Ask Rufus: Turkey hunting and the settlement of Columbus 

March 5, 2011 7:32:00 PM



Turkey season will soon open, and hunters wearing the latest camo while carrying their favorite turkey calls will venture into the woods. The tradition of turkey hunting in the Tombigbee Valley goes back to the early Native Americans who were here even before the Historic Period Choctaws and Chickasaws. Artifacts frequently found at prehistoric Indian camp sites include turkey bones. 


Among southeastern Indians, turkeys were more than just a food and feather source. The turkey was often associated with warriors and warfare. Gobbler spurs were used as arrow points and an imitation of a turkey gobble was even used as a war cry. 


Gideon Lincecum moved from Georgia to Tuscaloosa in 1816 and then to what became Columbus in 1818. He moved to Texas during the 1840s. He enjoyed turkey hunting and often wrote about his hunts in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. 


Lincecum often used the leaf of the wild peach for a turkey call. In describing one hunt he stated; "I had the leaf of a wild peach, a most excellent leaf to yelp with, and I had been admiring how well I had been speaking Turkey with it." He also found that the leaf of the elder was good for making a soft yelp.  


Lincecum''s favorite hunting ground was "White Slue" which is now the south part of the Island across from Columbus. He described how in the slough''s cane breaks and cypress swamp could be found more game including turkeys, "than at any place I ever lived." 


It was in 1818 that Lincecum made a camp on the banks of the Tombigbee River near the present site of the Columbus Marina. At sunset on his first night on the Tombigbee, he heard "heavy turkeys flying up to roost a little distance out." It appeared to be at least forty turkeys alighting in the trees so Lincecum was out at daybreak hunting them. Arriving at the tree in darkness he sat down against the side of a tree and waited for daylight.  


At first light he saw a huge turkey "on a low limb, not more than thirty feet from the ground." Lincecum shot the large turkey and carried it back to his camp. He stated that; "his weight when dressed was twenty-nine and a half pounds." Before the year was gone he observed many other turkey just as large. 


The next day Lincecum''s wife said to him that: "You have found the right place for us to stop at ... who could look at this fat game, so easily obtained, this beautiful river with its handsome dry bluff and gushing spring water and think otherwise." Thus is the relationship between turkey hunting and the settlement of Columbus. 


Lincecum''s hunting accounts can be found in Adventures of a Frontier Naturalist by Lincecum and Phillips, Texas A&M Press, 1994. 


Rufus Ward is a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to him at [email protected]