Along The Trail 5-15-14

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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.

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The season is drawing to a close.

Not quite the 11th hour, but it’s getting near.

We’ve spent the better part of our weekends calling and guiding for other hunters, but this last weekend of the season will be ours to hunt.

The spring woods has thickened and changed over the past month. The hillside to my front is now covered in green. Ever hue and shade on a color wheel, lime, mint, olive and emerald.

The leaves, grass and foliage have all now matured and the blooms have burst. A few ivory pedals on the dogwoods hang on, but this afternoon’s downpour is sure to send them to the ground.

The clouds have come and gone all day, bringing with them steady showers and rumbles of thunder and distant lightning. In most cases, foul weather sends us indoors, but spring rain storms bring the birds to the fields.

Turkeys by nature are the perfect prey for every carnivore in the woods and the heavy rains take away their sense of hearing. In my observations over the years, the big birds feel safer in the open fields in the damp, gray weather.

We get a break between showers and the boy and I head out. He’s opted to tote his 12-gauge since the clock is ticking. Stubborn, I’ll still clutch my old recurve bow hoping to get an arrow into a Tom.

I know my chances are slim, but at this point in my hunting life, I’m more interested in the process and the “how it’s done” rather than the end result. I smile at the kid’s enthusiasm as he hikes off up the muddy hill, gun on his shoulder.

The rains have made it steamy, muggy and damp. Feels more like mid June than the early May. I settle back in my blind overlooking the wet field and wait. Cow birds make their dripping water sounds just outside of my shooting window and blue jays and crows sound off at each other.

An hour into my sit and there, on the hillside a distant gobble. I cut and purr back at the bird and he responds. I yelp and call, doing my best hen imitation and the old boy answers me regularly. We talk back and forth for over 45 minutes, sometimes he sounds closer, other times I can hear he’s marching further up the hill.

My best guess is that he’s still a few hundred yards away and not much hope that he’s going to step in front of one of my arrows. I try to lure him down the hill and into my field, but he’s hung up for some reason.

I continue to call at him and he continues to answer on cue, but I’m certain now that he’s making for higher ground as he’s heading towards his roosting spot for the night.

He’s gobbling less frequently now, several minutes in between his calls. He belts out one final gobble, sounding off at a noisy crow somewhere up on the hill and then all is quiet.

My thoughts turn to my son and I wonder where he might be on the hillside and if he has heard the Tom’s gobbling.

A few moments later, the loud report of a shotgun answers my question.

Just one shot, no follow ups can only mean one of two things; A clear hit or complete miss. Unless someone else has sneaked in, I’m sure it was the kid that fired.

The steep hillsides and deep valley keeps me from calling or texting him, so I just have to wait. I’m anxious to hear and see if he was the shooter and to listen to his story.

Five minutes turn to 10 and 10 to 20.

Just when I don’t think I can wait any longer, I catch movement to my right a couple hundred yards down the field edge. The tall, thin figure of my son emerges from the woods and the bouncing, black wings of a turkey thrown over his shoulder answers all my questions.

I shout out to him, but he’s too far to hear my voice. I gather my gear and double time it to try and catch up to the kid, but one of his steps is like two of mine.

We finally meet back up at the truck. A smile, a handshake and a pat on the back and then I listen to a story from the young man who proves every time we step into the woods, that this is where he belongs.

– David Hewitt