On the night of April 10, 2014, I fell asleep dreaming of my hunt planned for the following morning. The day before I had just killed my first double-bearded gobbler, and I was planning to return to the same area to call for the other gobbler I knew was still there.
The morning came early when my alarm clock went off at 5:30 a.m. It was a brisk 44 degrees with an expected high of 73 in Manchester. The forecast predicted calm winds and sunny. Perfect weather for turkey hunting. I was ready to go!
I drove from camp to the northwest side of the hunt club. I parked my ATV and started to walk to the area I planned to hunt. I felt confident, thinking of the 21-lb. gobbler with the double beards—6 and 10 inches respectively—I had called in two days before. All that calling practice this last year was making a difference, and I was excited to have the chance to call in another gobbler. I walked down the road toward the food plot. I snuck to the edge of the food plot and pondered where to set up.
I decided to set up on the top of a triple-tiered, hour-glass-shaped food plot of clover that sloped down with a low grade. My tree was a pine about 12 inches wide with a fir tree behind it that had limbs hanging all the way to the ground. This would give me a good back drop to blend into while calling. I had my leafy suit on and my favorite calls.
I started softly calling with a trough call. I immediately received a response about 75 yards away. As I called, I could hear the tom come closer to me, but then he would move farther away. This game went on back and forth for about an hour. I tried a lot of different calls—excited calling, soft calling, no calling—but I could not get the gobbler to show himself. I realized he was not in the food plot but in the woods beside it. I decided to make a move on him, but first I wanted to call again to check his location.
I made a few yelps. All of a sudden, I felt something grab my head with great force, snapping my head and upper body forward. For an instant, I thought someone had snuck up behind me putting their hands over my ears—playing a trick on me. Then, I felt shaking vibration as I reached my hands up toward my face, dropping my call.
Off my shoulders jumped a bobcat! He landed about 15 feet from me, paused for a split second, jumped again and was gone. I had been jumped from behind by a bobcat. I was stunned. He was gone so quickly, it seemed surreal.
Immediately, once my breathing was under control, I checked my face and head for any injury. Sure enough, I had blood along the side of my nose. Was it a scratch or a bite? I texted my friend and our club president to let him know what had happened. He could not believe it and offered to meet me at camp. I said no, it appeared to be “just a scratch,” and my bleeding was under control. I walked back to my ATV where I had my first aid kit and cleaned the cut by my nose with an alcohol pad. My adrenaline was flowing, and I decided to return to the woods to call for the gobbler again. I never heard him again, but I did find that I was very aware of every sound in the woods. The bobcat had been a silent predator looking for the turkey I was trying to be, and I had not been able to hear him before the attack.
Once back at the camp, I told my story, which was verified by the dried blood on my face for the disbelievers. One friend noticed that I also had a cut on my neck, which I had not even known was there. I decided it was time to go to the hospital, as I knew it had been awhile since I had my last tetanus shot. I headed into Warm Springs Medical Center.
I was seen in the emergency room. The doctor cleaned the cuts, and I received a tetanus shot. She then recommended rabies vaccine at a location close to my home. I was called by a rabies specialist from the DNR, who also recommended I seek further medical care. I learned rabies can be contracted not only by a bite but by a scratch. When the bobcat licks his paws, the virus could then be transmitted from his nails. There was not really an option, so this is what I did.
I started on my series of rabies shots, beginning with two rather painful shots at my first visit at the emergency room near my home. I then returned once a week for the next four weeks to complete my rabies vaccine. The rabies vaccine shots did not make me feel too well, and my turkey hunting season was over for the year. A bit of good news—I did learn that I was now protected for the next three years.
I also learned a lesson, that turkey hunting carries hidden dangers. Bobcats are silent predators that we all need to be aware of when acting like one of their favorite meals. The bobcat population in Georgia is increasing in some areas. Thankfully, my bobcat let go once he realized I was not his intended meal. I was very blessed to escape my encounter with minor injuries. When I hunt now, I appreciate the beauty of nature, but I do not forget the dangers that are hidden as well.