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Turkey hunting still a passion at age 87: Tom Shank's Woods & Waters

Posted 5/28/19

Harvesting a spring gobbler is a true trophy in Penns Woods. They are an elusive quarry. Eyesight that is remarkable and hearing that can detect the slightest sound make a mature wild turkey the …

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Turkey hunting still a passion at age 87: Tom Shank's Woods & Waters

Bucky Thomas recently took a turkey that weighed about 20 pounds with a 9¼-inch beard and 1-inch spurs.
Bucky Thomas recently took a turkey that weighed about 20 pounds with a 9¼-inch beard and 1-inch spurs.
photo courtesy of tom shank
Posted

Harvesting a spring gobbler is a true trophy in Penns Woods. They are an elusive quarry. Eyesight that is remarkable and hearing that can detect the slightest sound make a mature wild turkey the ultimate in hunting.

Good turkey hunters are good woodsmen. They know nature and its many sounds. They are alert, and movement is always done slowly and systematically. Luring within shotgun range and getting off a shot at this magnificent bird is done with years of experience in the turkey woods and sometimes being lucky, too!

When I got the telephone call from my good friend and turkey mentor, Bucky Thomas, I knew he had a story to tell. I met Bucky many years ago when he was a self-employed cabinet maker living in New Cumberland. We hit it off immediately. He loved hunting and so did I, especially turkey hunting.

Bucky didn’t just hunt turkeys. He loved every aspect of it, and that meant call making. Bucky made turkey calls of every shape and design. He made slate calls, box calls, scratch calls and even calls from Tic Tac plastic containers.  If he could get a sound chamber from something, he made a turkey call out of it. He would always give me his new creations, and I have every one to this day. They are true treasures.

Bucky moved from New Cumberland to his present residence outside Lewistown, living with his daughter and son-in-law in a secluded mountainous area of Mifflin County. Bucky still had his turkey woods to hunt.

My friend Bucky is 87 years old. I’m proud to write his story.

On April 29, Bucky went out toward one of two turkey blinds set up for his use. After a short walk, he was comfortable sitting in a blind. He called every 20 minutes or so on his slate, with no answers. He decided to move to another spot.  Once he began calling, he placed a hen decoy within 20 yards of his blind to add an enticement.

He was calling and enjoying the spring morning when suddenly from his right came a turkey. The swinging beard and dark black feathers revealed it was a gobbler, and it was coming into his decoy. It never gobbled and it came to the setup quiet, as sometimes they do.

There was no shaking for this turkey veteran. Bucky shouldered his 20 gauge Mossberg pump and placed the red sight bead on the turkey’s head and pulled the trigger. The blast echoed the quiet forest, but the flapping of feathers told it all. Bucky’s shot was right on, and his 2019 spring gobbler was down. Then it sunk in. What he did and the emotions and thrill overwhelmed him. He couldn’t stop shaking.

He summoned help from his daughter, who came to help him. There was no carrying this turkey. They placed it into a large storage bin and carried the turkey home. What a morning.

Bucky’s turkey weighed about 20 pounds, with a 9¼-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. A magnificent trophy for this 87-year-old hunter who still can close the deal. Job well done, my friend!

Tom Shank has been writing the Woods and Waters column for the Press & Journal for about 10 years. His expertise has been gained through more than 50 years hunting, fishing, trapping and exploring the full gamut of nature. The Susquehanna River and his cabin in Lycoming County are his true loves. Woods and Waters is his playground in life, and to write about it for the Press & Journal is a dream come true.