Sunday, April 24, 2011

Adventures in Easter Sunday turkey hunting

When your turkey hunting buddy calls you up and tells you he has a good feeling about tomorrow's hunt, you can believe one of two things: Either it's going to be epic, or he just cursed the hunt by expressing optimism out loud.

When Evan called me last night, I went with the former. Our last turkey hunt two weeks earlier had been a total bust, but we'd expected it. The scouting reports had been grim.

This time, though, Evan had two spots where there had been confirmed turkey activity. Lots of it.

"And one place is pretty close to the road, so the turkeys will think they're safe," Evan said. "But they're not."

Heh heh heh.

"I'm in!" I said, and I set my alarm for 3:45 a.m.

We met at 5:15 a.m. in a gym parking lot and headed to our spot. He hadn't been there before, but his brother had told him what we needed to know: You go uphill from the house, and there are two big bull pines that the turkeys roost in. Then there's pretty much one area they fly down to. Bam!

When we got out of the truck and headed up the hill past the dim shadow of a lone sheep in his little green pasture, one thing quickly became clear: There were way more than two big bull pines.


We crossed a few barbed-wire fences, tucked in under some oak trees at the edge of the clearing and set up, me with my shotgun propped on my knee and my head hidden deep under a hood like I was an Ewok or something, and Evan with the box call in his lap.

Within a few minutes, we were rewarded with gobbling. Lots of it. It wasn't coming from the tree we expected, but no worries! We seemed to be well within fly-down range.

Evan hit the call and we got more gobbling. Awesome! I aimed my muzzle in the direction they seemed most likely to come from, and scanned the rest of the opening without moving my head.

When the birds started flying down, they did not fly toward us. But no worries! Evan hit the call, and the gobbling edged back in our direction.

Then it stopped. Then ... Surprise! The gobbling began moving away. Farther and farther away.


My hands were going to sleep and my legs were cramping. I was trying to hold still, but I began to squirm. I stretched discretely, taking note of how close I'd come to sitting down in poison oak. Awesome.

Finally Evan got up and motioned his plan - he was going to stalk the birds. I'd sit tight.

Which I did, for about five minutes.

But when it became clear the gobbling was moving even farther away, I decided to get up and follow him. There was little danger of being busted; we could hear exactly where they'd gone, and it wasn't close by.

So I began to walk. I caught a glimpse of Evan under a tree, and when I moved to take a step toward him, I saw a head behind a fence line, maybe 15 yards downhill from me.

I froze. The turkey froze. All I could see was the head, so I waited for it to move again, hoping it would hit a break in the grass that would show me what I needed to know: Beard? Pull the trigger. No beard? Stand down.

The bird started walking again, head bobbing back and forth as it moved right-to-left along the fence line. Every time it went behind an obstruction, I'd move in for better position, but when it would emerge, I still couldn't see the bird's chest.

Then Evan hit the call under the tree to my right. The bird stopped, turned around, and bobbed back to the right. Still behind the fence line. Still obscured below the neck.

It dipped down behind a tree, and I began moving toward Evan again.

But then it popped back into view. I froze. It bobbed to the left. Evan called. It went back to the right. It dropped out of view. I moved. It reappeared.

Oh, good Lord!!! We went through that drill easily half a dozen times before it disappeared for good.

I caught up to Evan and he confirmed what I'd guessed: It had been a hen. She had entertained the hell out of us, for sure, but she wasn't what we were looking for. So Evan set out again, heading the direction of the gobbling.

I followed at a distance, and before long I heard it:


He found them!


Hmmmm. One shot? Good. Three shots? Not good. When I finally caught up with him, he did not have a dead bird in his hand.

"I was out in the open and they came up over the hill and busted me," he said. It was a long shot, but he said he'd figured it would be the best he'd get.

We separated and did a quick search to make sure he hadn't wounded the bird, then headed back to his truck. Maybe we'd get lucky at his second spot.

We pulled out of the driveway and headed down the road, and literally within about 50 yards, we were confronted with this:

Are you kidding me???

