Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
It’s 6:15 a.m., that gray time between daylight and dark.
Unusually cold for late April as I watch my breath leave my mouth and float upwards. Damp and cool, I shake off the chill with a shiver and tuck back into the brush and wait.
A barred owl lets loose with its call and, like clock work, in 3…2…1…
A chorus of gobbling Tom turkeys fire off the next ridge over from my hiding spot. For nearly the next 45 minutes, the Toms gobble their fool heads off while perched on their roosts announcing to all the world that they are here. I slink back into my blind a little deeper with a grin as the hope and anticipation of a big, old Tom strutting into view fills my thoughts.
The sun begins to burn through the woods and the shadows across the fallow field in front of me shrink, smaller and smaller. I yelp and purr with my reliable old call and immediately, a couple of Toms answer back with a hammering gobble. My heart beat races, my breathing quickens with each call the old birds make.
Three birds pound out a call, by the sounds of it, less than a couple hundreds yards to my East. I eek out a few seductive hen sounds and the boys answer again, only this time closer…
“Purr, purr, purr” from my plunger call.
The raspy gobble from a Jake answers back. Constantly, I do my best “hen” talk and the group of bachelors answer looking for love. From the sounds of their calls, the old boys and a couple of youngsters are pacing the ridge top, debating whether or not to enter the field.
Almost 8 o’clock and the birds still haven’t showed. All is quiet now except for the soft yelping of a hen that had gotten between myself and the intended prey. My pathetic calls were no match for the real thing and the old gal had dragged my Toms off with her. I lean back against the base of the Ash tree and wait and watch and enjoy the spring time woods.
The redbuds are slowly fading into the green of the trees and a few of the white flowers from the dogwoods are still clinging onto the branches. By this time next week, everything will be green. A fox squirrel shimmys his way down a tree trunk, close enough I can hear his nails digging into the bark. He hits the ground, head constantly turning on a swivel as he gathers seeds and fills his belly.
I sit statue still as he walks in front of my spot, not five feet away and then without warning, he’s gone, racing back up the tree to safety, barking out a warning. I look to my left and see the cause for his concern. A coyote had slipped in, eying my turkey decoys, no doubt hoping for an easy meal. Within seconds, the song dog realizes that something is amiss and darts off the direction he had came.
The rest of the morning is spent in silence, with the exception of a few songbirds, but that’s alright. I know going into this game, chasing turkeys with my longbow and cedar arrows, that the odds are stacked squarely against me – but I’m okay with that.
For a lot of folks, this hunt might have been a disappointment, but for me it was success.
- David Hewitt