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86 And Chasing Gobblers
Jim Daniel didn’t start turkey hunting until he was 82 years old. A gobbler he killed this season shows he’s still learning new tricks.
 
By Mike Bolton
Originally published in the May 2018 issue of AON
 
Jim Daniel shows off the Bibb County gobbler he took on opening day in the most unusual of ways. The bird had a 10-inch beard and 1 1/4-inch spurs.
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If the FBI were to develop a profile of the average Alabama turkey hunter, it wouldn’t be anywhere close on Jim Daniel.

First of all, turkey hunting is typically not a game for those in their 80s. It requires stamina. Long walks and even occasional running are required. That’s why the typical Alabama turkey hunter is in his 30s and 40s. Jim, who lives in Argo, is 86.

But the main profile buster? You’re probably guessing that Jim can share at least five decades of turkey hunting experiences. Hardly. He didn’t start turkey hunting until he was 82.

“I grew up in Trussville, and it was rural then,” he said. “I hunted squirrels and rabbits. There weren’t any deer or turkeys around here back then.”

Life eventually steered Jim away from hunting. Work and marriage changed his priorities. The  Trussville he knew changed, too. What were once farms and forests became businesses and subdivisions as Trussville became a major Birmingham suburb. And the hunting he once knew evolved, too. Squirrel and rabbit hunting became almost an afterthought for most as deer and turkey became commonplace.

Jim eventually escaped the rat race when in 1996 he moved his family farther north to Argo, a small town just off I-59 that straddles the Jefferson and St. Clair county line. He purchased 240 acres. When his son and grandsons became interested in hunting, they leased 230 more acres.

The land was teeming with deer and turkey. He tried his hand at deer hunting, but it was stories about turkey hunting from his grandsons that really fascinated him.

“My grandson Chase showed me how to work a turkey call,” he said. “I played around with that and got impatient because nobody would take me turkey hunting. So, at age 82, I decided to go on my own. I killed a turkey the first time I went.”

That experience ignited a new passion in his life. He suddenly became a turkey-hunting nut and went on to quickly take another turkey. He was hooked.

“My wife could never understand it,” Jim said. “I love getting up early and just sitting in the woods with a cup of coffee. I love listening to the woods come alive when the sun comes up.”

If Jim is proof of anything, it is that you can teach an old dog new tricks. In fact, the incredible story of a gobbler he took on the opening day of the turkey season this year has hunters wondering if maybe the old dog can teach them a new trick.

“We now think it’s best if someone goes with my grandfather when he goes,” his grandson, Chase Evans, explained. “A friend of his in West Blocton in Bibb County gave him permission to hunt on some land there where nobody hunts.”

Jim takes over the story from there.

“I had gone down there to look at the property before the season began, and my friend told me that he sees turkeys in this one field,” Jim said. “I went to look at it, and sure enough, there were turkeys in the field. I decided that’s where I would go on opening day.”

On the afternoon of opening day, Jim and his grandson set up a ground blind in the woods on the edge of a field. They placed a turkey decoy in the field in front of them. They then sat in two chairs and waited.

“Finally, two hens came into the field about 65 yards away, and a gobbler followed them,” Jim explained. “The gobbler was strutting, and the hens were feeding around and not paying him any attention.

“We called to him, but he never came out of his strut. He never looked our way. We sat there and watched him and called to him for about 30 minutes.”

It became obvious to the two hunters that they were not going to be able to call the gobbler away from the hens. They needed to be closer for Jim to get a shot with his 20 gauge. Chase decided it was time to change strategy.

“I asked my granddad if he could walk on his knees,” Chase said. “He said, ‘No way.’ I then asked him did he think he could crawl on his belly. He said he couldn’t do that, either.”

Stumped, Chase and grandfather sat and discussed if there was anything else they could do. They then got another idea.

“The blind had a mesh window the turkeys couldn’t see in,” Jim explained. “We decided to see what would happen if we picked up the blind and walked it into the field a few feet. We folded up our chairs and slid them out the back. Chase lifted up the blind in the back, and I picked it up in the front, and we walked it about 3 feet toward the turkeys. The hens looked up at us, but the gobbler never looked our way and never got out of his strut.”

They then moved the blind another 3 feet toward the turkeys.

“The field was full of ant beds, so we had to maneuver around them,” Jim said. “We’d move the blind several feet and stop and stand there and watch.  The hens would look at us, but the gobbler never did. He never got out of his strut for 45 minutes.

“The hens would eventually calm down, and we’d move the blind several more feet.”

Once they finally got the blind to within 35 yards, they figured they had pushed their luck far enough.

“The hens were really starting to get wary,” Chase said. “I’m thinking we were going to scare everything away, and it was stupid to even think we could pull this off. I figured we were going to be kicking ourselves for just not waiting.”

The two then realized that they had another problem. How could they drop the mesh window without the wary hens hearing or seeing them?

“I whispered to my grandfather to just shoot through the mesh,” Chase said. “He did, and the gobbler went down. I flipped the blind over and ran out there and jumped on the flopping bird. I was whooping and hollering. I couldn’t believe we had pulled that off.”

Jim chuckled.

“I know people are saying there is no way that happened or those were tame turkeys,” he said. “It happened just like that.”
 
 
 
 
 
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