AUTHOR'S NOTE: I thought you might want to hear how it's going for me this spring. Back when I started writing, I made a promise to the readers to keep it "real," to show things as they really are. Well, this is turkey hunting in the real world.
I knew what he was going to do 10 minutes before he got there. I had been playing the old chess game with this turkey for more than two hours and never really expected things to go my way. Turkey hunters know this: Sometimes a gobbler will come in fairly quickly to your calls, and sometimes he acts like the errant brother-in-law who owes you money. He will talk to you occasionally, but you will never see him.
This gobbler started out fairly noisy on the roost, gobbling every few minutes, but I think it was all an act to get my hopes up. As our relationship progressed into the morning, he seemed to get more distant, like he wasn't going to commit to anything. He moved, I moved, I moved again, and then he went silent for 30 minutes (which seemed like three hours), only to show up again closer to me with a lusty gobble. All this was for nought, of course, as he then proceeded to walk away gobbling just enough to let me know he was saying adios.
I leaned back against what was probably my sixth tree for the morning, grinding my teeth and quietly cursing this turkey and all of his kin scattered on the earth. Trying to snap out of that mindset, I figured I would give him the ol' silent treatment. He wants to act this way, then fine — hit the road, Jack! Turkey hunters know this trick, too: If I ignore him and don't call, his ego and want of female companionship may bring him right back to me where he can be decently shot. That is how it is supposed to go, and how else am I going to get any fried turkey breast?
As you may suspect, that didn't really pan out, and now we get to the part of the story where I began this tale. The turkey was below me now, gobbling occasionally and acting like he might actually show himself. Like I said earlier, I figured what he would do. Studying the terrain below me in his direction, there was a large blowdown where a huge pine tree had fallen and brought a couple of smaller trees with it. This created a big obstacle on the hillside that this stubborn old gobbler could hide behind. And he did. (Sometimes I really hate turkeys.)
The obstinate old miscreant came up the hill, positioned behind the blowdown and stayed there as if anchored in stone. He was well within range, and in fact so close I could hear the rattle each time he gobbled, but I absolutely could not see him. This seemed to go on for no more than a week or two. I didn't want to call — he knew exactly where the hen was — but later when I did give a very soft yelp, he would shake the trees with a thunderous gobble.
I was pinned down, I could not move, all I could do was wait it out. Experienced turkey hunters out there have no doubt been in this fix. If the obstacle wasn't there, the gobbler may have walked up and met his maker. Now as the minutes grinded by, I began to get that old familiar feeling that as close as he was I was never going to see this turkey. (Note to self: Why is it you like turkey hunting again?)
Well, this went on for what seemed like a couple of ice ages. I was sitting in the usual cramped, uncomfortable position that turkeys put you in, and various muscles were screaming for relief. Like always, several rocks and tree roots found their way to where I was sitting to make things even better (this is really the essence of turkey hunting). When the turkey went silent for several minutes, I knew he had done what I feared all along. He walked away, downhill and behind the blowdown where I could not see him.
To paraphrase the Doc Holliday line from "Tombstone": "And he walked out of my life forever."
I have a friend in North Carolina by the name of Hunter Elliott. Hunter is a gun writer and hosts the website rangehot.com, and he does timely and insightful reviews on different firearms and gun-related gear. Back when we first met, Hunter and I agreed that when reviewing guns and talking to our readers in general, we should keep it "real" — that is, speak the truth, say what is really on your mind and let all the chips fall where they may
So I thought those of you who follow my little adventures should know this is turkey hunting. It is not all bluebird mornings, turkeys that gobble 200 times on the limb and then walk you up to you begging to be shot. Saying that all turkey hunting is like that and we always bring home a big fat gobbler just would not be real.
Turkey hunting is hard sometimes. (And I wouldn't have it any other way.)
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.