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Turkey outing with dad couldn't have been better


BELDING -- At 4:30 a.m., I found myself wandering around Meijer's looking for chalk.

I needed some chalk for my turkey call. I knew that in advance, of course, but my father (henceforth, Frank) assured me he had a chunk of chalk in his box call, so I didn't bother with it. But when we rolled out of bed that morning, Frank suddenly discovered he'd left his call at home.


checked out the sporting goods department and then toys and was about to give up when I found a sales associate stocking shelves in housewares. I told her I needed chalk.

"Blackboard chalk or sidewalk chalk?"

"Doesn't matter."

"That would be in stationary."

So I went over to stationary and found both kinds.

That adventure put us about 15 minutes behind optimal arrival time in the woods. There was a stiff wind blowing and my owl hoots went unanswered.

I stationed Frank against a tree just a few yards off a clover field, put out a decoy, called once (no answer) then took off, making my way past places where I'd found roosting birds in other years, calling, but getting nothing in response.

When I got back to Frank, sunrise was threatening and, despite his camouflage coveralls, he was sticking out like a Cadillac at a Kia convention. I quickly gathered up some fallen limbs and built a make-shift blind -- just enough to break up his outline -- found a comfy spot against a tree 10 yards away and let out a series of yelps. Ten minutes later, I followed with a soft yelp, purred a little bit, then sat back.

And what do you know, out of the north, here they came, four of them -- three jakes and an older tom -- silent but determined, with all eyes fixed on the faux hen. I slowly turned my head toward my dad -- he looked to me as though he was nodding off -- and said quietly, "Frank, from my left."

Frank started craning around to get a look, so, through clenched teeth, I said sternly, "Don't move." (Later, when we were recounting the morning's events to the Woman I Live With, she said: "What, did you think if the turkeys didn't see your lips move they wouldn't hear you?")

When the turkeys arrived in a spot that featured a leafy shrub between their position and mine, I raised my shotgun and got ready, figuring I'd take one after Frank shot.

But just short of the decoy, the turkeys smelled a rat and reversed field. I hissed "Take him," to my dad and as the birds began to pick up steam, I picked out the lead jake and rolled him over. (After three decades of turkey hunting, I've decided I'd rather kill a young tender one than a shoe-leather tough trophy.)

Frank shot a second later. One of the birds took wing, the other just took off on a sprint and disappeared in the brush.

I bounced up.

"Did ya miss?"

"I guess."

As I walked out to pick up my bird, I first heard, then saw, commotion in the brush. I ran over and chased down (no small feat, given the cover) a broken-winged turkey. Frank hadn't missed. I wrung his neck, carried him back out to the clover field and dropped him next to mine.

We compared birds, both of them beautiful. Frank had killed the bigger one. I'd killed the kind I'd wanted. We tagged them. I looked at my watch. It was 6:30.

Two hours after wondering why the sales gal wanted to know if I'd wanted blackboard chalk or sidewalk chalk, when they were right next to each other on the shelf, it was mission accomplished.

Could it have possibly been any better?

Only if we'd had another tag left, so we could do it again tomorrow.
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