It started by hearing my alarm go off at 4:45 am. I rolled over and shut it off quickly as to not wake up my wife, but it was already too late. I got up, gathered my gear, and headed to the truck where frost was glued to the windshield. After getting to my hunting destination, I quietly opened my door and put my camouflage on listening for the notorious gobble. I don’t like to hunt turkeys the traditional way where you sit and wait the entire day; if I hear them, I go to them. I usually don’t sit more than 30 minutes in one spot, it’s just the way I was taught by my dad. I didn’t hear any gobbles so I set out up the hill where I had planned to go in the first place. As I walked up the trail, I noticed a lot of neat things.
I walked by several patches of beautiful wild phlox and wild geraniums. I could smell the sweet smell of spring, and I could hear the songbirds sing. I crept up the hill to an open field, where I thought there could be a tom turkey strutting around like he owned the world. As I got closer to the edge of the field, I thought to myself “Maybe I’m too close to the edge? Did the turkeys already see me and run away? Did they hear me? I just have to make it to that tree and sit down about 15 yards from the field edge.”
I eventually slowly made it to that tree and got situated. I held my breath and made my first call with my homemade turkey call my dad made for me a couple of years ago. Instantly to the left of me a gobble from a tom not more than 100 yards away! My heart began to race, and that was my answer to all those questions I was asking myself walking up to the field edge. I sat in silence for about 30 seconds and let my heart rate calm.
I called again, but this time no answer from the gobbler. To my right, I heard something moving in the brush. I slowly turned my head and there I saw two coyotes sneaking their way over to me from the edge of the field. One right after the other. Sneaking just like I watch my dog do when he sees something he thinks he can catch. I could see their faces. Their black noses close to the ground, and their ears pointed to the sky. Their coat was a mix of beautiful white, brown, and black and they bounced through the woods with their big bushy tails behind them and disappeared out of my sight. I thought to myself that my calling must have been good because I even fooled them. I didn’t call again for several minutes and pondered what to do.
I started calling. I called and I called, and nobody answered me back. I knew that turkey saw those coyotes in the field and high-tailed it out of there. I sat in frustration. A grey squirrel climbed down a tree 10 yards in front of me and started bouncing his bushy tail with every step he made. I presumed he was looking for a morning snack on the forest floor. Something caught my eye to the left in the trees above. Another gray squirrel. It raised its tail and I could tell it was going to jump. It did, and I watched his tail keep his balance as he flew through the air. When he grabbed the branch of the tree, he was jumping to I could see his tail move downward to lessen the impact. I wondered how long it took it to learn that skill and how many times he has fallen.
I kept calling and noticed a raccoon climbing out of a big oak tree. I kind of laughed to myself because he was moving so slow. Maybe it was just the way his fur was on his face but it looked like he was grumpy, just like the way I am in the mornings before I have my coffee. Since he was moving so slow, I imagined that he was thinking about how stiff his bones and muscles were as he climbed out of that tree similar to the way I feel when I get out of bed. I’m not sure he even knew I was there, but I saw him, and we had a connection like we were the same somehow.
I decided it was time to move across the field where I could hear a gobbler way in the next valley over. I thought maybe if I moved closer, he would hear me and come to me. I got up slowly and crept to the field edge. There was nothing in the field, so I slowly walked across it and sat by an old dead elm. I thought I might get lucky and see a morel mushroom there but unfortunately, I did not. I sat and called and didn’t hear any responses. I called for about 30 minutes and waited.
I noticed a hawk soaring above me in the sky and I followed it with my eyes for a little while as it searched for its morning snack in the field in front of me. I could hear robins and an occasional oriole singing around me. Two whitetail deer appeared from across the field where I was before and started walking straight to me. I could see that they were bucks, and had little velvety nubs on top of their heads about 3 inches long. They looked pretty rough because they still had patches of their winter coat left on them. They walked right at me then they stopped about 15 yards in front of me before they finally noticed me sitting against the tree. We stared at each other, and I imagined they were wondering what I was and what I was doing there. They ran off into the distance with their white tails up in the air alerting everyone of the intruder that was in their woods.
I stopped calling and I knew it was time for me to leave. I got up and walked back to the same trail I walked up a few hours before. I didn’t get a turkey that day and I didn’t care because I know how lucky I was to be able to hide in my camouflage and watch the woods come alive right in front of my eyes.