The most amusing thing about this hunt was how many things went wrong. When I woke at 3:30, I could hear the raindrops on the roof and down the gutters. I put on a bathrobe and went outside to actually feel how bad it was. Only slight. I would be drenched and cold by the end of the morning. But the season ends on the 30th, so I had run out of time.
Once at the farm where I hunt, I walked through wet grass in the hayfield that was up to my waist. Damp and chilled already in 43 degrees darkness. A quarter mile later I am in the forest at meadow’s edge, decoy set up. I wait an hour for light and the first gobbles. Nothing, but cold.
After another 30 minutes, I give up, assuming there are no turkeys in this roost where they often spend the night. Just as I put my arrows back in the quiver, I hear the cluck of a tom, already on the ground and looking for a hen. I talk to him for 20 minutes, trying to attract him in my direction. I never see him, but do hear a hen come in toward him swooning and then the quick fluttering and clacking as they mate briefly. More silence.
At last I do give up, stand and walk towards a pasture. Shockingly, after I move 25 yards, two birds fly away. One goes southwest and the other northeast. I head toward the bird to the north, laughing at how they laughed at me. Maybe watched me. Usually by this time, they would have been on the ground for over an hour…at some distance if they were nervous at my presence. Bad enough they didn’t make a sound. So much for all my patience. Maybe the drizzle and cloudiness kept them in the trees so much longer.
Anyway I circle around and never spot the bird to the north, even after creeping slowly past the openings to two pastures. Along the way, I almost step into three coyote scat markings. Continuing to the west, I do see the bird who went south. He is three fields away, at least 200 yards, and making a gobble that is more like a baby gurgling. Subdued and as if he has a berry stuck in his throat. Nothing firm and resonant.
I consider circling around through the forest behind me, so that I can move 100 yards closer to him off to the right. But my instinct orders me to just stay put near where I am. So I get into position on the edge of the forest, next to the second pasture, behind a tree but a foot wide. I cut some bushes in front of me with clippers and wait to see what will happen.
Just then a young scrawny deer darts out to my left, pauses, walks about five yards in front of me and heads along a trail to my right. I thought she would smell me and bolt, but she moves easily, and neither starts nor stops. Ahhh, the surprises from Mother Nature.
Meanwhile the turkey has continued moving in my direction and cleared a stone wall. He is about 150 yards away.
Next a real surprise. A coyote comes along, following the deer gradually. Again just five yards away. I am waiting for him to sniff my presence. But I am invisible to him too. Maybe the wind is blowing towards me, so that my scent is behind me. At this point I am a tiny bit nervous. I’d rather not have a hungry coyote face -off and have to pull a knife. The hunter might become the hunted.
One time years ago when I was calling toms with the sound of a hen in heat, a coyote stalked me. When I stood up to see what was making the sound on the leaves, I was staring at a coyote three yards away ready to spring. And I had no weapon in hand for defense. We looked in each other’s eyes for what seemed like 10 or 15 seconds. Then he turned and ran off. I didn’t like being so helpless. Though these animals weigh about 40 pounds and look like mangy dogs, I have seen the deer and sheep they have killed with a bite and rip to the throat.
But this time nothing happened. Although I was listening a bit for sounds from behind.
After a few minutes, I made a hen call to the tom walking toward me. He answered with a baby gobble. And then his call was answered by a hen off to my left. It was the second bird who had flown to the northeast.
The tom crossed under the barbed wire and was now about 100 yards away. With binocs, I barely make out his tiny beard (a pony tail that grows out of his chest)—instead of 7 to 9 inches, I later measured it to be just 2.
Then the hen appears below a dip, and over the next 20 minutes, the two turkeys continue to walk toward me. I believe they are heading for the same worn trail the deer and coyote took through the woods and stone wall that is just to my right. Now I must be patient. I don’t want to miss even taking a shot, like I did two hunts ago, when I never even fired in the forest. I also don’t want to wait until he passes by me, so that I can’t possibly hit his chest and have to settle for a few fluffs after my arrow is deflected by the hard shafts of wing feathers. Patience, patience. They do some chris crossing, so I have to keep checking slowly which one is the male (no females allowed during this season). And then I go into the blank and zone described in yesterday’s post…
I can barely believe that I have succeeded, reached my goal. As much as I love the delicious taste of wild turkey, which is nothing like a domestic bird, I have been unwilling for years to take one easily with a shotgun. I have finally bagged one with an arrow.
On the way to the car, I walk to a high hayfield with a spectacular view of a neighboring farm and distant hills. The bobolinks are wearing their tuxedo outfits and flitting around and on top of tall stalks of grass as they breed their young. An adjacent hayfield below me is solid pink with wildflowers. I do feel triumphant and victorious in this quest I created for myself. My diligence and patience have been rewarded.
At home later, I feel the turkey lice crawling on my scalp. Fortunately I learned years ago that they will not stay on humans, and I do not have to worry as if they were ticks. A friend takes some pictures. I pluck feathers, remove the inner organs, and prepare my game for cooking. I will let you know how he tastes…and for those of you who are squeamish, I of course took a shower and washed my hair.