May 6, 2004

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Maybe Iím just afraid of hunting? I suspect that itís really that I enjoy sleep more than I used to. But, after I finally made it back into the woods to close out week #2 of the spring turkey season with just my second outing of the year, I began to question my motivation.

There is something about getting all decked out in camouflage and toting a firearm out into the wilderness that makes a person feel macho. But after a bout 20 minutes in the field I was beginning to question my toughness.

Of course it really starts before I even step foot out of the truck. Even the full moon wasnít enough of a nightlight for me. I always say I am going to get to my spot earlier, but I still have trouble making myself get out of the truck. I must still be afraid of the dark.

Then there is the march across the field. It never fails that I step right on top of a covey of quail or a flock of some other birds that explode into the air. I am alone and itís pitch black out. Yet, after I stop running and regain my composure, I still look around as if to see if there is anyone watching me as I trudge back to pick up all my equipment that I dropped in my hasty escape attempt from the frightening birds.

So by the time I get to the spot my nerves are a bit on edge. I took longer than expected to get there as I had to stop every few steps to try to identify the latest strange noise. There is no way I can get down to the tree line without the birds seeing me from the roost, so I set up my little fold-out blind on the edge of the bean field on top of a diversion.

Believe it or not, there are birds gobbling all around me in every direction. It seems like a perfect morning. Iíve gone turkey hunting enough to realize that I still am probably not going to bag a bird. It seems like the more gobbling you hear from the roost, the less likely you are to ever see any of the dang birds.

Sure enough, my pessimistic outlook was correct. I never even saw a tom. But as the morning light arrived, at least my nerves began to settle a bit. I was a bit uneasy about being out in the open. Itís nice to have a tree to lean up against. But with no backstop I have the tendency to be constantly looking over my shoulder. Add a bit of wind that kept the weeds and brush behind me in constant motion and itís a wonder I didnít put my neck out trying to see what was behind me.

Just as I was near overcoming the need for eyes in the back of my head, I caught some real movement. Unfortunately it was of the black and white variety Ė well, black with a white stripe. That old skunk had sneaked up on me and seemed determined to join me in the blind.

I must have seemed a bit odd, sitting there hissing and shooing that polecat. How do you fend off such a monster? If you stand up and try to scare it you take the chance of getting stink bombed. Yet if you sit there and do nothing the varmint could be sitting in your lap. I threw my owl hooter at him. The stinker turned and threatened to spray my direction but wandered off without releasing the stench.

My return to calm was short lived as my morning culminated with some of the strangest sounds I have ever heard in the woods.

At first I thought it was a buck deer grunting as he worked his way up the ditch to my right. The ruckus became louder, making me wonder if it wasnít possibly a wild hog or something. Then the noise erupted into what sounded like a battle between two or more animals, with barking, growling and rustling among the leaves and bushes.

It was about that point in the morning where I would give up and head into the woods to see if I could locate a gobbler. But I just picked up my stuff and scurried back to the truck. I was curious to know what was making the noise, but my courage had left me via all my other morning running-ins. I had the fishing pole in the truck. There is a lot less to be afraid of on the bank of the pond. That was until that snake showed upÖ

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