With memories of past turkey hunts still fresh in my mind, is it any wonder why I crave for turkey season? Springtime is one of my most memorable times of year. This spring, is full of promise and adventure, since I’ll be on a spring turkey hunt with my brother Todd and my nephew Preston .
In my mind of dreams, I picture the forest floor dotted with May apple and adders tongue, a few spring beauty flowers as well. The greens of spring poking up in clusters, long forgotten and very much admired this day. The sun should be casting long shadows on the trunks of the 200 year old oaks.
Robins and chickadees sing of the coming day. Far off, thunderous gobbles booming in the early light of day, tell us all we are in the right spot. To me some 30 yards ahead is my brother and his son. The bond of brothers, carried again to the next generation of hunters is taking place before my eyes.
No longer do I see the kid, instead I see a young man full of determination, and I see a hunter. I wonder what his father, my brother, must feel or think this very moment. What thoughts must the son have?
I hit the wooden box call, hoping each fraction of inch produces the sound of a hen turkey. The call is the same one I used to kill my very first bird. A tradition is in the works. Again, thunder erupts, this time much closer. I hope it is one of the long beards I have seen while scouting earlier in the year.
I hold my breath again straining all the wood sense I can muster to listen for any tell tale sign. Is that shuffle in the leaves of Fox squirrels, Deer? Nervously I hold the box call ever so gentle, and call again. This time the Tom sounds even closer, but from where I sit I can’t tell.
I glance to the hunters and see them sitting tense. Somehow I know they have witnessed movement. The push button call now fills my hand; a gentle purr causes the Tom to sound off at what seems, just feet away. The woods now belong to me. I control what happens next, or so I think.
A finger moves, one of the hunters, now thinks they control the destiny of the woods and the incoming bird. The young hunters barrel waves every so lightly. I sit so still, I can feel the massive trunk of the oak sway against my back in the breeze. For an instant the woods is perfect, more perfect than any picture or painting could ever portray.
I am here now only as a witness. To try and tell the story and give justice to it all is beyond my means. In silence I watch the master of the woods approach the hunters. I see his big eye, scrutinizing every inch of his forest in search of the make believe hen. He stands nearly four feet tall, bald headed and ugly to some, I find him to look extremely royal. The green and black colors shine in the light. Even from where I sit I can see his scaled legs sporting sizable spurs.
As he turns toward us all, I glimpse a beard the size of a paintbrush. Then I hear another thunderous roar of sorts, this one echoing now down the river plain I know so well. I sit frozen in awe as two hunters rise up from the forest floor, joyous sounds of “yes” “cool” “all right”. I don’t remember a happier time, yet I savor the thought of more.
More seasons together more time in the woods, more of living and hunting together. This is after all, what men of all ages need to do in our house. We are hunters, and today we hunt.
The walk out is nearly a half mile to the big field, another quarter mile from there is the road. The young hunter tired from the early day and the weight of the wary old bird now voices his need to stop and rest. So we do. The resting spot is an old logging trail perhaps 50 years since it was last used. Now it barely looks to be a foot path.
I once found a strand of flat “Bobbed wire” here some 25 years past. This place has history, a certain feel about it. I rest here from time to time while hunting other game, as it just seems to be made for such an occasion. Today it seems even more special. Now, we take time to talk out loud about the hunt.
The things the young hunter says remind me of my own first bird. I try to answer all of his questions but sometimes I can only offer “I don’t know”. He responds in a manner that tells me he will do his best to answer those things which I do not know. It may take him years but the young hunter is now on a mission, his own sojourn of sorts. It will take him many years to seek out what he longs to know, and perhaps he will never answer all of the questions about the woods and turkey. I hope his search is as great as mine has been. Somehow I know he’ll do just fine.
I’m guessing the beard is a solid 10 inches long maybe more. The spurs are worn on one side more than the other. Perhaps the old bird was a south paw, who knows.
I pick another piece of deer jerky out of my pack, this time I offer my brother and his son a helping, they oblige me. Funny now, as they passed on it earlier, they are hunters this moment.
I watch the trail of ants cross the bare ground nearby. The father and son are sprawled out on the forest floor soaking in the sunshine and sights.
Now and then I get a “what kind of bird made that call?”. And “what kind of tree is that?” along with the re-telling of the kill that happened less than an hour ago. Then I see the turkey sign the ants have guided me to; Tracks that seem fresh. You can see they are dry and the morning dew is missing from them. Without a word, I dig out a hen decoy from my pack and place it up the trail some 60 feet.
Right on the edge she sits looking as if she’ll disappear into the woods with one more step. Now the hunters ask “what’s up”? I tell my brother to take a seat up near that blow down so he faces to the north. With that, I ask my nephew to follow me. “We’ll give it a half hour or so” I say.
So we move down the trail where we came from, just enough so we can see my brother, who waits for us to call in “his” tom turkey. I pass the push button call to his son and tell him call lightly and only when he feels the push of my elbow in his ribs. I hit the box call long and sweet. The woods seem empty, again I repeat the chorus.
Was that a turkey? I ask. Yeah says the young hunter, the bird is down the trail I think, but not in front, it called from behind us, he says.
“Behind us?” I think. I whisper for him to use the push button call lightly, and he does, just right. Behind us is the call of a tom turkey, bad news as the set up is not right for us. Oh well, I guess we’ll sit it out and hope, I think to my self. And so we do. To my surprise the tom advances and I whisper not to call again ever.
I remember seeing my nephews eyes grow bigger, even through the camo netting that covered his face, and I could tell he was looking at something beyond anything he had seen before. My eyes moved straining to see what captured my companion’s eyes. I scoured the woods in search of what he saw.
Then it hit me, the Tom was a mere 10 feet from us heading right down the tail toward us and the decoy. I could feel the young hunter shake as he watched the giant birds walk right past us. Then as if on queue, the bird went into full strut, still out of sight from the father. I prayed it would continue to the decoy.
The big bird continued to walk down the trail. With a single well placed shot, the son was now witness to the hunt his father had been blessed with. Feathers still floated in the spring air as both the father and son gave high fives to each other.
How gifted are we all today, I sat thinking. As I gathered my gear for the walk out, I noticed the trail of ants again. This time they were working in teams, carrying their own bounty of the morning, parts of a fat cricket, Ten times their own size, a feast no doubt. We all eat well today and with hope, the young hunter will eat well for a lifetime.