Jim Dickson think he has come up with the perfect slogan for a bumper sticker for his hunting vehicle.
“Hooked on turkeys, not on drugs.”
“I am a turkey-hunting addict,” said Dickson, 74, who lives in Ruston, La.
Dickson estimates he has hunted wild turkeys for 45 years, and he still has a burning passion to pursue the king of the woods each spring. He hunted six states this April and May – Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Kansas and Nebraska—and shot gobblers in each except one (Alabama).
“My rate is slower these days,” he said, “but at my age, just having a rate at all is good.”
Dickson, who said he was brought up a hunter, grew up in Tennessee in an era when there weren’t many turkeys around. He didn’t become a turkey hunter until he read the book, “The Complete Book of the Wild Turkey” while working in the library at the school he attended, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.
“I read it from cover to cover, then I read it again,” he said. “I was just fascinated with it.”
There, he met what has now become a longtime friend and hunting partner, Spencer Tomb, who lives in Manhattan, Kan.
The two maintained their friendship, though they went their separate ways. Dickson went on to become a noted wildlife biologist and one of the nation’s leading authorities on the wild turkey. Tomb taught at Kansas State University.
But turkey hunting has reunited them. Dickson travels to Kansas each spring to get together with Tomb and they head out to hunt private land near Council Grove in the Flint Hills.
Hunting on separate tracts of land, each enjoyed memorable hunts in early May. Tomb called a big longbeard across a field and was able to find success with his shotgun. After several frustrating hunts in which the turkeys wouldn’t cooperate, Dickson took the first of his Kansas gobblers when he was able to call in two birds across the road from where he was hunting.
“I called and both of those birds gobbled back,” Dickson said. “They were in a riparian zone next to a plowed field across the road, but they both crossed the road and came strutting up to where I was set up.”
The following day, Dickson’s Kansas experience got even better. Near dusk, he shot a gobbler that was preoccupied with the decoy Dickson had put out.
“Neither one was huge,” Dickson said. “But they were exciting hunts, and that’s what counts.”
From there, Dickson traveled to Nebraska, where he found more success, taking two more gobblers.
Then he was back to Louisiana, where he recounted his experiences in newspaper articles that he writes.
“I always look forward to coming back to Kansas,” he said. “It has some ideal turkey habitat –ag fields, pastures, and fallow fields that intersects with timber.
“The landscape is broken up – and that’s what turkeys like.”
Dickson only added to his reputation as a top turkey hunter this spring. Before he made his successful marathon hunt, he was featured in an Outdoor Life magazine article where he was nicknamed the “Gobbler Gobfather.”
“The reason I am so passionate about turkey hunting is that you can interact with the bird you are trying to fool,” Dickson said. “You can converse with them, you can watch them come in, then you see them strut and put on a show.
“That’s what gets me excited.”