Outdoor Articles

The Killing Field Revisited

by Pursue The Outdoors on November 30th, 1999 in Turkey Hunting

Now I lay me down to sleep

Rare is the day when a turkey hunter can claim a sure thing. Years of repeated teachings by longbearded shadows in the woods have left many a hunter shy of calling any tom or place a sure bet. Bring in the Killing field, a small non descript patch of South Carolina soil that harbors an incredible lure to these birds we call turkey.

Settled nicely between a major river bottom with its bordering ½; mile of thick swamp and a large planted pine tract, the killing field produces toms year after year. Before I get into why it works so well, lets meet some of the players. The Graveyard Gobbler was the first to tell the secret, a bird high in stature, long in spur, and wary as any I had hunted. His offspring, the “Oak Flat Tom”, “drummer”, and the “walk away tom”, had all refined his skills and kept his haunts interesting to us turkey men. These were but a few of the many toms seemingly locked to the killing fields magnetic draw.

Spring turkey season of 2002 was an awesome one in SC. Birds were flopping all over the Pee Dee and me and my buddies had allot to do with it. Things were so good in fact we realized mid season that we had yet to revisit the killing field. Years prior I had tumbled a tough tom after unlocking the secret to the area and vowed that every year we would be back. We adjusted plans and set our sights on the old honey hole for the following am hunt. It was time to return to the killing field.

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It’s important to note here that this “honey hole” is a public land spot hunted by many other folks; rare is the day when these birds don’t see some pressure. Many come close, but few realize just how close they really are to the secret. Wood blindness I guess, but they fail to look at the big picture and then the minute detail of it all. Open your eyes and the secret is plain to see.

Our hunt began with a pre dawn set up ¼ mile from the field. Our tactic was to stay out of the direct action long enough to get an audio education of how we should approach. Like clockwork the toms sounded off through the swamp bottom, letting us know that the killing field was the right place to be. We broke camp and moved into well known areas and made our presentation.

Clucks, purrs, cackles , leaf scratching, fly ups, fly downs, anything is fair and the more the merrier. Our intent. To sound like the mother lode of hens heading into the killing field. With our first calls out, the phone began to ring, on the line, Mr. Tom asking for directions. We obliged with more cutting, cackling, and sweet sexy yelps. Before long the phone was ringing off the hook, seven to ten toms were tripping over themselves to come on over. The combination of widowmaker cutts, shipwreck cackles, and a double suicide clucks made for a combination that was too much, the line was busy!

How do you set up when multiple toms are coming from multiple directions? You make a stand, just like Ol’ Custer and prepare to fight them off. Circle the wagons boys this is it ! Set up in a natural pinch point in the field, we stated our case and watched eagerly past our dekes for any sign of approaching toms. The hens came first, leading the way and investigating this new flock of intruders. Then, one by one toms poured into the field from various directions. A total of seven toms entered the killing field in a three minute period, all were closing.

Calling procedure was backed off to cluck, purr, and scratch only, we love to see a tom strut but experience tells us now is the time for closing calls only. The wait and subdued calling was short lived. Five toms all in a row half strutted into the dekes and it was with no hesitation our gunner laid down two toms. 39 lbs. of gobbler flopping and another 55 lb. or so taking off , what a sight!

Jeff Lee with a double suicide.

Normally this would be enough for a great turkey tale, but in this case it was just the beginning. The total take from the killing fields in 2002 in 7 hunts 6 gobblers and 5 misses ( two by my son and 3 by another hunter who wishes to remain anonymous). That’s 11 toms shot at in one 10 acre patch of woods in 7 days. What’s the draw?

All right here’s why the killing field works, and honestly it’s nothing special, it happens everywhere turkeys live.

The field is surrounded by three types of habitat:

  • Planted Pines
  • White Oak flats
  • Unhuntable swamp bottom

There are many uses for each habitat throughout the day and entire breeding season for the turkeys.

  • White Oaks for feed and loafing areas
  • Pines for nesting cover and hen roosting
  • Swamp for cool mid day haunts security and roosting

Throw a wide open field for dusting and displaying smack in the middle of it all now. Are we getting the picture?

Let’s put a magnifying glass on it, ah ha you can see it all at the same time even when we look at it ten acres at a time. That’s the secret…it’s a micro habitat that provides every possible need a turkey could have all in a ten acre piece of dirt.

The killing field is in essence a turkey haven smack dab in the middle of 3400 acres that are infested with turkey. Without a doubt these features exist in other places on the 3400 acres we were hunting. The difference though is clear, it has everything to offer in a small package which bottles the toms and focuses their travel through the area daily.

Do you have a scene like this in your neighborhood? My bet is you do, you just have to find it. What you are looking for is roosting, feeding, nesting , strutting, and loafing areas all in one small package. Certainly if you have turkeys you have pieces of this recipe scattered all over your lands but where do they all meet. It is this point where the killing fields begin and end.

A footnote: I recently hunted a tom I dubbed the elevator in Western NY. This tom had the perfect set up with all of the ingredients present for a killing field. Amazingly enough and despite the total dominance of this tom, four other toms who were not getting any breeding time in refused to head to greener pastures. With this information in hand, the tom was rolled on the last day of the season by a good friend of mine, in his own little 10 acre killing field. That is another story to be told by the lucky man that broke the elevator and squished the worm (way to go Craig!). My bet next year there will be another right there testing his luck in these new found killing fields of western NY.

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