|Written by Administrator|
|Friday, 11 March 2011 10:26|
Our own Peacemaker always captivates us with his writing. Several years ago Peacemaker made the normal mistake of naming his first nemesis bird. This is the final chapter of his story...
How can she sleep through an alarm but wake up at the sound of my camo sliding on? My stealthy approach to Kramer's roost began at my pillow. 4:30am. I peeked out the front window and saw a scant few stars winking through the muslin clouds. Three days of rain reluctantly clear today. Good. I stepped outside into the wet world and felt like my own breathing was too obtrusive. Dead silence.
Drive and eat. Park by the gate. As soon as the engine died I could hear the howls of the farmer's dogs. They are adorable, but when they followed me into the field baying the whole way, I was less than charmed.. Especially since one of these sweet pups shut Kramer down Saturday morning.
Open the rusty gate. Close the gate. The grass was sopping wet. I knew the turkeys wouldn't come into the fields right away. Besides, I've seen this gobbler fly down into the woods twice. The waning moon was setting in the west, the clouds shot with silver flame. Somewhere beyond the waking world, a whiporwill pulsed into the dark.
Step over the barbed wire into the trees. Every movement seemed a blaring, amplified intrusion into the crypt-like silence. Muffled snaps and cracks of twigs punched out of each step, however carefully placed into the soaked leaves. I winced with every footfall.
Down a little hollow. Over a little rise. Slowly. Slowly. Hiding from the silver light of the dying moon. A shadow among shadows.
Every dark shape on a limb, every squirrel nest, every clump of leaves silhouetted was a roosted turkey. When the fear of the dawn became too much to bear, when I could see the trees open into the next field, I stopped. Just short of the lip of a little rise, where he would be in range the moment I saw him, I made my stand.
Ready the decoys. Carefully drop everything else. Creep into the clear. Place the fakes. Creep back.
How can simply sitting down make so much bloody noise? Mask on, gloves on, the familiar feel of the mouth call in my cheek. The aroma of some as yet unseen flower, heavy, almost syrupy. I closed my eyes. The whippoorwill continued his insane chop. I prayed.
When I opened my eyes a few minutes later, the moon had begun to pass its share of silver light to the east. Still long before dawn, the black sky was now a whisper of gray, the trees stark black against the growing twilight, the world shrouded in mist. Boughs of dogwood blooms took shape. The glimpses of pasture through the trunks began to shimmer silvery green. Wings beat above me!!
I looked to the north and saw two large, winged shadows gliding away. Against the horizon, an ancient, massive, long-dead white oak twisted its decrepit limbs all disfigured with the black lumps of roosting vultures. That’s what they were. Not turkeys. Still, a doubt nagged me. Had I just spooked the bird I came to kill?
The first shrill notes of a cardinal’s song cut the dead air. Then another from my right. A finch’s raspy voice joined in. The world was waking up. But there would be no dawn, only an imperceptible sliding from darkness to semi-day, the fog twisting between the boles.
Then it happened. I’m not sure if my heart fell over itself and then he gobbled, or vice versa. But he was suddenly there. How far? 150 yards? I wanted to be closer. Much closer. I wanted to see him on the limb, whisper to him the instant he touched soil. He gobbled again. Stay or go? Take advantage of the wet leaves and go!! Slowly I stood, searching a path. He gobbled again, and sounded closer. Perhaps just the difference in sitting and standing? Perhaps he turned and faced my direction? Perhaps there were two? Whatever the reason, he sounded closer and I sat back down.
Scratched the wing against the trunk above me. Gently beat it against the bark. Then soft little tree yelps from the slate. I’m not even sure he heard any of it. He continued to gobble at his own pace. A soft tree yelp with a couple of louder notes at the end. Hen yelping between Kramer and I!
And now I consider myself a true turkey hunter. Not because I killed this turkey, but because I knew I wouldn’t. I read that a rookie hears a gobble and thinks “I’m going to kill this turkey!” while an experienced turkey hunter thinks “What’s going to happen to screw THIS one up?” If pessimism about killing turkeys is evidence of a hunter’s skill level, then this particular morning, I was a master.
At length, I performed a flydown with no cackle. Ten seconds later, Kramer doubled. Not quite the quintuple-gobble I heard from him a few days prior, but he was excited. Minutes passed. I tried to get an answer. He continued to gobble at his pace. Then silence. Silence except for the singing of cardinals and wood thrushes. Finches and wrens. Squirrels and . . . what? A fat, bald-butt-ed possum waddled straight at me. Wow, what a genuinely un-attractive critter! At a mere 3 yards away, he sniffed my trail, tensed, turned around, and fast-waddled back the way he came. I know God loves all his creatures, but dang! That is one ugly dude!
