Jason Snead of Manteo did something few wild turkey hunters have duplicated with odds close to one in a half-million.
Hunting March 25 with Myrtle Beach’s Buddy Love at a 265-acres Upstate hardwoods property near the northwest border of South Carolina’s Sumter National Forest, Snead not only shot a rare erythristic (red/cinnamon-phase) gobbler (1-in-300,000 wild turkeys) but downed a normal-color Eastern gobbler of the same size -- both with one shot.
To top the experience, the 43-year-old N.C. charterboat captain (“Dream Girl,” Oregon Inlet Fishing Center) had to chase down the rare bird when it unexpectedly sprang to life and bolted out of a one-acre food plot into surrounding woods.
“We were hunting from a ground blind at the edge of a long food plot during an off-and-on light rain with the temperature 43 degrees,” Snead said. “They weren’t gobbling much at Buddy’s call because it was cold, I think.”
The cinnamon turkey had 1 3/8-inch spurs, and the common Eastern gobbler had 1 1/4-inch spurs.
“Both had 10-inch beards and were good-size birds, close to 20 pounds,” Snead said.
He said Love, 27, hadn’t hunted the property in eight years, and didn’t know a cinnamon bird lived there.
“We got there Friday evening, put our stuff in a small cabin, then went out to listen for birds,” Snead said.
They heard nothing.
On Saturday they hit the woods early but heard only one gobble at 1 p.m. They placed a ground blind on the edge of the food plot “about 200 yards from where we figured the bird was Saturday,” Snead said. “He hadn’t answered calls, but we were coming back early Sunday morning.”
After setting up a jake and hen decoy in the dark over a little rise in the field, they entered the blind before daylight.
“At 8 or 8:10 a.m., a bunch of crows raised a ruckus and a bird gobbled at them,” Snead said. “Twenty minutes later, another one gobbled at the crows. Buddy hen-yelped three times that morning, but they didn’t pay any attention. They’d gobble only at crows.”
However, at 9:40 a.m., four gobblers suddenly appeared to the left of the blind, 30 to 35 yards away, and started to walk into the food plot.
“Buddy was on my right, so he couldn’t see them,” Snead said. “We only had one window on the left side open just a little. They acted nervous; I think they saw the blind, which wasn’t brushed up or anything. They started moving toward the woods.”
Snead said the four feathered amigos would be out of sight in seconds, so he poked the barrel of his Browning A5 12-gauge out the window, aligned two gobblers’ heads and pulled the trigger, sending a load of No. 4 Longbeard XR lead pellets toward them.
“You can kill two turkeys a day in South Carolina and three per season,” he said.
Two birds fell.
“Buddy jumped up, ran to them and grabbed the cinnamon gobbler by the leg to hold up and look at,” Snead said. “After he put it down, I could tell it still was alive when I saw his eye. He jumped up and started running for the woods. Buddy dove at it, got its leg and got spurred; I dove and missed it. I got up quickly and started running after it. I planned to have a full body-mount done, so I didn’t want to shoot again and blow the feathers off it.”
However, with the hunter trailing 10 to 15 yards, the gobbler reached the sapling-studded forest and gathered steam.
“I knew he’d get away if I didn’t put him down soon, so I stopped, aimed and shot, and he went down,” Snead said.
Stands to reason a rare bird such as a wild cinnamon gobbler would be doubly difficult to drop.
Stone Brothers Taxidermy of Spartanburg is handling the mounting duties for Snead.