Ray Eye has never been one to name turkeys and he always avoids thinking that any given gobbler is somehow special. Ray’s world is the turkey’s world, and he reminds us at every turn that they are just pea-brained birds that don’t know from nothin’ other than bugs, hens, pooping, more bugs, more hens, and that’s pretty much the end of the thought process.
But over the past four years, he has been so sucked in by the turkey that Steve Felgenhauer named ‘Chop Gobble’ that he’s spent uncountable hours roosting him, calling to him, setting up on him in every conceivable way, along the way losing track of the ways Chop has eluded loads of pellets.
We know what you’re thinking: how do you know it’s the same turkey? In this case, because of roosting location, behavior, fighting prowess, and most of all an easily-distinguished short gobble “that doesn’t have any obble,” Ray knows it’s the same bird.
He loves Chop as much as he hates him, yet he went into the woods determined to put somebody’s tag on Chop’s foot day after day, season after season. Both spring and fall, mind you. Over the years, Ray has called him up numerous times. He’s been shot over and under, and at least once the gun went click when it was leveled on his neck.
We’ll write more about this when we come up for air after all the seasons are over. It’s Ray’s story to tell, and he has so much audio and video of Chop that the turkey could have its own reality show spanning five seasons.
Due to various circumstances, Chop time was limited this spring, and now Missouri turkey season has ended and Chop made it through again. Due to his advancing age and despite his ability to pummel all comers, Ray is not optimistic that the old boy will make it through to next April.
His body would not be as big as in his prime, but can you imagine the spurs Chop is walking around with?
The story might be even better now that Chop survived another season of everybody’s best efforts. Maybe killing him when he was three just wouldn’t have been right. Anyway, Ray sent us this email early Monday morning, after going after him one last time on Sunday. This turkey is so compelling that Ray risked missing half of Mother’s Day for a final go. He brought Chris Vogler, aka the Vogler Voglar from Eye on the Outdoors Radio. ‘Vog’ was in a blind on one side of Chop’s roost, and Ray was on another side, recording the action on video like he always does.
Anyway, here’s Ray’s report…
Around 6:30 a.m, I smile as I watch ole Chop Gobble strut with his girls. Guess it was just not meant to be. I’m watching from a distance, standing on a small finger of ground as deep chocolate swirling water rushes around three sides of where I stand.
Creek’s up, back road closed due to high water at low-water crossing. Fields have standing water (heavy storms last night, something I did not know when I departed from home this morning at 3 a.m.)
Chop and the girls come out of the roost toward the east just as I had predicted, like they did on second day of season with Mark and I. They are safe; there is absolutely no way to cross the deep swirling, fast moving water. Chop is in paradise on an Island of Love…
“My smile turns into a chuckle, almost a laugh, as I watch him parade within 20 yards of this morning’s planned camera setup, just inside a small strip of trees east of the main roost. I planned long and hard for this last day opportunity. Against my wife’s and doctor’s wishes, I am in deep doo-doo, for this last chance to get Chop Gobble.
But now the season is over and I would guess this story will end here. I cannot imagine Chop will make another spring season. This ole warrior has to be about six years old?
Like a college or NFL coach, all week I watched hours of game footage, noticing something on video from the last 2 years: Chop usually slips from his roost to the east, something I missed before.
On Opening Day with me and Frank, one gobbler went out west, to the back fields, but Chop was quiet after flydown and we assumed he also went west. Next morning, Mark and I set up to the west. One gobbler went into the field of our first day setup, gobbling in front of my blind that was still sitting there without us.
After flydown Chop was quiet. Once again we assumed he also went south with other gobbler. But after much thinking, watching video, I knew where I wanted to set up: east of his roost this time.
Well, it’s time to leave, another Missouri turkey season behind me, more than likely the last time I will see and hear Chop. What a cool turkey, what a challenge, what a story and what a legend he has become.
I cut one last time on my mouth call, Chop pauses and ‘Chop Gobbles’ back to me. ‘I salute you old warrior’ I mumble as I watch him strut with his hens, across and out of the back field toward the east. They turn north into the next field, out of sight and out of my life, probably forever.
Who knows. You never know with Chop. He has defied the odds so many times. Ray will only know when he sets up near the big white sycamore that Chop often sleeps in, calls to the darkened roost, and listens carefully.