JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
Sometimes everything goes wrong.
First of all, I didn’t get out there at daylight; it was mid-morning before I walked into the woods. Things were quiet, but for a bunch of geese honking away on a nearby pond, absolutely sure I was there to steal eggs. I hate geese during the turkey season. And crows and bluejays, which one old-timer at the pool hall referred to as “warnin’ birds.’’
When I got settled down in the woods I took out my turkey call, which is a little box call I make myself, and found out I didn’t have a striker to use with it. Guess I left it at home, a couple miles away. So there in front of me was a straggly little cedar tree, and I broke off a limb about an inch in diameter and went to work making a striker from that limb with my pocketknife.
I sat there thinking about what a messed up turkey season we have had. There are turkeys everywhere. I had just seen three gobblers walking into my hunting area, and they had five or six hens with them. During the turkey season, you don’t want to see groups of turkeys, because as a rule you can’t call in groups of turkeys. It is like trying to call an old western cowboy out of a bar full of saloon girls! Turkey hunting is best when you find the gobblers in groups of one, or one in a flock all by himself, as Cajun comedian Justin Wilson use to say.
It took awhile, but I whittled out a little five-inch striker from the piece of cedar that morning, smoothed it off and chalked it up and tried it. It sounded great! A gobbler a couple of hundred yards away heard it and thought so too. He gobbled lustily (only a man who has lived a lonely life would understand that term) and passionately! He was without hens, I would bet. He gobbled about four times, and I tried my best to lead him on.
Usually I don’t like hunting fields for gobblers, I like to hunt in woodlands. When you hunt fields, it is like saying you would be willing to ambush one rather than call him in. But while this old gobbler was in the woods, and I was in the woods, there was a small field between us. He quit gobbling, but it didn’t matter. He was coming, lustily seeking out that hen, strutting when I saw him enter the sunlit green grass. Behind him was another gobbler; I guess hoping the hen they were hearing might have a friend.
I called another time, then quit. He was 150 yards away and not wasting any time. The two of them were stepping it off, strutting a little, stopping to hold bright red heads high, looking for the hen they had heard. Seventy-five yards away they went into a little swale and disappeared from view. I kept waiting, hoping, and wondering. I am one of those people who always figure if something can go wrong, it will.
When I saw them again, two bright red and white heads came up out of tall green grass right before me. I had my gun barrel up and put it on one of them. He started bobbing his head up and down like he was trying to be a difficult target. I called softly by mouth, and he stuck his head high. My shotgun roared and the other stupid gobbler ran around in circles, wondering why his buddy was flopping around dead. Thankfully, he wasn’t any bigger than the one I killed.
Something different happens on every turkey hunt. I have forgotten my shells before, forgot my boots, forgot my cap and once I forgot my call, but it is the first time I ever whittled out a striker in the woods before I could hunt. And I suppose for that old long-bearded gobbler, it was the first time he had come looking for a hen and got shot for doing it.
Sondra Gray, editor of my publishing company publications, hasn’t killed a gobbler yet and will try again this week. Last week she shot three big gobblers with a camera which came along a half hour after shooting hours ended. You can see that photo on my website.
I took her and her husband David on a fishing trip that night on Stockton Lake where we called in fish with some submerged lights. We fished there off my pontoon boat until about 11 p.m. and caught white bass and crappie hand over fist. David even caught a nice walleye. They were dandies, with a number of crappie up in the 13- to 14-inch range. The whites and crappie were full of eggs. That type of night fishing is good until late May on most Ozark reservoirs that have water clarity, as long as you have a dark night. Bright moonlight ruins it.
Another photo you can see on the website is that of a terrapin eating a garter snake. In all my born put-togethers I never ever seen a terrapin eat a snake. He must have found the garter snake dead and thought it was a giant earthworm.
In the woods, you always see something you never saw before if you walk, watch and listen. Trouble with today’s outdoorsmen is they spend so little time walking. It is the day of the ATV and advanced technology. That will never change. The future will create some of the fattest deer and turkey hunters you can imagine, and a market for bigger ATVs I suppose.
Find the places where you can walk alone far from today’s technology and buck the trend. There are treasures to be found, something new in every trip you take, if you watch and listen and walk.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
Sometimes everything goes wrong.
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