Instead of going on and on about fishing, politics and my skinny legs, let’s talk turkey. I can’t even remember the last time I talked about hunting, but I guess that’s only because I haven’t pulled a trigger in quite some time.
I used to be an avid hunter — a bird hunter, that is. Big-game hunting never much appealed to me, but plop me down in a duck blind, dove field or up against a tree during the spring turkey season and I am like pig in slop.
Back in the day, it was simple to find a place to hunt. All you had to do was knock on some farmer’s door and more often than not they would say, “Have at it.”
Well, the times have certainly changed since this area has grown and farmers found out that doctors and lawyers from Florida were willing to pay big bucks to hunt on their land, primarily for deer, so it isn’t as easy to find a hunt as it once was. When this happened, I kind of gave up on bird hunting because, quite frankly, the money that these folks were paying was way out of my league.
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So why am I talking about hunting? On March 15, turkey season opens and runs all the way until May 1.
Dove hunting is my favorite type of bird hunting, followed by turkeys and ducks. But since turkey hunting is getting ready to open, I thought you might like to know a little about this game. And when I say “game,” I mean as in playing a game.
First and foremost, if you lack patience, you might as well stop reading this. Turkeys can and will try your patience like no other animal alive. They can trick you, frustrate you and — just when you think the game is over — they’ll sneak up on you and, like some skilled magician, appear out nowhere.
These are big birds, folks, and watching one haul boogey through the woods looks very much like a leprechaun heading for his pot of gold. Neither noise nor smell bothers them one bit, but their eyes can see a flea jump on your arm at a hundred yards.
I don’t know how many gobblers I have taken over the years, but it’s a bunch. For years I hunted almost every single day of the turkey season. To say I was addicted is putting it mildly. Up at 4 a.m., drive to wherever and then stumble through pitch-black woods so I could be set up at daybreak.
Sure, it’s great when a big gobbler answers your call and finally comes in strutting his stuff, but it was those minutes, and at times hours, of sitting there motionless that made this type of hunting right up my alley. One of the few good assets I have is patience. I might have a bum back, age spots and no hair, but I do have patience. That has enabled me to see things in nature that very few ever see.
I have had raccoons climb the tree I am leaning against just inches from my head. I have watched bobcats, coyotes, deer and hogs walk by me within an arm’s length. It’s as if I have become part of the woods. Usually, I am somewhere near swampy bottoms and especially at this time of the year, the beauty is breathtaking.
Wild dogwoods are blooming, the first bright green leaves on trees are at their vibrant best and in the swamps, hundreds of white lilies carpet the ground. The only thing that can make a scene like this even better is the when the sun hits the feathers on a hot gobbler throwing out a rainbow of colors as he displays his fan. It really is spectacular.
If I were to close my eyes right now and think back on some of my most memorable turkey hunts, I would see two gobblers head to head. Lured by my sexy hen call, they are making their way across a small field covered by a ground fog that only allows me to see them from their bodies on up.
Like two ballerinas, they are doing pirouettes, circling one another and as if on cue, lowering their heads and gobbling their very best gobble. Dragging their wings on the ground purposefully, I can feel in my chest the deep drumming emitted from some equally deep part of them. This goes on for what seems forever and is so amazing I never raise my gun.
Maybe next time … maybe next time.