Garden & Gun

July/August 2008

By Chris Dixon

Beau Turner controls two million acres of forest and ranch land.  Thankfully, he’d like to see much of it restored to its natural state.

When I reach his pickup truck at 6:00 a.m. sharp, Beauregard Reed Turner is already fuming.  He’s not mad, just well doused in a sheen pungent deet, and understandably impatient.  In about two and a half hours, the heir to the largest landholding in America will have to run his five-year-old son, Beau Jr., to school near Tallahassee, Florida.  This leaves precious little time to stalk a pair of Eastern gobblers that have eluded him and his father, Ted, for the last couple of years.

I climb into the Tacoma, and Turner hands me camouflage pants, shirt, and hat and a gorgeous turn-of-the century Parker Bros. twin-triggered 12-gauge.  Minutes later, we’re scrambling up a hill with only the barest hint of a moon to guide our way through fire-scarred piney woods.  The wiry forty-year-old marches hard and fast, his turkey calls alternating between a diaphragm call and a vocal owl hoot.  After two sweaty miles, answered only by whip-poor-wills, we come to the top of a long, moderate rise on Avalon Plantation’s eastern fringe across red clay hills that mark the edge of the Florida Panhandle’s hilly Upland zone.  To our south, the tree-blanketed land drops a few hundred feet and remains pancake flat for better than twenty miles to the Gulf of Mexico.  Then, about a quarter mile off, we hear a gobble.

“Bingo,” he whispers.

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