Somewhere around 30 minutes of quiet, calling reservedly here and there, I began to toy with the idea of leaving. I knew I wouldn’t, but my pessimism was testing me. I’ve had several gobblers led away by hens this year. I’d heard one with him, and it had been nearly 30 minutes since he had apparently flown down. 30 minutes of nothing. I yelped on the box. Nothing. Minutes passed. Tried again. Silence. An ambulance siren wailed along the highway. Goboboboboble!!! Huh? That’s ridiculous! Two minutes went by. A pileated woodpecker flew along the tree line whining that high-pitched, drawn-out call. Goboboboboboble!!!! Probably 150-200 yards away. Ok, so you like the high-pitched stuff like . . . uh . . . sirens and woodpeckers?
I pulled out a wingbone, tuned high. Cluck. Clu-cluck! Yelp-yelp-yelp-yel-Goboboboble!!!
GN’s words ran through my head “ . . . his calling will make turkeys do things they didn’t really want to do . . .” or something like that. Of course, that was written about a much greater hunter than I!! But, I decided to dial up the intensity a touch. Not screaming cutts and hard yelps, just a little more “urgency.” Maybe I’d make this turkey do something he wasn’t quite planning on. I yelped on the wingbone again. Nothing. Minutes passed . . . . again with the wingbone . . . Goboboboble!! Sounded a bit closer? Minutes passed . . . I scratched the ground with the wing. Beat it softly against my leg. Yelped on the wingbone. Silence. Pressing my tongue tight against the diaphragm call, I squeaked out a high-pitched yelp-yelp-yelp-CLUCK-yelp-yelp-yelp-yelp which he hammered hard on, twice.
Hmmm. He’s got a hen and he’s just answering me because. Just like the one the other day. And the other one the other day before him. And the other one before HIM. He’s not coming. But, if he’s thinking about it . . . he’s got to know that I AIN’T coming to HIM.
I broke out the glass call for its high pitch, and began to purr. Sweet little happy, contented, comfortable purrrrrrrrrr-cluck. Cluck-purrrrrrrrrrrr-cluck. Cluck-purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-cluck-yelp-yelp-yelp-Goboboboboble!!! Closer. Hmmmm. Cluck-purrrrrrrrrr-cluck. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-cluck-purrrrrrrr-Then the world shifted.
The African Lion will roar to advertise his territory, intimidate rivals, and generally make a big to-do about his position as the king of beasts. It is said that at close range, if you’re ever lucky enough to be close to a roaring lion and come back to tell someone about it, a lion’s roar has an encircling quality. It is so loud, so powerful that you can’t tell where it is coming from. He roars. Your brain doesn’t even know where to look. You look left, he comes from behind and to the right. Game over.
A gobble boomed out of this turkey’s chest, rang off the trees, moved the ground, and wrapped around my head. This turkey roared right in my face so loudly that I genuinely had no idea where it came from. It sounded all around me. I looked left and behind me. I had no idea what to do. That one roar did it. I went all to jello. Shaking, wide-eyed jello, eyeballs bouncing in every direction probing for movement.
There! One o’clock! Agh!! Slate call still in my hand!! Put it down!!! I rushed it. He froze.
He moved forward and behind a tree. I let the call go, put my hands on the gun, cocked the hammer, cheek on the stock. He stepped out, wattles pink-ish red, cheeks faded blue, put his head up, frozen. 30 yards.
Do you see me?
I paused, wanting to savor the moment, wanting to watch him. But I had been savoring this bird for 5 days and here he was. The hammer fell.
I saw a wing at an unnatural angle and knew he was hit solidly. Broke the gun, the syrupy aroma of flowers interrupted by the glorious sulfur scent of spent powder. I rose and so did my spirit. Walked to the bird as his body began its death dance. Placed a trembling boot on his neck. Both of us shaking. I whispered my apology as I always feel the need to do. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, boy. Oh you’re beautiful. Gorgeous. I’m sorry.” Big wings kicked wet leaves into the air. Bronze feathers sparkled, floating around me. He tensed, feathers all standing, then slowly relaxing. I knelt beside the warrior, peeled off my mask and hat, gently smoothed his beautiful plumage, and prayed. “Thank you. Thank you.”
|Last Updated on Friday, 11 March 2011 19:41|