I know lots of turkey hunters but I don’t know another one like my Mississippi buddy, Otha Barham. Words that come to mind to describe him are intense, hard-headed, obstinate and when it comes to protecting the location of his precious birds, liar.
Here’s what I’m talking about. He shared with me once that he has on many occasions denied the existence of turkeys in the woods he hunts, even to his own brother, when turkey tracks reveal that there are indeed turkeys there.
“I’ve told fibs about it, have broken off leafy branches and used them to brush out turkey tracks along a sandy road so other hunters won’t find them; I don’t want anybody else thinking there are turkeys there,” Barham once told me.
Barham is, as we speak, spending every single morning in the woods he hunts around his hometown of Meridian. The stories he tells about his obsession with locating, calling and taking down and getting bamboozled by those gobblers can keep one enthralled for hours. In short, Otha Barham can tell a turkey hunting story better than any other hunter I ever encountered.
This is why I got excited when I learned he had put his turkey hunting exploits into a book that is absolute required reading for anyone remotely interested in trying to outsmart these crafty birds.
Last week, my mail included a copy of his book, “Spring Beckonings – Gobblers call and we must go”. The title is quite fitting, in my view, because if ever there was a turkey hunter who absolutely has to be there, it’s Barham.
The book contains, as the accompanying press release states, “37 blow-by-blow accounts of adventures directly associated with the hunt”. Barham doesn’t leave out anything. You sense his elation laced with sadness at finally bringing down a difficult bird, one that he chased all season long at the expense of going for birds more easily hunted. You’ll also sense his utter frustration and disappointment when some of those monarchs of the forest shunned his best efforts season after season, gobblers that undoubtedly died of old age.
Among accounts of those 37 gobblers he writes about, one story in particular jumped out at me. This tale has to do with a gimpy-legged old gobbler Barham ultimately called Gabriel. He originally named him Gabby because he gobbled constantly. As the season wore on and Barham’s appreciation for his savvy grew, he changed the old monarch’s name to one commanding more respect. Barham zeroed in on Gabriel ignoring more easy-to-hunt gobblers in quest of this old turkey who had stored up a lifetime of tricks in avoiding hunters. He and Gabriel finally met on the day before season ended and it was with bitter sweetness that Barham claimed his prize.
“The story of Gabriel does not end there,” Barham writes. “In the days that followed, my mind intermittently drifted into planning sessions on how to fool this great bird. For brief periods it seemed he was not dead. I had formed the habit of plotting his demise over so many days that it had become an addiction. Mine was a peculiar case of denial.” Bryan Hendricks, outdoor editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, A 300,000-plus circulation based in Little Rock, commented that Barham’s story of Gabriel was probably the finest turkey hunting story he ever read. After reading the story, I have to agree.
With Father’s Day approaching, I can’t think of a more appropriate gift for the turkey hunter in the household than an inscribed copy of “Spring Beckonings – Gobblers call and we must go.”
To contact the author, go to firstname.lastname@example.org. To order an inscribed soft cover copy of the book, send $15.95, plus $5 shipping and handling. Hard copies are available for $22.95 plus $5 shipping and handling. Direct all orders to Otha Barham, 3100 38th St., Meridian, MS 39305.