Along The Trail 5-11-17

43

The sun is barely creeping into the sky, cracking the horizon with streaks of orange and pink, muted through thin clouds. From my hiding spot in the edge of the trees, colors are still dull and gray. That in between time from night time darkness to the bright of day. Not really what you’d describe as dawn, still more dark than light. But as the minutes tick by, the gray slowly give way to morning.

A light fog lifts off the pond in front of me as I wait, hidden in a blind tucked into the trees. A crow calls in the distance and then the sound I’d been hoping for, a turkey gobbles from his roost a couple hundred yards behind me. Another bird fires off further down the draw and soon both birds are hammering away at each other and every time the crow answers them back.

I lean back and listen with a smile.

Time in the turkey blind passes quickly while the woods come to life around me. Songbirds tweet and whistle and light next to my hide. A male cardinal, shiny and red stands out in sharp contrast to the green honeysuckle he’s perched in, not five feet from me. A gray squirrel nervously slips down the side of a maple and hurries across the trail in front of me before disappearing into the brush. It feels good to be hunting again.

I glance at the time: 7:20 a.m. – and as if on cue – a quartet of hen turkeys sneaks from the woods across from me and head to the pond for their morning drink. The gals jockey around, picking at the grass and bugs while the sun warms them up. A few seconds later and Mr. Big comes into view. The tom struts his stuff and puts on a show for the girls, but none of them are buying what he’s selling. Something gets the ladies attention and they dart back into the safety of the woods. The strutter continues his display for a few more seconds before he retreats to the trees as well.

I do my best imitation of a hen turkey with a few yelps and purrs, hoping to lure old tom within range of my bow and arrow. Minutes later and two of the hens come straight into my decoys, give them a passing glance and then feed on behind me. I wait to see if the tom follows, but nothing doing…

Seconds later and one of the girls begins to call herself. I yelp back at her and soon, we’re having a conversation with each other. A perfect set up, the gal behind me calling should get a response from the old bird and sure enough, there he is!

The tom struts his way closer and closer across the mowed pond dam. I unconsciously hunker down lower in my blind as the bird inches within range. I grip the handle of my recurve bow tightly and think to myself, “This is actually going to happen”…

For the past six turkey seasons, I’d hunted these fool birds with only my traditional bows and hung up my shotgun. So far, it’s been an effort of futility, but it might all come together this cool May morning.

The hen cuts and yelps a few more times and the tom stops, stretches his neck and gobbles back at her. A few more steps and he’s mine. Totally fixed on watching the big bird, I failed to see that the love sick hen had come to him. The hen trots through my decoy spread and right to the old bird as he puts on his show.

The sight of the hen is more than he can handle and he spins around and follows her.

“Now or never goes through my head.”

Not an ideal shot, but within my range of 20 yards. As the old boy turns to leave, I focus on his vitals and the bowstring comes back and hits anchor. My release is clean and I watch my arrow skim right over his back and hear it land in the pond.

The hen jumps and flies while the tom darts to the other side of the pond, never knowing just how close he was to becoming fried turkey tenders.

My cedar arrow drifts across the pond as the ripples settle in the water and the old, black bird goes into strut once again. We play our cat and mouse cat for another hour and he gets temptingly close, but not close enough to send another arrow his way. He gobbles at my calls, taunting me, but it’s time to get to work, but I promise Mr. Turkey, our paths will cross again.

– David Hewitt