This past week, I struck out across some private land where I had permission to hunt wild turkeys. About ten in the morning I walked at a pretty good clip, through patches of woods where I would call enticingly. I heard nothing. Finally, fifteen minutes before noon, after walking about two miles, I reached the wooded peak above the river where I had wanted to be an hour before. It was a steep, boulder-strewn hillside, not exactly a bluff, but pretty close to it.
I sat there on a big rock, thanking God that there were places like this left to see in the Ozarks, and that I was able to walk far enough to see them. I called, and there was no answer, quietest morning I had ever seen. So I headed back into the woods behind me, and for some reason, I decided I would give my barred owl call, which often causes turkeys to gobble. I am glad I thought of it, because down close to the river below me, two gobblers hammered out gobbles close together.
Excitement replaced resignation, and I quickly found a good place to hide beneath a concealing cedar tree. Enticingly, I called… Nothing! I hooted like an owl again, so good that an owl across the river answered me! But no gobbles... I sat there thinking that they were probably down there with a group of hens, and would never gobble again until next March. Beneath my breath I cussed my rotten luck. Resignation replaced the excitement. I was tempted to take my lucky buckeye out of my pocket and throw it at them!
You’ve never heard better calling than I gave them that mid-day, sitting beneath that cedar tree. I have heard hen turkeys that aren’t half as good at sounding like a hen turkey than I was. Still, there was nothing.
At such times it is hard for me to sit still and wait. There are hunters like me, who always like the feeling of the ground on the bottom of their feet, than on the bottom of their rear.
There was a thorn or a sharp stick beneath me, and I was about to get up and stomp on it when I saw, down the steep hillside amongst the boulders, a bright red and white head sticking up through green buds. I watched him come up that hill, my heartbeat going from 90 to 150 in about two seconds. He was big and beautiful and wary. I watched, and he walked, pausing to look for that hen he thought I was, then coming closer. In a minute or so he was only 35 yards away, an old mature gobbler with a dangling double beard, who made the mistake of gobbling at a doggone owl hoot, or he would be roosting in one of those river bottom sycamores tonight.
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I had to carry him back, across one creek and up two mountains. Walking two miles carrying a twenty- pound turkey is difficult. I stopped once again to thank God for places I can still walk to where trees are big, and people are scarce. As someone who once couldn’t walk for months, I know how wonderful it is to walk, even when it isn’t easy. I don’t need easy.
My website is www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.