May 3, 2007

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

You ever get the impression you might be in the wrong line of work? That was what I was beginning to believe today. After the 99th successful turkey hunter came in for a photo opportunity, I was questioning my sanity for picking a career that forced me to submit to such torture.

Now I realize these folks are not trying to flaunt their success, but when you hear tale after tale of success, it is sort of like rubbing salt in the wound for this luckless hunter. It’s not bad enough that they bring in their giant birds for pictures, reinforcing the fact that I am at work and they are out turkey hunting, but then they give me the details. I have to listen time after time about how the bird flew right down to them, or how it came running into the decoys from a mile away and they were down and back in bed by 7:00 a.m. Come on folks, you’re killing me here.

My therapist has been busy offering me some possible solutions to insure my mental health. I liked the idea of moving into the timber for the three weeks of turkey season, and not leaving until I had bagged my bird. Of course that is not economically feasible. Nor is the idea of hiring a special turkey reporter to handle all of the bird coverage to protect me from too much turkey contact.

After I shot down idea after idea, the shrink finally was aggravated enough to inform me that the easiest solution was for me to either become a better hunter or to sell all of my stuff and quit. Funny that is the same thing the doc said about my golf game, deer hunting, fishing…The odds of me doing that are about as poor as… well as of me getting a turkey.

For the second straight weekend I was outsmarted by a bunch of birdbrains. I cannot complain too much about Saturday. While we really never had a bird work for us, it still ranks among some of the best turkey hunting I’ve ever done. Check that - lets call it some of the best listening I’ve ever done. Those birds obviously were enjoying the heat wave. The gobbling started early and built up to a crescendo as the maestro (a pair of dueling owls) worked the group of gobblers into a frenzy of calling and drumming. A seat in the middle of a surround-sound theater could not have generated any prettier music.

The show lasted much of the early morning, as to our surprise the toms kept gobbling even after they left the roost. Of course all that did was tease us from afar as the birds had taken alternate flight paths to previously determined safe havens, far away from the hunters. It amazes me, how these dumb birds can pick the best locations, well out of shotgun range, yet still highly visible to the hunters. So not only can they strut around and rub it in your face, but they can be sure to see you if you get desperate enough to try to get up and move in on them.

I was convinced Sunday would be a different story. I finally gave in to the morning patterns of the birds, and switched to the other side of the creek. We set up right in the middle of the landing strip where gobbler after gobbler had hit the ground on our three previous outings.

While the morning music was not quite as hyped as the previous day, we were pleased to have four gobblers within our reach. But one by one, they dashed our hopes, keeping the trees between us and them as they flew down.

One bird flew down behind us, but stayed on the opposite side of the hillcrest as he drummed loud enough to rattle the fence posts we were using as backstops.

A coyote shook things up a bit, as he scampered along the creek and forced four or five birds to jump into the trees for protection. One would think that these birds would want to fly down on our side, to avoid the predator, but just a few minutes after he passed they went right back to where they had been.

Once they got settled back into their routine, I brought the total to eight toms that we could see from our seats. There were two strutting up on the hill to go along with the two on the coyote path. The biggest bird was just south of me, on the opposite slope. Dancing solo with a single hen. The final three gobblers all came in together. They were west of the dominant bird, and only about half the distance from me to the boss.

As it always works, they sneaked in behind me. I was fortunate enough to peak over my right shoulder and see the first scout. He and a fellow youngster had teamed up with a bigger tom that was doing all of the gobbling.

But instead of coming in to my calling or my decoy, they crossed the ditch and tussled with the boss. My assumptions all proved false this day, as I guessed this would work to my advantage, as he would chase them back to me. But instead they went east, away from me, dashing my hopes yet again.

Okay, enough of my sob stories. Besides I have to go, there is another successful hunter at the door needing a photo.

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