Bo pawed at my right hand, and I told him for about the 10th time not to do that. He somehow developed this habit while riding in the truck with me. He sits in the passenger seat but moves to the middle console and tries to grab at my right hand while I am driving.
It could be he does this trying to get attention and be petted, but I think he just wants to drive the truck.
He is a big pointer/setter cross, and his brown coat is the color of a chocolate Labrador retriever. People ask all the time if he is a Lab. I usually just smile and say, "No, his ears are so long that, if anything, he could be a Plott bear hound."
We make our way over the mountain and into the next valley. I pass the two churches and start up the hill that would take us to our mother state, Virginia. Some say the formation of West Virginia during the Civil War was and still is illegal. I'm not sure about all this, but we have been around since 1863, and I guess we will survive a while longer. I start to say something to Bo about it, but I look over and he is scanning the woods along the U.S. Forest Service road that will take us deep into a fairly blank place on the map. That was our plan all along.
The road into Wilson Creek and the accompanying several hundred (or thousand) acres makes for one of those places on a map that you look at while thinking (or dreaming) of hunting there, and you say to yourself "Hmmm, what is this?" I am a terrible addict of searching for new places, poring over maps and finding these out of the way places, studying the topography and then saying, "This has got to be IT!"
DISCLAIMER! These new havens, searched out in the dead of night at camp when you may be a little fuzzy from needing sleep, are almost never the Shangri-La of easy walking and cooperative turkeys that you seek. And yes, that fact is one of Case's Theorems of the Outdoor World — it's No. 17.6.
No matter. You soon realize the search for a new place quickly becomes as important as your search for turkeys, deer, squirrels or whatever carbon-based organism you are pursuing that day.
When we finally get to the end of the road where we will depart, Bo is just about ready to implode. He must get out of this truck and run through the hardwoods right now! I prolong his agony by checking his Garmin locator collar for the third time, then I swing open the door on the old truck and he is gone.
Those unfamiliar with our routine would think you will never see him again as he disappears down the lonely old road past the Forest Service gate. In truth, he will return soon, flying down the path toward me with a look on his face that says "Hey! What the heck is taking so long?"
I grab the vest, check to make sure I have a few shells — which I know I will probably not need — and follow Bo down the battered trail. Into another adventure, maybe into another dimension. I know it is entirely too warm a day to be taking off on the hike this could turn into, but I just go. The pictures in my mind from the maps draw me deeper into the woods in hopes it will look like I imagined, even though it almost never does.
As usual, the getting there is harder than I expected. I am deep into the blank spot sooner than I expected. The old road, now just a trail really, is grown up in places with saplings, and the fallen trees become a bigger problem to get around. None of that was on the map. I have seen a couple places in the leaves that is maybe some old turkey scratching. This turkey sign is vague and not much to go on, and I figure it is likely one lone gobbler. With fall sliding into winter, being alone in this spot on the map probably doesn't bother him at all.
Farther down the trail, I notice Bo has been gone for several minutes. Before I can grab the Garmin and check on his location, I hear him start barking 200 yards up the hill. I strain my eyes and finally see a turkey flying down the hill, wings set, out of gun range. Although he is beyond the reach of the shotgun, I can see the beard of an old gobbler hanging. I watch him soar away and think about the futility of trying to call up one lone turkey.
By the time we claw our way out of this chunk of real estate, it is evening and I am glad to see the truck. Bo settles into the passenger seat and seems less interested in distracting me while I drive. I maybe even hear a whiffling snore.
I drive through the gathering dusk and think about a place I need to look at on the map this evening.
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.