I still remember the very first gobble from a wild turkey I ever heard. Some 40 years ago, I was on Jackson Bienville wildlife management area early on a spring morning and sitting by my side was V.E. “Blue” Parkman, one of only a handful of hunters in north Louisiana obsessed with chasing turkeys.
Wild turkeys were scarce back then and the few hunters who went after them could get excited by just finding a single turkey track during the season. If they heard one gobble, that was icing on the cake.
The gobbler Parkman and I heard gave us the slip but I was listening to a sound that would eventually work its way into my psyche and become a huge part of who I am and what I do now on spring mornings.
A Lincoln Parish resident, Parkman, started a tradition in his family that has done nothing but gain steam over the past decades. His son, Donnie, is a serious turkey hunter and had the distinction this past fall at the age of 75 of climbing a mountain in Colorado and bagging a big five-by-five bull elk with his bow.
I just returned this past week from a turkey hunting trip to the Walt Russell ranch near Menard, Texas with a group of friends. Included in our hunting party were Donnie Parkman and his 45 year old son, Jason.
The weather was anything but cooperative with biting north winds and cold temperatures. Hunting conditions were miserable and for the first time since I’ve been making the trip to Russell Ranch with this group, I scored a big flat zero. I came close a couple of times but came home without a gobbler.
The Parkman duo fared better. Donnie and Jason hunted together positioning a strutting gobbler, a jake and a hen decoy next to their blind. Donnie scored on a heavy Rio Grande gobbler with his shotgun.
Jason, on the other hand, had a goal of trying for a gobbler using the same equipment his dad had used on the Colorado elk; he wanted to try and down a gobbler with his bow.
“It is so much more challenging to bag a turkey with a bow because everything has to be just right. I used the same archery equipment I use when bow hunting deer and putting out the decoys gave the turkeys something to take their attention off the blind and any movement I may have made in getting ready for a shot,” Parkman said.
As they sat in their blind, a mature gobbler responded to their calls, spotted the decoys and marched on in, giving Jason the chance he was looking for. The well-placed arrow did what it was designed to do and he was soon admiring his first gobbler he had ever taken with archery equipment. The next day, the scenario was repeated and he was able to bag a second gobbler with his bow as his dad filmed the entire event.
“Deer hunting with a bow is exciting but I have never had a rush like I did when I got that first one with my bow. Nothing compares with it,” he said.
As we concluded the interview, Jason had one request; he wanted to be sure to give credit to his grandfather who began the Parkman legacy years ago.
“If it had not been for my grandfather getting hooked on turkey hunting and passing it on to my dad who passed it on to me, I might be spending my spring mornings with a fishing rod on the lake,” he said.
Does the legacy stop with Jason? Not a chance; I saw a photo of Jason’s 13 year old daughter, Sophie, proudly admiring the gobbler she had shot a couple of seasons ago.
From Blue to Donnie to Jason to Sadie; the Parkman turkey hunting saga just keeps on keeping on.