By David S. Lewis
Executive Editor, (614) Magazine
Funny thing about hunting, sometimes you know exactly what’s happening, and that what’s happening is working. Assuming all things go properly, something delicious is going to die, and you’re going to get to eat it.
Other times, it is spring turkey season, and you and your bud will sit in a strange wooden shack in the middle of the forest and use various devices to squawk and scream at each other for what is probably no real reason at all.
My pal and hunting buddy, Andy, lives on a rural southeastern Ohio tree farm. Deer are in hog heaven here for 50 weeks of the year – and hogs love it, too.
Similarly, wild turkeys are abundant in Vinton County and on his farm every moment of the year – except, of course, the two weeks or so when they become the most interesting to everyone.
Andy had just bought his box call a day before the season opened. In the cabin, he’s fluent in Turkese. As soon as we get to the blind, however, everything breaks down. The noises emitted from that $12 chalkless hellbox are deafening, at least a hundred times louder than any turkey born after the Second Ice Age. Sometimes it creaks like a barn door plugged into a Marshall stack; others it shrieks like Rhodan from the old Godzilla movies.
At no point does it sound remotely like a lady turkey, however.
I don’t do much better. At one point a farmer’s turkey hears my gurgling, and hollers back half-heartedly. We made small talk for nearly an hour, him gobbling a response to every flaccid rattle I produce. I assume now that he knew the deal, in which I was trying real hard and he just chose to play along for my confidence’s sake. Unfortunately, I didn’t have him quite so well ID’d: I grew increasingly excited and impressed with myself, waiting for him to stampede my location, until I realized that he wasn’t the turkey I was looking for. (I later learned that the little jerk was trained to poop in a litter box. Clever girl…)
The hours crawl by the days when you’re out in the woods, and I soon realized that I had only one day left. Some friends on motorcycles had come by and ruined an entire day of hunting, and proceeded to make up for it with some poker and good whiskey. Before long, I realized that I had one of two options: wake up in two hours, or make my way out to the blind now and pass the night there. It was raining, and I knew that any birds still in the woods would be interested in digging up some worms in the morning, so I hiked out around 2:30 a.m., en route to a turkey blind I would never find.
Andy’s property has been in his family since his grandfather, a Kentucky coal miner, picked it up in the early seventies, as the lay of the land reminded him of the central Kentucky steep hills and long wooded hollers of his youth. Around 80 acres of land, most of it is either up or down hill. I headed towards the very back of the farm where I knew the blind to be, wearing only a light jacket and Filson packer hat, as I had left my sleeping bag in the blind. It was cool, especially with the pouring rain, but I knew I would soon be snug and the possibility of waking up to a randy gobbler was very real; the pines had shown the most promising sign, scratches everywhere and the telltale parallel lines on the dirt trail, the wingtip drags that tell you a dominant tom has been strutting.
I had already been hiking for an hour, and with the clouds over head, there was absolutely no light available. I stumbled off the trail, and while I could normally have oriented myself somewhat by the sound of the nearby creek rushing with water, the rain cascading down every hill was far too loud for that. I knew I was in the area…but where was the blind? Frustrated, I finally found a tree to climb, and made my way into the crook of two branches coming out of the main trunk. My muscles were screaming from three days of hiking, and — apart from my head which Filson’s shelter cloth had kept entirely dry — I was soaking wet. But, at least I would be near the pines in the morning. At least I’ll get in a good early hunt was my final thought before I succumbed to whiskey and exhaustion, and amazingly fell sound asleep as the rain fell heavily through the young leaves.
Also amazingly, I woke well after the sun was up; in fact, my jacket had mostly dried off. Not as amazingly: I was nowhere near the pines I thought I had been hiking through. I was nowhere near the blind. And I was nowhere near any damn turkeys.
At least my head was dry. One more weekend, turkey devils. I’ve still got one more weekend.