. We enjoyed fall turkey camp in grand fashion during one of the most beautiful stretches of fall weather one could hope for.

Spending time with Ray Eye, a true living legend of turkey hunting, and watching him operate within his realm of expertise was an experience from which the memories will last a lifetime.

See you down the trail …

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