Tuesday, May 20, 2014


The past week has been slow in the woods. It doesn't seem to matter what the weather is- cold, warm, wet, dry. They just aren't talking. I haven't been out at the crack every day, but almost. Even if I sleep in I try to at least get a few hours of walking and calling before noon. The nights have been cold and when the sun dries the fields I keep hoping to strike a hot bird. But day after day, it's just not happening. I hear one or two roost gobbles a mile away and then all goes quiet. If I hadn't scored early in the season I'd be going crazy by now.
   This morning I walked across RNButch's field and settled in at the edge of Extension Rd. John's property. I shot a big one there last year. This year I'd seen only hens. Nothing roost gobbled so I looped the farm and ended up behind the cemetery without hearing a thing. Then, I finally heard a bird. Then another. It was a wild tom talking to Carlito's caged domestic gobblers. Both answered my calls as I moved in. Every time I got close the birds moved off. Then they shut up entirely, leaving Carlito's toms to carry on the conversation. Had I spooked them? Had they seen me? Now, with the foliage almost full, it was hard to judge just where the birds were. I was rusty. I struck them one more time, across the road, and then they shut up for good. Fuck.
    It was only 9 am when i got home and my adrenalin was still pumping. I wasn't ready to quit. I got in Shirley and headed for Mupp and Ginger's. I lugged Jake up that hill and set up near Smokey's tree stand. It wasn't long before I got one going. I moved closer. Just as I crested the hill, looking down into Grasso's, I saw a Jake. He saw me, spun and was gone. Fuck. Shit. Piss! I had done it again. I couldn't believe I had misjudged the distance that much. Dejected, I backtracked towards Roebuck's and called again. To my amazement the bird answered. I sat tight. This time I had him. It was so thick down there I couldn't see anything until the jake stepped out onto a woodroad. Then I saw what was making all the noise- a big tom behind him, in full strut. The box call dropped in my lap and I put the shiny double barrel on my knee. When he steps from behind that tree......
    I waited. And waited......Somehow that tom had hugged a gully and when I caught movement to my left, there he stood, neck stretched, looking for me, not ten feet away. I had only one choice- swing all that pipe towards  the bird. He caught me and froze. I pulled the trigger.....nothing. In my focus to get on him, I had forgotten to click off the safety. This threw me enough to fumble with it, further spook the bird and by the time Jake roared, the bird exploded in flight. I hit the back trigger to no avail. Another miss. I'd never touched him. After all that I'd missed that big tom at ten feet. I cracked the action, popped out the smoking, spent shells and tossed them in the woods. All I could do was look towards the heavens and apologize to the old man for missing with his gun. He never heard me. He was laughing too hard.


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