Hunting Handles: They Call Me Chicken Killer

Have a hunting nickname or three? Welcome to the club.

People get their nicknames for different reasons. Some are bestowed before birth, but most are earned due to a habit, trait, or event. All of mine came from the woods. Here are the three I hear the most.

Hunting Handles: They Call Me Chicken Killer

Known Alias No. 1: Hawkeye
As hunters, our best asset is eyesight. To this point in life, I’ve been blessed with 20/10 corrected vision. Naturally, “Hawkeye” was my first in-the-field nickname. But it didn’t come because of my good eyes.

It was turkey season. My father, grandfather, and uncle were waist-deep in wheat, but it kept tickling my chin. We slowly eased across the field toward a gobbling bird 500 or 600 yards away. I was a reasonably new turkey hunter, yet to kill one. Of course, everything looked like a longbeard to me.

We crept closer. The gobbling got louder. We finally reached a small pasture field, and I spotted the outline of a strutting tom facing away from us. “There he is!” I proudly whisper-shouted to the elders of the group, but it was no turkey. The black outline I desperately wanted to be a strutter was actually a baby black Angus, all curled up and fast asleep.

And that’s how I came to be known as “Hawkeye.” No matter how many deer, turkeys, squirrels, or snipes I see first, things never change. It’s never a badge of honor, and I only hunt cattle pastures alone now.

Known Alias No. 2: Elephant Ear
Whether derived from my big ears, or their adeptness at hearing things others often don’t, I’ve been called “Elephant Ear” for years. I generally hear gobbling, spits, drums, clucks, purrs, grunts, bleats, and feet long before my comrades.

I was bestowed this dumb title during another group turkey hunt. Several of us were out chasing spring thunder. I kept hearing a bird in the distance, which was in a direction we usually didn’t hear or see turkeys. It was that void corner of the farm useless for hunting activity — a dead zone.

Despite my persistent urging we should all reset and look in that direction, no one did because no one else heard the bird. After all, what does the dumb kid know? So, I stood up, done a 180, and plopped back down, Remington youth model 20-gauge at the ready. Sure enough, a longbeard popped up 20 minutes later, and I didn’t look quite so stupid anymore.

Really, it’s both a blessing and a curse. If the animal the noises belong to eventually show up or become more audible, I look good. If they don’t, I look like a chump. I’ve heard many a gobbler that those next to me didn’t. And I’ve been called a liar more times than Gatsby himself because of it.

Known Alias No. 3: Chicken Killer
My third and most notable hunting handle is the oldest. It all started on a youth upland bird hunt sponsored by Quail and Pheasants Forever. Of course, while Kentucky does have native quail, pheasants can’t survive here, and wild quail populations are minimal at best.

As a result, the sponsoring group stocked a couple of farms with chukar, pheasants, and quail to give young lads like me a chance to shoot one out of the sky. I think I was more excited about that hunt than many big game pursuits I’ve been a part of.

My father and grandfather brought me to the event, and it was a spectacle. Men in green jeans. Bird dogs and handlers were stationed everywhere. Kids running all over the place. It was my natural habitat.

Then, I saw him, my great uncle, Robert. He pranks, teases, and tricks with the best of them, and if you spend any time at all around him, best be on your game, or you’ll live to regret it.

Naturally, he was helping to run the event. I watched as he went out and released several roosters and hens of each species of upland birds. Upon return, he looked at me and said, “If you don’t kill a rooster, you ain’t a man,” and walked off with a sly grin on his face.

That’s when I started sweating. Surely, his antics paired with the competitive nature between us 10-year-old boys wagering how many birds we’d get didn’t play a part. Regardless, I locked in and focused. No way I wasn’t coming back without a rooster.

Since there were more youth hunters present than guides and dogs, we went out in rotations. I drew group No. 2, and it didn’t help my anxiety when the first band of boys strutted back to base with a pile of dead birds.

Five minutes later, after the dogs had a drink, a rest, and a roll in the grass, it was my turn. The first trip out produced a miss on a big, fat, chuckling rooster. Uncle Robert gave me a better-get-them-next-time look upon return. That kicked my pride, but I was too stubborn to give in. I’d get them during the next rotation.

The second time out produced yet another disappointment. I cheeked down on the stock, knocked down a quail and a rooster pheasant, but the dogs never found them in the thick CRP. Must’ve winged them. I started to worry, as we only got three trips out. I didn’t even look at Robert on the way back in.

My third and final turn escalated quickly. Right out of the gate, two pointers flushed a pheasant pair. The wily rooster shot skyward and soared hard right. The hen flew directly away. I took the easier of the two shots; she folded in a cloud of feathers.

I was proud of that hen, and I showed it to everyone, but Robert was waiting by the water cooler when I got back. He took one look at it, glanced at me, and said, “Congrats … Chicken Killer. Where’s the rooster?”

And thus, Chicken Killer is my name.

Last summer, I mailed him a copy of Monster Bucks 27 — which had my dead buck on the back cover — and a note that said, “Call me Chicken Killer now.” I had a slight ray of hope that might end the smack talk.

But he still calls me Chicken Killer.

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