Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Turkey II

Hunting with your mentor is always a big deal. Kind of like driving with your dad in the passenger seat, but more important somehow. Not only did Josh Winchell introduce me to waterfowl hunting, he also introduced me to turkey hunting, and has regaled me more than once with stories of killing a whopper his first time out. I always try to be like my mentor as best I can, but, as you may have heard elsewhere, until this year, Spring turkeys have eluded me.

Josh came to visit for a weekend hunt recently. Saturday and Sunday only. I scouted quite a bit in advance of his trip, and also let certain favorite turkey hangouts in my domain “rest” until my mentor’s arrival. Unfortunately, we blanked on Saturday, but had a lot of excitement to keep things interesting. We had three hens walk in to uswithin the first hour and had a gobbler flirting with Josh from down in a gully, but we couldn't get him to cross the creek and come up to us.

We finally moved out of that spot because it was so windy. Closed in on another bird at the back of my place. No go.

Tried crossing the creek to find the gobbler Josh and I had entertained earlier...I managed to track/guess him and his harem to the right spot...we walked up a trail out of the gulley into the neighboring field and there they were about 150 yards away. They saw us briefly and got nervous but didn't spook. We got into position in the hedgerow and called aggressively to be heard over the wind. They came a-runnin', but then, just our luck, the neighboring farmer started hauling across the field and blew our chance.

By this time it was near noon and we were through. Same evening, we heard gobbling where we saw those birds, just into the woods. We walked over and had one gobbler roosted. We "put him to bed" and made plans for the Sunday AM hunt.

Next morning, the gobbler was roosted in a tree about half way down the steep bank of the gulley, a tree that had a view of the wide trail that crosses the creek. I had observed turkeys fly down from trees like that on to the trail, and then walk up and out of the gulley on the trail. I really wanted Josh to get a bird at my farm, so I put him in what I thought would be the best spot down on that trail an hour before first light. I took up a position up on the edge of the field, in case the gobbler snuck by Josh somehow.

We waited. It got lighter. We heard amazing songbirds. It rained slightly. The sky was dark and heavy. We heard loons flying over head doing their tremolo thing. I wondered how Josh was faring down in the gully. I picked a crappy tree to lean against and my ass hurt. I looked at my had been an hour and we had heard no turkeys. At that moment, the gobbler sounded off. I love that feeling...being startled by what you are expecting. Only in hunting do you get that, and fly-fishing, which is a kind ofhunting to me.

After his gobble, I thought "Sweet, Josh is set." Then, the bird flapped a few times, and flew hard off of the tree, breaking a few branches. He careened straight into the middle of the field I was watching. Out of range, how perplexing...he wasn't supposed to do that. And then he sprinted to the corner of the field a few hundred yards away and disappeared into the woods. DAMN!

I sat for a while, predictably crestfallen. I heard Josh calling down in the gully, trying all different hen calls. I fought jealousy over his superior calling. “Good for him,” I thought. “Maybe he has another bird.” But then the calling stopped. Another 30 minutes passed, and I heard no more gobbling. The big boy had gobbled one time and basically fled the scene. I wondered if he somehow had “made us,” knew we were there, escaped a threat.

My ass really started to hurt, so I decided to get up and out of there. But wait, my rule for the year was, before leaving a set up, call super aggressively and wait 10 more minutes. Then pack up and go. So, I went hen-call berserk for about three minutes straight. It started to rain lightly again. I was feeling quite tortured by the little tree I had chosen, and was literally counting the minutes. 3-2-1... That's it- outta here.

I shifted my legs, set my gun down, put calls on my bag, raised up to stand---FREEZE---two candy-apple red heads at 50 yards, eyeballing me hard, just to my left. I had two hen decoys in the shorter grass and I was ten yards into the woods. I am pretty sure I said it out loud, with certain disgust..."Oh my God, I am SO f#@%-ing busted." But what the heck. I eased back down, back to my sapling, slowly reached for my slate call, and putted a few times, then a coupla purrs. They liked that...perhaps my little break-dancing in the woods routine was seen by them as more hens moving around. They came charging right in. I couldn't believe it. In mere seconds they were at ten yards, before I could put the call down and get the gun up.

Problem was, there was two of them and they were practically glued together. Any shot I took with the ten gauge would kill them both. I had been in this situation before and never ended up shooting, much to my good friend Eric’s great dismay. But that is a story for another day. These birds were definitely jakes, but one had a nicer beard and tail. They strutted around, seeming connected to one another like Siamese-twins. It was really something having them strut so close, oblivious to me, focused on the hen decoys and reveling in their good fortune, that the big boy gobbler wasn't rushing in to thump them for hitting on his babes.

