Watch Your Step!
In 2004 I traveled to Florida, Texas, and South Dakota in pursuit of the Grand Slam. When I returned to Kentucky to finish my quest, I was excited. I was hunting a farm in Crittenden County that I was leasing for deer and turkey hunting that I had successfully hunted for a few years in the past.
Expectations were high as I crossed the open field and got in the woods just as the day was breaking. When I got to the spot where I wanted to be to start the morning hunt, I paused and listened. Then I gave an I owl hoot and heard a distant gobble. It was a cooler morning than I had expected; maybe this was why I didn’t hear a bird any closer.
I spent a few minutes listening and hoping to hear an ole slobber mouth cut loose with a gobble, but I didn’t. Then the bird that gobbled earlier gobbled again, so I headed in his direction. I was slowly following the fence line through the woods, back towards another field, pausing to look and listen about every 40 or 50 yards. I had worked myself about half-way to the field, still not hearing anything close.
Just as I was ready to walk on, I happened to look down. Directly in my path was a huge copperhead! I immediately jumped back and tried to gather my composure. That scared me! One more step would have been bad. It was the largest copperhead I had ever seen, and I almost stepped on it.
I was amazed at how well blended into the forest floor that snake was, and I was only one step away. Copperheads are not overly aggressive snakes, but they will bite you if you step on them.
I didn’t waste any time killing it, while being careful not to damage it in the process. (I actually thought about taking it to be mounted during those split seconds.) He was at least 3 feet long, so I put him in the back of my turkey vest and continued to the field.
It was kind of unnerving to have a copperhead in the back of my turkey vest. Even though it was dead, I was a little uncomfortable with that. I don’t think I could get a fang in me accidentally, but it was in the back of my mind.
When I got to the field, I set out a hen and a Jake decoy and went through a series of calls hoping for a response. It wasn’t long before three birds showed up at the far end of the field and headed toward my decoys. When they reached the decoys, I identified the birds as three Jakes. One of the Jakes was twice as big as the other two. I didn’t intend on shooting a Jake, so I let them pass. But as they were about 75 yards away, I thought to myself: “what if I don’t get another chance to kill a bird this year?” I realized I might not have another chance to complete my Grand Slam in one year, so I called again, and the three Jakes came back to the decoys, and I harvested the big one. I had my Slam.
When I weighed the Jake, he was 19 pounds with a 5 ½ inch beard, which I thought was huge for a Jake, and the snake was 38-inches long, which I thought was huge for a copperhead!
This spring when you are in the woods chasing turkeys and enjoying God’s creation, be careful where you step!
PS About a week later, I was able to harvest a mature gobbler who sported a 10 ¼ inch beard, weighed 22 pounds, and had over 1-inch spurs.