Saturday, June 12, 2010

Guest Post by Seth: "Turkeys in the Mist"

After several weeks of scouting around and a few close calls, I slipped into my blind very early on a Saturday morning feeling confident that this was going to be my lucky day – the day I killed my first wild turkey. The day before I watched through binoculars as a half dozen toms strutted their stuff in this very clearing and now I was positioned right at the edge of it. Well before sunup, a young deer passed within 10 yards of where I was sitting. I made some turkey calls and that little deer turned around and stared for several minutes at this strange, shadowy creature in the oak brush but never spooked. Not long after that, a moose came grazing right up behind me. She was so close I could see her eyelashes and hear her chewing. But again, the moose simply moved on past with little more than a few curious looks. I felt like I had passed some sort of inspection and my confidence increased even more.

I was sitting on the ground in a small thicket with my back against a tall, sturdy scrub oak and my shotgun resting across my left knee so it would only take the slightest bit of movement to bring it to my shoulder. It had rained the night before so the ground was soaked and I was grateful for the old wool coat I had brought along to sit on. On the ground to my right I had my calls laid out within easy reach.

Beginning at daybreak, I could immediately hear toms gobbling and hens yelping. After a long night up in their roosts, they were flying down to meet up just as they had been doing every morning for over a month. However, they were probably a good half mile away so all I could do was listen to their calls and try to join in whenever it seemed most natural. With a combination of a slate/scratch and mouth diaphragm calls, I was doing my best to sound like a hen who was waiting eagerly – but not too eagerly - for the right tom to come along and sweep her off her feet.

Over the course of the month-long season, I had learned that turkeys are like elk and most other wild animals in that they like to follow the same daily routine. This makes ambush a good strategy and I was determined to remain as motionless as possible and simply wait them out. This is easier said than done however and it took a lot of willpower to hold tight. Earlier in the season, I would have been sneaking down the hill towards them at the sound of the first gobble but I’d learned the hard way that turkeys have excellent vision and are especially good at picking up movement. So this time around, I merely shifted into a slightly more comfortable position and continued to wait.

I had been holding tight for a good 2 – 3 hours when suddenly I heard a much louder gobble no more than 100 yards away. I made one last hen yelp on my scratch call and then settled into shooting position. And - just as I had hoped - my yelp drew an immediate response and I felt certain that at least one tom was heading my way!

A few minutes later, I caught motion out of the corner of my eye – three hens moving up the hill about 20 yards behind me. I didn’t twitch a muscle. I moved my eyes again and saw what looked like two toms winding their way through the brush. They looked big. I shifted ever so slightly so the barrel of my 12 gauge was pointing at the spot where I thought they were most likely to appear. As they approached, one tom turned left to follow the hens but the second turned right and took his first tentative steps into the opening. I held my shotgun tight to my shoulder and remained absolutely still. With my heart pounding, I watched out of the corner of my eye as the young tom took his sweet time and milled slowly towards me. And then – just as I thought he might come into the blind and sit down next to me – he turned and stepped right where I hoped he would. The shotgun roared and the turkey was down. I couldn’t believe it! After starting out the season as a complete novice, I had actually pulled off a successful turkey hunt!

After the turkey finished its inevitable thrashing and I knew without a doubt he was dead, I was immediately filled with a combination of elation and gratitude. I felt deep respect for the bird and I also felt grateful for many things – grateful that I was alive and able to experience a wonderful spring season of turkey hunting, grateful for my very good fortune, and especially grateful that I was able to deliver a quick, clean kill.

Eventually, I picked up the surprisingly heavy bird and slung him over my shoulder for the long hike out. As I was walking, a pretty little hummingbird came buzzing by to see what was going on and – for whatever reason – this little fellow accompanied me almost all the way back to the car. It was the perfect ending to a great hunt and I can’t wait until next spring when I can get back out there and do it again.


Kathleen said...

Wow Seth, That ranks up there with the best literature. I would like a copy of it with color pictures to put with "My First Deer Hunt" which is another classic. This would be my father's day. Love,

heidi said...

Oh My God! Congratulations! I, too, am impressed and grateful that you were so successful and merciful although still a novice. And, How cool and exciting for us, Karen's Devoted Readers, to get to enjoy a Seth/Guest Post!

I'm ENVIOUS at your being able to hunt your own food--especially after seeing some of "Food, Inc." and becoming even more aware of how horribly cruelly most of our animal food supply is treated. Meat isn't murder, in factories--it's Torture. :(

However... on a lighter note... is it too revealing to admit that the thing that impressed me most was that you were awake and outside "well before sunup"?

(By the way, K--I'm still surprised that your in-laws share the same first name. You'd think it'd get confusing after awhile. :D)

Paul said...

Good job Seth! Just in time for Thanksgiving ... er ... Father's Day!

It's Me said...

That turkey looks just like the cartoons of turkeys you see on T.V! So much more awesome looking than the turkey farm turkeys. I love all the feathers. So did you eat the turkey? Just wondering. Karen will have to post her favorite turkey dishes. Or, post 'Turkey 101' on how to defeather and clean a turkey. You know, I don't think I've ever eaten "wild" meat (meaning something I've killed or a family members killed) I think it would give you a greater sense of thankfulness like you mentioned.

Seth said...

Yeah the whole process of cleaning, plucking, cooking, and eating the turkey could probably be a post all its own but here's the quickie version. We did eat the bird. The meat was very good - tasted pretty much just like domestic turkey to me - but we kinda screwed it up in a couple of ways. First, I messed up by pulling all the skin off with the feathers and then Karen - trying to compensate for lack of skin - patted a salt paste all over the meat and this - on top of soaking in a salt water brine for 6 hours - made the meat way too salty. However, Karen saved the day by turning the leftovers into a soup with some potatoes and corn and what not - which neutralized the saltiness - and the soup was excellente! One sidenote, the breasts were really good, the legs not so much. They were pretty darn tough and chewy. So... next time around... the legs will probably be destined for the crockpot. As for the beautiful feathers, I saved the big fan of tail feathers and I'm gonna try to mount them for display on the wall and I also saved a bunch of other feathers for use in tying flies for fishing.