May 1, 2008

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I wore shorts to work the other day and my buddy the UPS driver asked me how come I was sporting nurseís hose. My apparent lack of a tan can be blamed on a crazy start to Spring, weather-wise, as well as my apparent lack of drive to do anything outdoors.

Several readers have asked if the author of the Outdoor Corner had a permanent case of writerís block. I confessed that it was more like a lengthy case of laziness.

May will be upon us when this column hits the counter and I am ashamed to admit that I have been fishing just once. I blame it on the weather, but deep down I know that freezing temperatures, flash floods and monsoon winds didnít ever stop me before.

Iíd love to fib and tell you that turkey season has rekindled my outdoor spark. I did make it to the woods twice during the first week. But again I must admit ulterior motives.

I actually got out of bed on my own accord Wednesday morning. Two nice spring days had gone by, and I had my mind made up that I was not going to sleep away the entire turkey season. Of course it helped that my fire department pager was picking up some radio ďskipĒ traffic from some other community. The commotion insured that I didnít need an alarm clock and had me awake enough that there was no snooze button threat.

I took the opportunity to try out one of my latest hunting-accessory purchases. I marched to a predetermined location, a small stand of trees in the middle of a field that is surrounded on two sides by timber. I hastily set up a couple decoys and then all I had to do was sit down in my chair blind, and pull down the top. A quick zipper pull and the front shooting lane was open and I was in business.

Rayburn Snell at Farm and Home talked me into the purchase and I must admit Iím glad he is a good salesman. The seat is perfect, it keeps you up higher and offers excellent cover, while still being small enough not to stand out from the surrounding scenery while being light enough it doesnít take a trained athlete to haul to the site. The best part is you donít need an engineering degree for installation or re-packing.

While I was perfectly content with my perch, it turned out there was one piece of equipment I failed to pack for my outing. I never expected needing the rangefinder, but after stepping off the distance on three unproductive 3Ĺ inch rounds blasted from my shotgun, I learned that I may have a tendency to underestimate the distance to tom turkeys.

Two gobblers skirted the edge of my setup eyeing the group of four hens that had just moments earlier been feeding in my decoys. These gals seemed to want nothing to do with the boys, as they started marching away from all of us when they sited the prospective suitors.

When the two toms crested the small diversion in the field, I convinced myself that they were 40 yards from me, and heading the opposite direction.

The first blast ruffled the lead birds feathers, as if a stiff wind had passed over his shoulders. The sound startled the birds, but they didnít know how to react. The second shot did much the same, as again the top feathers ruffled just a bit before settling back in place. The third round was wasted, as they most often are, as I saluted the band of birds, this time apparently without any effect on its leader. He guided the flock to safety.

I picked up a few feathers about 70 yards from my seat. I tried to make believe the wind blew them that far away, but the breeze in my face wouldnít let me believe that.

Sunday morningís gobbler stood at 124 yards, doing a do-si-do with a hen. My eight-year-old daughter got a kick out of the circle dance the duo performed. But with four other hens in his harem, the gobbler only teased us with his vocal cords while giving Abigayle her first turkey drumming performance.

She quickly got bored with the long-distance performance and piled onto the ground for a little nap. Unfortunately she missed the comical conclusion to the show. The two other toms that had serenaded us from the hilltop, finally got tired of attempting to lure the girls to them. I laughed when I saw the two boys come literally running down the hill.

The proud strutter in the field quickly shrank away to the corner of the field as the two dominant performers arrived. They didnít put on much of a show however. After a few minutes of showing off for the girls, they did a full circle, gathered up the hens and herded them back up the hill where they had just come from.

That was enough for me. I decided to herd up my gals, the young hunter and my wife, the huntís official videographer, and we called it a day.

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