April 21, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Beginnerís luck strikes again. I was a late bloomer as far as the turkey hunt world goes. Unlike some of these youngsters whom took their first turkey last weekend at the ages of seven or eight, I was not indoctrinated into the world of the successful gobbler chasers until I was well into college.

But I took my first bird on my debut solo outing. Thatís right, the first time I ever ventured out on my own, I was not only able to work that old box call well enough to lure in a turkey, but I had the big old bird at the check station and was back at home in time to catch a few extra Zís before work time.

This Sunday was another prime example of first timerís fortune. Now before you turn this over to the game warden, note there was no turkey taken. It was simply a little scouting adventure, but it was the first time Abigayle had been out in pursuit of a gobbler. Sheís just in kindergarten, and not ready for the youth season, so we decided we would set up the blind and take the camera out to help old dad know where to go this weekend.

It wasnít looking too good early on. While we did hear plenty of birds taking from their trees, it looked like we had chosen the wrong hilltop when the turkeys started gliding down from their sleeping trees. We had a good vantage point to watch as bird after bird went to the other side of the draw and started marching out into the old bean field. It proved to be the dance floor of choice. By 6:45 a.m. there were at least half a dozen gobblers in various stages of strutting their stuff to a couple dozen or more hens.

My daughter has my patience, so needless to say she was a bit perturbed by the birds. ďHey we got up extra early for this?Ē

Fortunately I had put up the tent blind a couple of days earlier, complete with a chair. She nestled in my lap and we leaned back to admire the deer, squirrels and other wildlife that were totally oblivious to our presence.

She was loudly munching on her second chocolate-chip cookie when I heard the drumming of a strutting turkey behind us. That snack must have been awful good, because old Tom was nearly on top of us before I recognized that wonderful sound only the big birds make when they fill with air and puff up for the courtship two-step.

Luckily I had both arms wrapped around Abi as we reclined in our seat. When I whispered to her that the bird was right behind us, she nearly broke my bear hug to twirl and see the gobbler. I was able to slow her down and instructed her to slide out of my lap onto the ground. She was able to duck below the blind opening and get turned around so when she finally peaked over the flap she had a perfect view of the incoming bird.

Now this was the first time I had used this tent blind. I must say I am sold on its effectiveness. Not only did it hide my jittery youngsters every move, but it allowed me to duck down and retrieve the camera and get several good photos. Actually I believe I could have danced a jig and hung out some laundry as this bird had no idea we were there.

I was starting to wonder if our gobbler wasnít a bit mentally challenged as we openly moved inside the tent. A kid can only sit still so long. Even her first turkey wasnít enough to hold my girlís attention span beyond a few minutes. So our movements became even less hidden. Still the bird lingered near our two decoys. I turned Abi loose on the slate call. After five straight minutes of calling, I had to swipe the striker back, as the ruckus was driving me nuts. Unfortunately it didnít seem to bother the Tom who was not leaving.

Finally I unzipped the tent flap and sent track star Abi charging after the big bird, who she was certain would make an excellent pet. As she halved the ground between her and the turkey I started to second guess my plan. Maybe this bird wasnít all there and was not going to flee. I had images of a turf war, which I would have had to wager the big old bird would have won. I breathed a sigh of relief when he turned tail and charged off.

We had quite a good laugh walking back to the truck. Iím sure, just like me, my daughter will have a little getting used to the idea that turkey hunting really isnít that easy. Beginnerís luck quickly evaporates as the odds ultimately return in favor of the turkeys. Of course I may have a little trouble trying to explain that to her. Sheís expecting to catch that bird next time we go.

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