It was May, 11, 1990, when I had my first, last and only encounter with the Muscovey bird. The turkey got its name from the Muscovey Home, which had been in the Chicora area since the turn of the century.
Three days prior to May 11, my friend Rick and a friend of his, Rodger, invited me to hunt with them. Rodger shot an 18-pound gobbler on the second Monday of the season and on several occasions saw the Muscovey bird.
While hunting, I had called birds each day. But each evening became the same: nothing. The birds would gobble a while, but then would back off and close their mouths the rest of the morning.
On May 11 at 4:14 a.m., I met Rodger at his country home and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and a roll. He told me he had seen the mystery bird walking across a field about 5 p.m. the previous day and suggested we hunt near the Muscovey Home at the top of the hill.
It was 5 a.m. when we left the warm home and started our 15 minute walk up the hill near the Muscovey Home. The winds were blowing about 30 miles per hour and drizzling rain on us as we crossed the fields.
When we reached the top, I thought to myself, what an awful day to be hunting in this type of weather. I asked Rodger to place my decoy in a spot which he felt was lucky. He placed it in an open field between two small patches of woods.
Forty five steps away in the lower patch of woods, we settled against an overturned tree. Our wait began as we sat back to back. I glanced at my watch, the time was 5:50 a.m. with daylight slowly breaking. I gave a few soft clucks and yelps from my mouth call and settled back to wait.
Twenty five minutes passed before Rodger spotted a hen emerging from between the two patches of woods. We sat motionless as the hen softly clucked past us, stopping at the decoy. Cautiously and carefully, she began to feed, occasionally stopping to look and cluck at the decoy.
A few more soft clucks produced another hen near the top of the hill about 70 yards from us.
While watching the second bird near the top of the hill, I decided to try to call it to my decoy, thinking hopefully the two hens may attract a gobbler. After a few more soft clucks, the birds suddenly vanished, as though the ground swallowed them.
Feeling badly and wondering if the birds had seen my hand move as I used my mouth call, I began searching the fields. It seemed like hours as the wind and rain whipped my face, bringing tears streaming down my cheeks. Still, I saw nothing.
But then, Rodger whispered to me: look at your decoy. As I glanced over at my decoy, there he was, the mysterious Muscovey bird. I watched in awe as his wings dragged on the low grass and his tail feathers stood straight up as he strutted back and forth in front of my decoy with his long beard in full view.
Sitting there for about four minutes, which felt like four hours, this magnificent bird finally decided to strut and circle the decoy from behind, his large tail feathers shielding his head from my view. I slowly raised my 10 MAG and fired.
Both Rodger and I jumped from the stump and raced as fast as possible to the quivering bird. We yelled and hugged each other as if we were two young boys.
We looked at the magnificent bird as it lay there. We were awed at the size of the 1 1/4-foot spurs and the 10 1/4-inch beard. Checking my watch, the time was 6:45 a.m.
It was then Rodger proudly said, “Chookie, you just got the mysterious Muscovey bird.”
After a few more moments of celebrating, I picked up my decoy and Rodger slung my bird over his shoulder and we headed for his home.
During the walk, Rodger told me about other hunters in the past seeing the bird, but nobody was able to get a shot off at him. This bird was described as very smart, sly, cunning, elusive, intelligent and, most of all, the one thing that made this bird a mystery that survived for all these years, was he would never, never, never gobble.
As I look at this bird in full mount, I always remember that rainy, windy, wintry-type May 11 morning. This had the brightest outcome of any of my turkey hunts, especially for the mysterious Muscovey bird which would not gobble.