He felt different. More energetic, more alive. He bred with female after
female in his flock without tiring. He stayed awake through the night.
He feared no predator.
Then a turkey hunter shot him.
The setting sun overlooked a crisp, clear evening in early November.
South of Bartonville, Illinois, a farmer had leased his wood lot to two
turkey hunters. Big and burly in their bulky camouflaged outfits, they
had just bagged one.
"Good shot, Pete!"
"He's a big 'un!"
Pete and Bob walked up to the tom turkey, bleeding on the cold ground.
The rest of the flock had scattered into the woods. He had exceptionally
good plumage and weighed perhaps twenty pounds. Pete reached down and
picked him up by the neck.
"He weighs at least twenty-five pounds!"
Then the turkey's eyes opened—and gleamed red. He kicked with his
spurs and pecked savagely at Pete's arms and eyes. Dozens of his hens
attacked the men from behind.
He felt different. More energetic, more alive. He had no memory of being
shot, but a certain turkey satisfaction at killing his killers. He also
enjoyed pecking at their dead meat. He had always liked frogs, but this
meat tasted better. He led his flock down the road, in search of more
predators to eat.
* * *
Bill Westcot, the coroner of Midley, Illinois (population 512), had seen
his share of grisly deaths, but this one took the cake. Two hunters
apparently pecked to death by turkeys. How could this be?Wild turkeys
were normally shy and secretive, not even as aggressive as geese. Bill
looked up as a man came in—average height, maybe five nine, medium
build, not fat, not skinny, roundish face, hazel eyes, and brown hair.
He would be hard to remember. But Bill had known him all his life.
Sam Melvin, the reporter for Midley Beacon, dropped in for his daily
chat. Sam and Bill had been friends since elementary school, and they
had both stayed around Midley all their lives. Bill, a short, stocky guy
with blondish hair, had gone off to school and become a coroner.
Sam had stayed in Midley after high school, doing odd jobs, until he got
on with the Midley Beacon. As a reporter and blogger for a small-town
weekly paper,Sam wasn't especially busy, and he liked to socialize.
When he saw what remained of the corpses on the mortuary slabs, Sam
exclaimed, "Gowlurp! Gaawka-urop!" He ran to the bathroom and puked.
After washing out his mouth, he returned, eyes averted.
"Who in the hell were those poor bastards?"
"Peter James and Robert Smithville, according to their drivers' licenses
and their shooting permits."
"They look like someone went at them with a thousand pickaxes."
"Yup. Pretty gruesome, even for me."
"What in the world happened?"
"As far as I can tell, they were pecked to death by a flock of wild
"I've never heard of anything like that!"
"Yeah, that's not really normal turkey behavior."
"Could they be rabid?"
"Turkeys don't get rabid, Sam."
"They don't attack hunters either. Is 'death by wild turkey' what you'll
put on their death certificates?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Well, that's what I'll put as my story headline then. It'll be in
"Make sure when you write it up, people know that 'wild turkey' is a
bird and not liquor."
"How can you joke when you have these poor fellows on the slab over
"It's a job. You get used to it."
* * *
He led his flock in the evenings and mornings across the woods and
fields. They rested during the day. They did not encounter any more
predators. If he'd been human, he would have sighed. They settled for
their normal forage, as well as small amphibians. They met a couple of
other flocks of wild turkeys. He defeated their toms and took their
hens. His flock numbered over a hundred now.
He smelled something on the wind. Turkeys. He headed that way, leading
* * *
Leaning on the gate to his barn, Amos Yoder, owner of Yoder Turkey
Farms, looked over his turkeys with pride. He raised over ten thousand
turkeys, all fed on non-GMO grain that he grew himself. His internet
business was booming. He was even selling turkeys on Amazon!Selling
organically fed turkeys over the internet had led to him buying a
Cadillac and motor home with cash after growing up on the family turkey
farm. All he had to do was keep the turkeys clean and comfortable and
A life of hard physical labor had given him arms thick as a chuck roast.
People always thought of him as taller than he was because of his broad
chest and big head. Most of the time, he took things as they came. In
trouble or opposition, he was an immovable rock.
Behind him he heard the "Gobble! Gobble!" of a turkey. He thought one
had slipped out of the other gate in the barn. Turning around quickly,
his mouth dropped. Over a hundred wild turkeys were running at him!A big
tom with a reddish stain on his breast led the charge. Their bright-red
eyes chilled Amos's blood.
Slipping around the gate to the barn, he grabbed his gun. Aiming
carefully, he shot the tom in the breast. He dropped like a stone. The
remaining turkeys continued in a wave toward the gate, flying up and
bouncing off the heavy mesh used to keep the turkeys in. "Gobble!
Gobble!" they screamed in futility.
Amos smiled smugly. "That'll keep them out."But the tom stood up. He
wobbled a little and led the flockto the other side of the barn.
"I swore I hit him!"Amos put down the .22 long rifle he'd used. In the
office he pulled hisshotgun out of the gun safe. "Let's see how he
handles a shotgun blast!At least I won't miss with this." He ran to the
gate at the other end of the barn. The turkeys flew up, trying to peck
their way through the mesh.
"It's like Hitchcock's The Birds," Amos grumbled. "But they didn't have
a pump-action shotgun in that movie."
He cracked open a door and blasted them. Three or four turkeys exploded
in a spray of blood and feathers. But the rest didn't flee in panic.
They turned as one and charged toward the door. BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
BLAM!As fast as he could pump, Amos fired shell after shell of 00 shot
into them. Over two dozen fell into piles of shredded meat. Then the
first ones he'd blasted stood up. The turkeys' exposed muscle glistened
red with blood, with entrails hanging down and dragging on the
ground—but they hopped and staggered toward him.
He was so dumbfounded—the turkeys actually reached the door.
BLAM!Three more birds turned to turkey burger. Click.Out of ammo. He
tried to slam the door—but the big tom blocked him. He had blood all
over his breast, but he pecked and kicked with his spurs like a demon.
"Ow!"Amos slammed the butt of the shotgun into the turkey with a
satisfying crunch. Three turkeys flew through the open door and landed
on his face. Spurs gouged his cheeks and eyes. He thrashed wildly, but
dozens more piled on. A pile of pecking, kicking, gouging turkeys soon
The mound under the feeding turkeys twitched and was still.
* * *
He felt strong, powerful. He now had many more hens with which to breed.
So he went to it immediately.
The turkeys only had one door ajar into the barn, but as dozens and
hundreds and thousands joined the flock, the weight of them sprung the
door completely open. They found other predators around the barn and
dispatched them. They spotted the grain silos and feasted. They
continued into the woods and fields around the barns, ever expanding
Excerpted from "Zombie Turkeys" by Andy Zach. Copyright © 2016 by Andy Zach. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.