Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
I push my back up against the rough bark of an old shagbark and settle in, kicking the leaf litter out from under my feet. The sun is just cracking the horizon with streaks of creamy orange and pink, a prettier picture has never been painted.
The air is still cool and thin at this early hour. Songbirds are beginning to wake and soon the woods will come to life.
Slowly, the murky, morning light will give way to bright greens as the trees and shrubs have burst to life over the past few days.
It’s at this in between time, not quite dawn, not quite daylight that I enjoy the most. A rustling of leaves and a shadowy raccoon scamps along heading for his den after a night of carousing. The bandit is oblivious to my presence as he crosses a downed log and disappears into the foliage.
The familiar barred owls call back and forth across the ridge saying their goodbyes until they come back out at night. Crows begin to caw and gather. The gang of birds grows louder and triggers a hammering gobble from a roosted turkey across the hillside, bringing a smile to my face.
That’s what I’ve been waiting for….
Soon, the season will be in full swing and if all goes as planned, Tom turkey will be introduced to the business end of one of my shafts.
A few more birds fire off gobbles at each other heralding the coming day. A loud cackle and the flapping of wings signals the turkeys are jumping from their trees and hitting the ground.
“Yep, yep, yep, yep”…a lone hen calls as she walks the ridge line across from my spot. She weaves in and out of the undergrowth making her way towards the neighboring field looking for bugs and seeds for breakfast. The drab old girl slips out of sight into the high grass, but not before a Jake bird spots her. The young male quickly falls in line behind her and follows her into the open looking for love.
More birds are on the ground and the big boys continue to gobble for a few more minutes, but then they go silent – Toms have a way of doing that, teasing you with a thundering gobble only to shut up seconds later. This is a scouting mission,the season opener just days away but even now, I’m wishing our Hoosier turkey season was weeks earlier when the boys aren’t “henned” up with the gals and are still a little more vocal.
The crunching of leaves over the hill and the unmistakable sounds of a turkey scratching lets me know he’s there. Just over the rise, but blocked from view.
I can hear the steady marching of the bird as he walks away from me to parts unknown. I pick a tick from my pant leg and hop to my feet and take a long look around. The woods are fully alive and awake: Robins chirping and blue jays calling and annoying all of their feathered neighbors. A gray squirrel nervously makes his way down the trunk of a tree, so close I can hear his claws dig into the bark.
I take in one last deep breath of the spring time woods and smell that mix of sweet with the flowering of trees and shrubs and the deep, damp earthy smell that only comes from an Indiana hardwoods. I slip out of my hiding spot, trying not to give myself away to the birds and hope that in a few days, our paths will cross and at the end of my arrow…
– David Hewitt