I watched this for a bit, debating my next move. Do I want to kill another turkey, a jake? Hell yes. If I shoot will I screw Josh up on the bird of a life time? No, he’d say take the shot if you have it...bird in hand, all that. Can I get the gun up quickly enough to get the job done? Well, at this range, even at a run, they'll be in range if I am smooth about it. Will they separate? Hope goes. Up went the gun. Their eyes got huge, and they jumped. One went running to the left into the woods. He's out of the game, but the other one is heading into the open, looping, from left to right...he's in Miss. Swing Got him. Paced it off at just a shade over fifty yards. 10 gauge 3.5's, number 2 Heavy-Shot.

Josh came out of the gulley. "Get him?" I pointed to my feet, under which was a turkey head. "Not the big boy...a jake" I said, feeling mixed regret that I got a bird and Josh didn’t, but proud that I got one in the company of my mentor. He said, "Nice" and shook my hand, after which we stood in a big green field, early in the morning, the air saturated with moisture, and reconstructed the kill. Shortly after, it started to pour. We walked back to the farm house, hung the bird, and got some coffee and breakfast. We did get out later, but all was quiet after the heavy rain. Thus ended the Winchell visit and my 06 turkey season. Though Josh didn't get a turkey, we had a really good time. And of course, being the wise Sensei that Josh is, I am sure from his standpoint it worked out according to the Way of Things.


Jim Tantillo said...

all I have to say is that there's a little too much distancing of oneself from the multiflora rose bush and the big dog eat wolf whatever oak tree...
How many different ways can you say the tree was crappy? apparently only one way, but multiple times:

"I picked a crappy tree to lean against and my ass hurt.... I love that feeling"


"I sat for a while, predictably crestfallen.... My ass really started to hurt, so I decided to get up and out of there...."


"I was feeling quite tortured by the little tree I had chosen, and was literally counting the minutes....But what the heck. I eased back down, back to my sapling."

alright already, I got it, the tree sucked. :-)

hey, kidding aside, another great writeup. I'll leave it to Eric to editorialize about the age of your kill. :-)

congrats. Josh, any words from you? sorry I missed you that weekend.

KGT said...

Typical academic contextualization and citation issues here...but thanks anyway.


KGT said...

Did I mention that I picked a crappy tree to sit agaianst in that story? Cause if I didn't, I should have. Man that tree was crappy. My back still hurts from that crappy tree.

Ernie said...

At least that crappy tree wasn't a crabbie crab apple otherwise you would also have thorns up your ass. Another great rendition of literary talent, we may have to award yet a second plaque for the double black, or better yet to be hung from the,what did you call it, oh yes the crappy tree. Congrats on the second kill of the spring season. Glad I got to visit with Josh around the campfire while he was here. Another side bar while I'm on the subject of campfires. It is finaly official that you have a new and much more permanant family in the area as Carol and I closed on the property yesterday. There will be many more exploits to tell about in the future that I hope to be a part of. Thanks for another great story!

Jim Tantillo said...

omigod, I just read Keith's second turkey jinx post with my rose/homo-erotic colored glasses on and was laughing pretty good. "I picked a crappy tree to lean against and my ass hurt.... I love that feeling." I am stunned, simply stunned.

academic contextualization and citation issues, bah. Cagey Boy, I'll have you know that I am a trained professional.


Jim Tantillo said...

p.s., Ernie, congrats on the closing!

Ernie said...

Thanks JT! Now when visiting the upper regions of Cayuga Lake there will be no need to hurry home from the campfire as ther will be multiple places to spend the evening, that is as long as Keith doesn't take too much offence to your busting on his crappy dialect.

Jim Tantillo said...

hey, how bad could it have hurt--it was a crappy sapling fer cryin' out loud, sheesh ferfrigginchrissakes as the vicar would say.

"I eased back down, back to my sapling."

I mean, we're not talking a lodgepole pine here . . . .

KGT said...

Upon further reflection of the comments of my Freudian fowl-hunting friend, I feel its important to remind that sometimes, a sappling is just a sappling, like a cigar is just a cigar.

Yeah, I know, there is a long history of putting on the rose-tinted glasses, going back before my time, before reddening maples, etc. But for the love of God,Jim, you're scaring people.