Evan stopped the truck and we watched five jakes saunter across the road, their tiny little beards sticking out just enough to say, "We're legal!" Then they ambled up the hill in no particular hurry. We just shook our heads.

Oh, so that's how it's gonna be, huh?


The answer was, "Yes." The next spot was a bust too.

Oh well.

We compared calendars. Maybe we could get out one more time before gun season ends a week from today. And this time, we have a detailed plan. We know exactly what we're going to do.

We're optimistic.

© Holly A. Heyser 2011


Shewee woman said...

I guess that's why they call it "hunting", and no turkey in hand makes for another adventure. Love reading your stories Holly, gets me right on the edge of my seat. Hope you had a great Easter.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

They know. They know when you have a gun and can shoot them, and when you don't, or you can't. I don't know how they know, but they know.

Unrelatedly, I LOVE your groovy illustrations!

Mike Dwyer said...

Good luck next time Holly. Still fun to see plenty of them. They are pretty darn entertaining.

Tom Sorenson said...

Getting skunked hurts. Getting skunked and then taunted by your quarry? Downright eye-gouging painful.

Holly Heyser said...

Shewee woman: When Evan and I went for breakfast afterward, I told him our hunt last year, where we got a bird and it was all over in like half an hour, had seemed too easy. He looked at me like I'd gone crazy.

Tamar: Thank you! I might have spent as much time on the illustrations as I did on the blog.

Mike: Yes, we saw a LOT more birds than two weeks ago, so we know it's on - if we can just get to the right spot.

Tom: I know. I know. We did drive around and look for ways to intercept those birds, but they'd gone onto property we knew we couldn't hunt.

Albert Quackenbush said...

Sounds like it was exciting. Holly! I know, I know, exciting is one thing, but no bird is another. Trust me, I would be excited to be able to get out and hunt right now. Oh, the illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to your story. :)

Alison said...

Oh man, one the one hand I hate to laugh at your misfortune, but that turkey Abbey Road drawing cracked me up! Good luck next time :)

The Writing Huntress said...

Holly- I HATE THAT!!! It's the same way with deer, geese and ducks. No matter where I am, they always appear. Now that ducks are out of season, they have come back to dwell ALL the time on the pond we hunt. Completely unfair but love the pictures.


Lindsay said...

Good Lord, the same thing happened to us last week. Saw about five hens (one even talked back to us from her tree for a few mins). In the afternoon, we got a tom to gobble to us, getting closer and heartrate getting higher and higher. Then he must have found some real hens, cause he stopped calling back, and then disappeared. So frustrating...but super exciting that I got a few to talk back to me!

Holly Heyser said...

Albert: I was thankful just to get out too, though Evan is now more determined than ever to get me a turkey.

Alison: LOL, I was thinking it was very Partridge Family...

HLYH: No doubt about it: They know. But hey, you can't blame them for taking advantage of having the upper hand...

Lindsay: We heard a lot of hens yesterday morning too, which may be why we had a yard time getting the boys to play with us.

Peebs said...

Snicker and HAAAA (my turn this time)

Holly Heyser said...

What Peebs means to say is that yesterday he went outside for a smoke, heard gobbling over the hill, got his shotgun, followed the gobbling, and promptly killed a turkey.

Screw the turkeys - I have officially begun plotting revenge on Peebs!

SimplyOutdoors said...

Ahh...turkey hunting. It can be so frustrating, but it's so addicting at the same time.

Keep at it, Holly. Hopefully you can put a bird in the freezer before gun season ends.

I'm envious of you right now. I can't hunt those crazy thunder chickens until May 2nd, and it's killing me. I'm itching to get out there.

Good luck when you head back out.

Holly Heyser said...

IF I even get back out! Caught a nasty cold and the rest of my turkey season is in doubt at the moment. Wah!

But it is fun. Funny. Infuriating. Whatever.

Anonymous said...

Your tale telling be much fun to read and see in the mind's eye. I am keeping my fingers crossed for you.